From education to employment

From playground entrepreneur to top Aston Martin career

  • Aston University’s Executive MBA programme provided manager with ‘extremely powerful’ benefits
  • The MBA programme offers ‘wonderful marriage’ of academic theory and real-world relevance
  • National apprenticeship levy provides an additional dimension to what MBA can offer management students.

A graduate of Aston University’s Executive MBA has explained how the programme helped his journey from selling Pokémon cards at primary school to a rising career with a luxury car-maker.

Jack Miller, a manager at Warwickshire-based Aston Martin, who also combined an apprenticeship degree as part of his MBA, has already enjoyed one promotion while still on the programme, with another rise up the corporate ladder in the pipeline.

He was talking about his experiences in the first episode of the latest ‘Aston means business’ podcast series, presented by journalist Steve Dyson.

The new series – the seventh since 2019 – focuses on how the university helps to prepare executives and businesses for Industry 4.0 with Aston University’s 2030 strategy front of mind.

Mr Miller said: “I’ve always been very entrepreneurial, starting from the primary school playground where I was selling everything from Pokémon cards to Belgian waffles and Oreos. Cars is passion number two, something I was obsessed with. Car was my second word, after burger, so it was either Burger King or go into the car industry!

“I remember when my mum got her first car it was the greatest thing that had ever happened. And I remember driving past the local Aston Martin garage and basically dribbling on the car window, thinking: ‘Wow, what are those? I wish I had one of those!’”

Mr Miller, who already had a Batchelor’s degree in business management and entrepreneurship, said it had been his “dream” to do an MBA, specifically one that incorporated an apprenticeship element to make it more practical. He said the Executive MBA at Aston University had resulted in a “rounded knowledge improvement professionally” as well as benefits to his personal competence.

“Personally, it’s amazing, and professionally, you get an incredible qualification out of this. And, frankly, career development. That was one of the big reasons why I did this. Already, during the programme, I managed to get a promotion and I think the next one is hopefully in the offing.”

Mr Miller told how the ability to specialise and “dive into a topic” during the MBA was particularly important and gave him “immense enjoyment”. He said that doing the dissertation, the practical business problem-solving element of the programme, was “extremely powerful”.

“Through the MBA, I realised that strategic thinking and business strategy were areas I was extremely passionate about and had a real keen interest in. My project gave me the ability to conduct interviews with all the senior leadership of the business, to understand the level of understanding with the strategic direction, and to highlight a range of recommendations.”

Mr Miller said Aston Martin also benefitted during the MBA programme, through him designing a process to solve a particular business problem and then applying it to the workplace “that exact day”.

Ian Cornelius, a teaching fellow and director of the executive MBA at Aston, was also interviewed on the podcast. He said the programme provided a “wonderful marriage of academic theoretical discipline …with real practical relevance in the real world of interest to, and value to, organisations.

“Perhaps the unique feature, which we are very proud of, is the Aston Edge, which is our personal development and leadership programme module.” This, he added, included the involvement of external as well as internal experts.

Mr Cornelius said the MBA was funded via the apprenticeship levy, held by the government, which “added an extra dimension to what we can do at Aston”. This made executive-level training and development more accessible to a wider group of people.

For anyone considering taking up an MBA, Mr Miller’s advice was forthright. “Pure and simple, do it,” he said. “The sooner you do it the better.” It was also “hugely beneficial” for a company to put its existing and future talent through such a programme.

Mr Cornelius directed prospective students to look at the Aston University website which contained lots of information about the Executive MBA and internationally recognised degree apprenticeships which, he added, was a “fantastic qualification in its own right”.

Catch up on all episodes of Aston means business here.

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