Case study

How Gabrielle’s industry experience launched her onto degree path

Gabrielle Davies was hitting a brick wall when it came to finding a degree course. At school in Switzerland, she had focused on becoming a musician and so had left with few academic qualifications. But her subsequent experience in admin, HR and accounting showed her obvious abilities and potential and this was her stepping stone to joining us for an online degree.

Opening closed doors

Gabrielle Davies has worked in a variety of different jobs in the past. She says: “I have several years’ experience in admin, HR, accounting but also in completely different areas like music, health and as a horse-riding teacher.”

In Switzerland, they have a very different education system and, when Gabrielle was just 16, she needed to decide where she wanted to take her career. She explains: “When I was younger, I started thinking of pursuing a career in music, but then I realised that, while it was a nice hobby, I wasn’t interested in making it a full-time job.”

However, because she had pursued a different route, she was unable to attend a university in Switzerland. “My ultimate goal was to study at university but, because of my school and study choices when I was 16 (in music), the doors closed for me to attend uni," she says.

"I had always hoped that, someday, I could find a suitable programme and obtain a bachelors degree. I was so pleased when I heard of the University of Derby Online Learning, which offered a very interesting degree for my needs, giving me the opportunity to study while keeping a career on the side.”

Gabrielle Davies at her graduation with her family
Gabrielle with her family at Graduation

A busy life

Over the years, Gabrielle realised she enjoyed working in an office setting and wished to pursue a career in finance. She says: “In my younger years, I volunteered a lot at kids' camps and other social activities. While I loved doing this kind of work, I was more comfortable and performant working in admin, in an office setting. Being an introvert, being on my own and working on my own recharges my batteries, and I really enjoy what I do.”

The only trouble was, she didn’t know how she could gain the qualifications she needed to pursue her career in finance. That’s when she started researching online programmes. She says: “When looking for online courses, I found that many didn’t recognise my Swiss diplomas. I’m really thankful that Derby recognised my previous experience and I got accepted into the top-up degree programme and have been studying part time for about two and a half years now.”

Not long after applying, Gabrielle discovered that she was pregnant. She says: “After completing my first module, I already had to take a break. Then, two years later, I found out that I was pregnant again. It was a lovely surprise, but the timing was challenging. If I wanted to finish my module before the birth, I had to study full time for a while. I took the chance and returned my final piece of work just days before my daughter arrived.”

If looking after two young children wasn’t enough, she also currently works three jobs at once and is now studying her second course with us. She says: “I graduated in September with a Business and Management (Top-Up) BSc and I am currently studying a Finance MSc. I have my own company ‘The Busy Bee’ where I work as a consultant aiding with admin and financial tax advice. I’m also a Finance Officer in a charity and a Finance Assistant at the permanent Mission of Canada.”

Support and guidance

When Gabrielle first started with us, she had never written an assignment or an essay before. She says: “I was starting from the very beginning and tutors were really helpful with assignments. If I didn’t understand how to start, or where to start, they would offer guidance. Tutors were reachable and would always get back to me with very clear answers.

“While I participated way more actively before having the kids, I really enjoyed the collaboration with the other students. The online platform is well made, it was easy to understand how it works, the assessment briefs were really clear, and the content is interesting.

“I cannot guarantee that this was because of the degree only, but I can truly say that, since I started the programme, I got amazing work opportunities. I see a clear difference in my career now, going from secretary to admin professional with a lot more responsibilities.”

'Anything is possible'

Gabrielle had no idea what to expect from the campus when she was invited to attend her Graduation ceremony. She explains: “I was so impressed with the University. I loved wearing the gown and finally being able to graduate from university, which wouldn’t have been possible in Switzerland.

“Graduating boosted my confidence in ways I can’t explain, and I did it while working a few jobs on the side and welcoming and caring for my children. It’s been hard for sure, but extremely rewarding. I want to teach my kids that with hard work, organisation and confidence in yourself, anything is possible.”

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