Student Name: Shane McNeill
Course: MSc International Management and Leadership
Hometown/Country: Perth, Scotland
Shane has recently completed an MSc in International Management and Leadership at Queen Margaret University (QMU) and is set to graduate next year. As part of his final course project, he collaborated with a non-governmental organisation (NGO) based in South Africa and spent some time working with their team in Johannesburg. Since returning, Shane has packed his bags once again and moved to New York City, where he has just started a new role with a well-known global bank.
Tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a passionate supporter of Celtic Football Club and enjoy watching football at every possible opportunity. I also try and follow the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and a bit of the American National Football League (NFL).
Why did you choose to study at QMU and what attracted you to the course?
I found Queen Margaret University through UCAS’s clearing results day in 2015. In all honesty, I knew very little about QMU at the time, but after a bit of research, I knew it was a place full of opportunity.
I originally came to QMU as an associate student. This meant that I was on a pathway where students spend two years at Edinburgh College before directly entering the BA (Hons) pathway at QMU in the third year.
After successfully requesting early entrance to QMU after one year at college, I started the BA (Hons) Business Management course a year earlier than I was supposed to. The second and third years were an excellent time for me in terms of developing and making the most of every opportunity on offer. I also entered and won the Brodies LLP Scholarship Award, a yearly competition from a well-known law firm.
I went to Belgium and represented QMU at the EPHEC (École pratique des hautes études commerciales) Business Week along with two other students. The week was built around networking with students from all over Europe, with the considerable task of pitching a presentation to a well-respected Belgian family brewery on how they could diversify their strategy.
I met a number of people from different places and backgrounds, who quickly became great friends and made my time at university that bit more memorable. At the end of my third year, I met with Richard Bent (Senior Lecturer at QMU’s Business School) to discuss the possibility of joining the MSc a year early.
Richard told me what the course involved, what was to be expected, and how difficult the jump from BA to MSc would be. I wanted to challenge myself and prove that I was academically minded. The MSc is very practical in focus, with several site visits which integrate theory with an understanding of how businesses operate in the real world. The modules cover a whole lot of different aspects of business and management, which also allows students to form stronger relationships with their lecturers. The set-up of QMU encourages you to reach out to lecturers as there are fewer students compared to some universities. The MSc was also a great option because it meant that I would graduate at the same time as my peers within the same age group, but with two degrees instead of one. This meant that I instantly became a standout candidate, which helps considering the volatile job market in the current economy. A central component of the MSc was the year-long practical project - this gives the course real depth. You embark on a journey, both academically and personally. There was also the bonus of a 10% discount for current QMU students going into postgraduate study.
What have you most enjoyed about your course?
My highlight was the project. I felt that I developed several transferable skills which are so useful for the world of work. You have a lot of freedom when choosing what to do for it, which makes the course more appealing to those who may not wish to do a dissertation. I had to choose a business, find a real problem they have and solve it as if I was a consultant. I was able to choose what, where and when. I decided to work with a charity which partners students with charities across the world based on their academic background. I went to Johannesburg, South Africa for a few weeks to work alongside the Founding Director and Operations Manager of Nkosi’s Haven, a charity which looks after around 150 women and children who are affected by HIV/AIDS. I aimed to try and increase brand awareness by developing an online marketing strategy to entice international donors. This was a fantastic, eye-opening experience.
How have your lecturers supported your learning?
I feel like I have a good relationship with most of the lecturers within the Queen Margaret Business School after spending two years doing the BA. The University’s Effective Learning Service is also a very helpful place for students who want to fine-tune their skills.
What have been some of your challenges with the course and university life? How have you overcome them?
The biggest challenge for me was the feeling of having to start over again for the second time in my academic venture, first at college and secondly as a direct entrant into the second year of the BA course. When I started the MSc, most of my friends and peers continued to do their honours year, which meant we were in different classes. Luckily, my course allowed me to meet a diverse new group of people who I can now call friends.
Any advice for students who might be interested in this course?
My advice for students who might be interested in the course is to jump at the opportunity. The lecturers want you to succeed and help you along the way. It is challenging. It does require perseverance. But in the end, you’ll come out better for it.
"My advice for students who might be interested in the course is to jump at the opportunity. The lecturers want you to succeed and help you along the way. It is challenging. It does require perseverance. But in the end, you’ll come out better for it."
Life as a Student at QMU
What's your 'top tip' for making the most of being a student?
Don't wish it away. It can sometimes become tricky when the end goal is to get a job and you feel so far away from it, but it will come around quicker than you think. Have patience, create memories and be confident. Also, download the UNiDAYS app!
What has been the most valuable lesson that you’ve learned at university?
One of the most valuable lessons I learned at university was that opportunities come in all different shapes and sizes. If someone asks you to do something, and you don’t know how to do it; say yes, and learn how to do it later.
What are your plans after graduation? Tell us about your ambitions and where you see yourself in the future?
I’ve always been ambitious and very competitive, so my goals are set quite high. I wanted to start a career in investment banking with a vision of starting a business enterprise of my own, after having gained more experience and earned a little bit of capital. I chose investment banking because I think that I can learn a lot about the finance world and apply my business knowledge to understand what works and what doesn’t. I also really wanted a professional job that can take me anywhere in the world.
After completing the MSc, I applied for a programme which has led to me moving to New York City to start an entry-level position within the investment banking arm of a globally recognised bank. I've been here six weeks already, and I'm loving every minute of my next challenge!
Find out more about Shane's placement in South Africa
[Published September 2019]