Ava Brown: "Don’t be afraid to be different, to aim high, to demonstrate that you are the best at something"
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Ava Brown is an MBA graduate of Resource Development International, the distance learning provider, and an account manager at IHS, a global information company.

Ms Brown grew up one of nine children in Jamaica, where she often sold mangoes to passengers on trains instead of going to school as her family needed the money. She later qualified as a teacher and studied a US-based business degree before moving to the UK to work as a teacher and study for an MBA.

In her spare time, Ms Brown enjoys travelling, cooking and listening to music.

2. What academic achievement are you most proud of?

My MBA from RDI. It has opened doors for me. Before securing the MBA, I was embarrassed to apply for business roles as the business degree I had secured previously wasn’t recognised internationally. I’m from a family where nobody had attended university. I’m a little girl who came from nowhere in particular and hardly went to primary school because I was on the train selling mangoes. And now I have an MBA.

2. Why did you choose to do a distance learning course?

I discovered that my teaching qualification was only sufficient to secure my initial role in the UK and that I would need to top-up my credentials with further study to continue teaching. I also discovered that I had been misled about my US degree, which was not internationally recognised and therefore not valid in the UK. My boyfriend at the time, who is now my husband, was studying human resources with RDI. I went online to get feedback from people who had graduated from RDI courses to check that they were credible, and more importantly for me, that the MBA course I was interested in would be recognised as an internationally relevant qualification.

3. What is your favourite memory of the course?

The online lectures and the help I got from the tutors at RDI, especially the feedback they gave for course finals. They were supportive and very understanding when I needed help late in the evening and at the weekend. Outside their regular hours, they went beyond the call of duty to assist me. During the early part of my course I became pregnant but subsequently suffered the sadness of losing my baby. I became pregnant again and thankfully gave birth to my beautiful son, Mikhel. I got married during this time too. There were times when I felt like giving up on my studies. Part of the reason I didn’t was the help and encouragement I received from both my tutors and the student support team.

4. What is the best piece of advice given to you by a teacher?

Never limit yourself: there is potential in all of us. That was the advice given to me by Miss Taylor, my food technology teacher at St Elizabeth Technical High School in Jamaica. I used to go to school without any lunch, and sometimes I would even go barefoot, but I still believed her when she said that I could achieve great things. I couldn’t see that dream but I had faith in what she said and believed her. I’m still in touch with her.

5. What advice would you give to women graduating this year from business school?

Reach out and mentor another woman or girl who may just need that role model and guidance. You can be a future leader. You could help to give somebody a better life. And if you have found your passion, do not let any opportunity slip because you think you are not ready. Making use of your opportunities is the only way to get ready.

6. How do you deal with male-dominated environments?

I recommend building informal collegial relationships with your male colleagues. You may be the first woman they’ve had that kind of relationship with, so proceed thoughtfully. It takes time and effort, but it is usually possible and almost always worthwhile.

7. What are your top tips for networking?

I am a member of LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. I think networking is a great window/tool into business these days. Don’t be afraid to be different, to aim high, to demonstrate that you are the best at something and follow up.

8. If you could do it all again, what would you do differently?

I would finish school before settling down with a family because I found my MBA to be a bit more challenging than when I studied as a single person in Jamaica.

9. What are your future plans?

I want to be the managing director of my own consultancy company, Chakai Consultants – which I have already started; start schools in Africa and Jamaica; and publish my autobiography, which I will hopefully use to make a movie that will influence others growing up in difficult situations.

10. Who inspires you?

Ursula Burns, the chief executive of Xerox; Oprah Winfrey; and the African American author and poet, Maya Angelou. They are all women who have endured hardship and made it against the odds. I read Ursula Burns’ life story and can identify with some aspects of it, in particular how she struggled as a woman. Oprah Winfrey is raw and candid and not afraid to talk about her life. Maya Angelou has used her poetry to heal her situation.

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