Sarah Dixon is dean of Bradford University School of Management, UK. Prior to taking on the role, Ms Dixon spent 23 years working at Royal Dutch Shell Group, where her roles included former international strategist. She believes her experience at Shell has had a significant influence on the development of her business capabilities.
Ms Dixon studied for her MBA at Kingston University, where she subsequently held a variety of roles including director of postgraduate programmes for the faculty of Business and Law. She has a DBA from Henley Business School and she has conducted research at the University of Bath.
Although she entered academia late in her career, Ms Dixon points out that nonetheless she had early experience of it, as her mother was a junior school teacher and as a young child would take her to work with her.
1. How do you deal with pressure?
Exercise is the best method for me. I try to go for a run every day or cycle to work. It’s also an opportunity to think.
2. What is the best piece of advice ever given to you?
The Russian proverb: “He who doesn’t take risks, doesn’t drink champagne” is sound advice.
3. Where is your favourite place to teach?
My favourite place to teach is the Academy of the National Economy in Moscow. When I worked for Kingston Business School we delivered a very successful joint MBA there; the leading programme in Russia [according to a survey by Izvestia newspaper] It was always a great experience, teaching students from vastly differing backgrounds who were eager to participate. At the same time the long hours and hard work helped to cement relationships with academic colleagues.
4. Who is your ideal professor?
I really admire people who can truly take their audience with them, especially with humour. Sir Ken Robinson, (speaker and international advisor on education in the arts) would be one of these.
5. What is the worst job you have ever had?
The worst job I ever had was as an extremely well-paid specialist consultant in a very senior position, which involved a lot of boring market research. Walking in the Brecon Beacons one weekend it came to me that there was more to life than money and status and I handed in my notice the next week.
6. What is your biggest lesson learnt?
Never climb a mountain without a map and compass - and so in business life - never set out without a plan, a sense of direction and a means of arriving at your objective.
7. What advice would you give to women in business?
I think it is still true that as a woman you have to work hard to be ranked equally with men. But men work hard too. I also believe it is important, at the stage of your life when you have children, that you need to be strong and say - I am performing at a high level and therefore I am not going to work late and I can justify going home to spend time with my family.
8. How do you deal with male-dominated environments?
I have always worked in a male-dominated environment: in my early career a boss once asked me why I wasn’t at home doing the ironing. In terms of dealing with such an environment, it has really never bothered me since we are all there to do a professional job, male or female. But I am proud of what I have achieved as a woman.
9. What is your favourite business book?
Strategy Safari by Mintzberg et al is one of my all-time favourite business books. But I love reading widely and as a linguist I like to read books in the original. I get frustrated that I don’t have more time to read - there are so many great books out there. I have just finished reading a poignant book by Anna Givalda, a French author.
10. What academic achievement are you most proud of?
While being proud of my doctorate and publications in top academic journals, my being dean of Bradford University School of Management represents the pinnacle.
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