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Balancing life, work, and seven-year-old twins, on the way up the career ladder

Meet Claire Hugo, a soon-to-be graduate of Henley’s degree-level SOAR! Advanced Diploma in Management Practice. She reflects on the life events that have moulded her into the person she is today, her leadership role as an operations manager, and how Henley helped hone her leadership abilities in this role.

I chose to study at Henley because the school is family friendly and considers the demands of life beyond the classroom. Work-study-family life balance is important to me because if you’re a mother of seven-year-old-twins, a wife, and you’re working full time, it’s important that all your roles and responsibilities are manageable and not being neglected while you are studying. Henley made that doable – being cognisant of life’s demands, the ADMP course is designed around giving balance to the student.

I was nervous about studying again after so much time, but the lecturers at Henley were amazing. Their delivery and the way they made us feel at ease put paid to my fears very quickly. This led to a holistic engagement, a positive environment where I felt I could just be myself. The communication, guidance and support provided by the programme managers was unsurpassed. I felt motivated throughout and it made my journey seamless and enjoyable.

The personal development component of the programme was particularly rewarding. When confronted with the request to complete a reflective paper for the first time, I was bewildered. I thought it was going to be like a ‘dear diary’ session. But once you get into it and develop an understanding of the relevance of what you are reflecting on and why it’s important; it unlocks a deep self-reflection and has a practical application tied to the learning.

I am grateful to my company for believing in me and my potential as a leader. Without their support, I would not have been able to do the SOAR! Advanced Diploma in Management Practice. I’m graduating with a distinction, so I hope I’ve made them proud, and I am already taking what I learned back to the workplace.

My leadership approach varies as need dictates. To be a successful leader I think you need to be able to assess different circumstances and shift your leadership style accordingly. I’m a leader who motivates my team by fostering a positive and supportive workplace, a sense of belonging, encouraging sharing of ideas and feedback, while working towards a common goal that aligns with the company’s broader strategic direction.

Life is filled with challenges and there were lots of ups and downs growing up in Cape Town. My Mom was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis just before I went to high school. As my mother was battling MS, I had to step in and help raise my younger sibling. There were a lot of ups and downs during those years, but in retrospect these experiences helped mould me into the person I am today. I’m self-driven, compassionate, dedicated and determined to succeed regardless of the obstacles that present themselves.

I have been blessed with a number of strong women – family, friends, colleagues – who, in addition to my mother, have come into my life at critical stages where I needed guidance, mentorship, friendship and positive motivation. I will be forever grateful to them.

I value qualities such as loyalty, dedication and a sense of responsibility and believe that these are the key to personal and professional success. I consider myself to be a lively and charismatic individual who takes pride in all I do. I am a fast learner and a team player; I function well under pressure and I’m always up for a challenge. I think these characteristics drive my success as a human being.

We never lose our inner child, and we should embrace that. The little girl in me always wanted to be a ballerina, though I am an operations manager today, so I clearly abandoned my childhood fantasy! But on my 30th birthday, my party theme was, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Of course, I rocked up – and rocked – in my ballerina costume.

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