Ducere Global Business School
After 30 years of putting off higher education, Shendelle Harrison finally realised that it was time to challenge herself for a better future.
When we called Shendelle Harrison for this interview, she answered the video call from her car. It was pitch black except for a halo of car light around her face. It was 5:45 am in Australia where she was speaking with me – the only time that worked for both our schedules – but Shendelle was fine with it, as it was during her daughter’s swim practice and which she’d typically dedicate to her schoolwork.
As the main provider of her three-generation household, Shendelle has always put family first. For this reason, she had been conflicted for years about getting her degree because she was worried about potentially taking time away from her family and her work – even though getting her degree would lead to more and better career opportunities.
Additionally, Shendelle had never liked school. When she was in high school, she found – like many other students – that learning in the formal academic setting was not a place that suited her. “I left grade 12 in 1990 and I didn’t ever want to study again,” she shared.
Hitting a career plateau
As she progressed within her roles working for one of Australia’s largest banks, it became apparent how getting a degree had become not just valued but standardised as a bridge to more opportunity. “I had been thinking about it for years and told myself, ‘When the time (due to fear) is right, I will do it,’” she said.
Earlier in her career, Shendelle felt that paying for more years of schooling—something that she was unhappy doing – was unnecessary because, at that time, not having a degree wasn’t necessarily a sentence to professional stagnancy. “I am generally successful in any role that I have in my job; however, I got to a point where these days you can be successful at anything, but if you don’t have a degree behind you, you can only go so far,” Shendelle pointed out.
As she began considering going back to school, Shendelle recognised that she would take on that responsibility while caring for her daughter and her parents, and not to mention, her own health, after suffering eight heart attacks and having two heart operations three months prior to commencing her degree. However, Shendelle was determined to get her degree. Fortunately once she found Ducere, she knew her dreams could quickly become reality.
Starting her degree
Before officially enrolling in Ducere’s MBA program, Shendelle was looking for a university that was internationally recognised and flexible due to her other outside commitments. Ducere’s program ended up being the place that met these values.
Despite the flexibility of the program, Shendelle said she was nervous before starting her courses. She was reminded of these feelings when she attended the spring 2021 orientation meeting – this time having completed part of her program. “There are all these people that are brand new and they were concerned about the same things that I was such as, ‘How much time do I need to dedicate? How am I going to take this on in my life? What does this mean? What does that mean?’”
Shendelle, a 48 year old mum, compared making the decision to go back to school was like having a baby. “I thought, ‘I can do it now or put it off for another two years,’ but, am I ever really going to be ready? No, you aren’t ever actually going to be ready, so just go for it,” she advised.
Thankfully, despite reservations and nerves, she went for it. ‘“If I had known about Ducere and how the MBA program was designed, I would have undertaken my degree 25 years ago,” Shendelle explained. She went on to point out that as she started her classes, she realised that the academics were interesting, challenging, and do-able. “The first subject I had was ethics and decision making. My professor was talking a lot about climate change and the ethics involved. It was a fantastic introduction into my degree and the university. Very hard, but very rewarding and I found I actually could do it,” she said.
“When you get to my age, you have experienced a lot. Going back to school at this stage, I've actually found it a little bit easier because instead of sticking to the textbooks, I've brought my own life’s experiences into what I'm reading. I am not saying it is easy though, because it's hard!” laughed Shendelle.
She also found that despite her busy lifestyle outside of Ducere, she can bring school with her wherever and whenever she needs to. She brings her modules on a portable device to complete as she waits in the car for her daughter's swimming squad and in the school pick-up line, and noted that listening to the modules even relaxes her. “You know, it’s fantastic. It is really for the working people, and the time-poor people.”
Leveraging her degree
Shendelle’s role with the Westpac Bank in Australia involves charity work. “Something Westpac does a lot is put millions and millions of dollars every year back into the community, as they were the first business and the first bank organisation in Australia,” she shared. “Westpac takes pride in doing this.”
In 2021, Westpac invested over $150,000 AUD in the industry project that Shendelle was working on. Though the initiative is still underway, the premise of the project to provide a donated building to Creative Arts Therapy Australia (CATA), propelled this charity forward by 10 years in their business plan and giving them an unbelievable opportunity to assist the community.
The building was suggested by Shendelle whose idea was taken all the way to the CEO of the multinational Westpac Group, Westpac Bank’s parent company. “Whilst I had hoped we could assist CATA, what Westpac offered blew my mind,” she exclaimed, “After believing in the good that CATA was doing in the community. I never expected the generosity of Westpac in this form, and I and CATA are very grateful.”
“Without Ducere and having done this industry project, this never would have happened,” she continued.
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