Susi Castle

France | Germany | Japan | UK

On studying, and my first week on the Marketing Week Mini MBA

I loved studying at university.

That was helpful, considering how difficult Japanese was.

There were about 50 of us studying Japanese in our first year. By our fourth and final year this had dropped to four. Only four remaining students in our class.

That’s how difficult it was.

In our first two weeks we had to master hiragana and katakana. While most of my friends were out all night, missing lectures in the day, I was up at 7am studying.

I loved it all the way into our final year.

Throughout the four years there were modules I didn’t expect much from on paper but which turned out to be some of the best subjects I’ve ever studied. Thanks to Professors Penny Eley and Penny Simons I grew to adore medieval French literature and thanks to Dr Audrey Small my eyes were opened to the legacy and effects of post-colonialism.

But by the time I got back from my year abroad (in Alsace and Brussels) I was very ready to enter the ‘real world’ and fourth year was tough. As much as I loved studying, I was ready for something new. And ready to not be poor anymore either!

Graduation was a relief in that respect.

I moved out to Japan just a couple of months after graduating and started life as an English assistant in four Japanese schools. Those three years in Niigata Prefecture were some of the best of my life (though there’s plenty of competition) and there was a great balance between working and studying. It wasn’t until my third year, when I managed to get on the highly competitive CLAIR Japanese Translation & Interpretation course that I returned to studying in a truly intense way. I loved the challenge of it… and then again, by the end, I was ready for something new.


A few months ago I took an internal learning module at Global run by the brilliant FizzPopBANG. It was about identifying your strengths – something I was particularly keen to focus on after last year’s stellar Amazing If Leadership Accelerator – learning to put them to use, and what they’re like in overdrive. Our preparation involved asking people who knew us well to name what they thought our strengths were. Across the 16 people I asked the top one that came back was ‘self-improvement’/’self-development’. And that rang true.

On that basis, it’s no surprise that I decided to spend my time furloughed (1-30 May) doing one of the things I love best: learning.

Choosing to study for the Marketing Week Mini MBA

This wasn’t a quick decision.

On the one hand, the course is incredibly highly rated, and delivered by a publication I read regularly and an author and professor whose work is second-to-none.

On the other, it costs £1500 and I was paying for it all myself.

We’re likely on the brink of a recession and there are many industries and companies that are already going through very troubled times (without even mentioning the terrible toll that coronavirus is taking on the people swept up in this pandemic). Spending £1500 on anything right now feels like a risk.

However, everything I’ve read about thriving, about investing in your strengths, about doing work you find fulfilling ultimately led me to grab my credit card.

I love marketing and I love learning. Ultimately, the Mini MBA was a no-brainer.

First week of the Mini MBA

Starting the Marketing Week Mini MBA on Tuesday felt like the best of all of my previous experiences. There’s nothing better than learning from true experts who bring the subject matter to life with passion (something Professors Eley and Simons and Dr Small showed me in Sheffield).

We kicked off with a focus on Market Orientation – the foundation of great marketing – and moved swiftly on to Market Research to help inform the direction that any marketing strategy will take.

From the outset it’s clear that the twelve modules of the course follow the flow and structure that marketing should take, from focusing on the customer, through to understanding them, and next week: segmenting those consumers and choosing which ones you’re best off targeting.

What I should have known from the outset – given how much I love Mark Ritson’s – writing is that the course wouldn’t just be high quality, but that it would be incredibly funny too. It’s rare to study something that makes you laugh out loud, but this course really does.

To add to the already polished standard of the course, Mark Ritson also holds a weekly Q&A. The 1,000 students have been taking advantage of the access to his diary and in our first week we over-ran by an hour as he tried to answer everybody’s questions. It’s clear that Marketing Week and Mark Ritson are practicing what they preach by remaining market oriented (keeping their focus on the customer) and ensuring we get value for money. But also that we understand the modules clearly and can apply them to real life.

I started this course not just from a thirst for knowledge but also through a love of my chosen vocation. One week in and I can say it’s definitely worth that £1500