Suzanna Tan completed our MA in Career Development and Coaching Studies in 2019. She is currently a freelance coach trading under the name of Coaching ST. We recently interviewed her to hear more about her journey here at CLL.
Why did you choose to pursue an MA with the Centre for Lifelong Learning?
I chose CLL because of the specific course, Masters in Career Development and Coaching Studies. The coaching I was doing with most of my clients over the prior 8 years was around careers in terms of progression, being new to role, developing the skills, knowledge and experience be effective in their roles and career planning. The fit seemed right and I had just completed my Diploma in Coaching at CLL too. It also helps that the location of Warwick is only an hour away from home, so it was accessible for attending workshops and tutorials.
Do you have any favourite memories of your time at Warwick?
My favourite memories were definitely linked to the people I met during my course, particularly my peers on the full time pathway which I was on. Their support was undeniably a key part of getting me through the course. They were from different backgrounds, countries and had different career paths to me, so it was great to learn from each other and formed a strong support network. The two day workshops were also a highlight because the opportunity to experience classroom learning after leaving university a while ago was refreshing.
What advice would you give to applicants who are considering the MA?
For applicants considering an MA, there are three things I would advise:
- Choose a masters in something you are passionate about and can practically use to further or develop your career. For example, I used some modules to research areas of interest, and I’m building on them now after my MA.
- Be realistic and have a clear goal of you want to achieve, because the time, effort and way you study will reflect this. This also applies to whether you want to do it full or part time. The effort is the same, it’s fitting in the time for the reading, assessments etc. that is difficult. I underestimated this and although I managed mine full time, alongside a 2 day a week part time job and other business interests, it totally stretched me and I didn’t get my weekends back until I handed in my dissertation.
- Talk to the tutors and students who have completed the MA you are interested in to get an idea of what is really involved and whether it is right for you.
Can you tell us a little bit about your career history prior to the MA?
After graduating with a BSc Econs in Business Administration, I moved to Asia to begin my 25 year career in financial services, before settling back in the UK to work with a FTSE 100 company. I gained diverse senior management experience across stockbroking, accountancy and retail banking roles in marketing, sales, performance, event management, communications diversity and inclusion, commercial product management, business development and office management. I also had almost a decade of executive coaching experience and facilitation experience working with middle/senior managers on an individual, group and team basis.
You now run your own company Coaching ST, can you tell us a bit about the organisation?
I’m a freelance coach and facilitator trading under the name of Coaching ST. I provide career development, performance and leadership coaching, and build and facilitate bespoke team or group programs. I work with middle/senior managers from various industries and university students, predominantly post-graduates on MBA programs.
Why was founding Coaching ST important to you?
Founding Coaching ST was not that important, it’s just a trading name that I use to help market my proposition. What was important was that I wanted to work for myself, make my own decisions and choose the work I am passionate about doing.
What does your day to day look like?
There is no average day, but I would say on a weekly basis it’s made up of a balance between my coaching business, my other businesses/projects and a part-time job. I find spending whole days on each the easiest rather than breaking my day up and juggling everything. On an average coaching business day it’s about emails, preparing proposals, prospective client meetings, coaching sessions, facilitating workshops, networking, CPD, etc. It’s a bit of everything that I can flex accordingly.
What are the most challenging parts of your job?
I find it challenging doing everything myself and not being able to rely on experts in particular areas to support me. In my corporate role, I could go to compliance, legal, data, marketing, the IT helpdesk, etc. to gain advice or input. There is so much more to running a coaching business than just coaching! Thank goodness my accountant is my husband, because I’d be in a mess working with a hired accountant as I wouldn’t be able to send them everything to sort out for me. On the flip side, I embrace some of the challenges, as I’m constantly learning and meeting new people to help me.
How would you say (if at all) your MA has helped you in your current job? (any transferable skills?)
Prior to getting my diploma and masters, I had practical experience of coaching which was based purely on a two hour leadership workshop, reading a couple of books and all the coaching hours I’d done. Now I can bring more theory and learning all together. There were specific modules that definitely brought some structure to my work, such as Career Related Learning. Before I did that module, my workshops were not as structured, when I was developing a recent workshop, it was far quicker and easier as I could apply everything I had learned. My research project has definitely provided food for thought and I find myself having conversations around my research and findings with others interested in my topic. Interestingly, because the majority of my wider peers on some modules were in education and many modules were geared to that, I’ve been able to apply that as a parent. It’s also helped me when working with universities, an area I hadn’t ever considered before I began the masters.