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Working together

With a potentially new era for British trade on the horizon, it's a fascinating time for MBA alumna Marian Sudbury.

Marian Sudbury (MBA 1996) studied the Part-time MBA from 1993 to 1996 and is now the Director for UK Regions at the Department for International Trade. She is based out of the Manchester office but works with teams across the UK.

“Broadly speaking, my team’s purpose is to encourage UK companies to export and to encourage foreign investment in the UK,” she says. “We focus on constantly understanding what companies need and making sure they can access support in the simplest possible way.”

Brexit challenge

It goes without saying that a key area for her team right now is preparing businesses for the changes that will come with an EU exit and helping them make the most of free trade agreements. Her team also works closely with colleagues who are negotiating those free trade agreements with non-EU countries when we leave the EU.

Sudbury was initially attracted to working in the trade sector because it involves three areas she finds interesting – business, economics and politics. She felt that she could use the skills from her MBA to make a difference, and apply her experience of working internationally.

A key part of her role is working with stakeholders both within her department and externally, for example with local enterprise partnerships and combined authorities, and with people who hold resources for exports and investment.

Close relationship

Maintaining a close relationship with companies and stakeholders is crucial, and she says her staff are key to this.

“I need to make sure I have the right people with the right objectives,” she says. “It’s crucial that they are motivated and listened to so that they understand our mission and have a chance to feed into the business.”

The teamwork, skills and confidence that Sudbury gained from studying the MBA still help her in her role today and have boosted her career as a whole.

“The MBA made me realise that you have to choose when to hold out for your own ideas and when it is going to be more productive to get behind someone else’s ideas for the good of the team. Today my core skill is in terms of leading operational teams, and the MBA had a big focus on group work which gave me skills that I still put into practice today when managing teams. The MBA also gave me confidence in a wide range of topics that I hadn’t dealt with before, including economics, statistics and world trading systems. Indeed when I was asked to set up an international division within a company in a previous role at a SME, I got out my MBA notes to help me work out what to do. Off the back of this, I went on to become a board director.”


Choosing Manchester for her studies came through a prompt from her sister who had noticed an advert for the Manchester MBA offering scholarships for women. The part-time option appealed most to Sudbury, enabling her to continue to raise her children while doing some freelance work alongside her studying. Indeed she found that she could use the skills she learned on the MBA straight away in her freelance assignments.

Reflecting on her MBA journey, Sudbury says it also helped her to overcome some of her fears. “I am someone that really likes to know what I am talking about, so the MBA helped me learn more about the business world and hold more well-informed discussions at work.”

She also enjoyed the broad range of topics on offer during the MBA. “I enjoy learning about the world, so the diverse knowledge and varied subjects were great. I particularly enjoyed the organisational psychology course. Not only did this help me with being a manager, but I went on to train as an executive coach and recently completed a psychology degree. Learning about psychology made me reflect on different ways to manage people and consider the impact of the choices I make as a manager.”