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Fran talks about the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship - Apprenticeships

Posted by on 23 January 2020

Fran Brandi

Event Sales Manager
Commercial Residential & Campus Services
(BA (Hons) in Management Practice)

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I feel that I have had some incredible jobs and experiences in the past 12 years. Whilst studying for an event management degree, I spent over a year working at Kempton Park Racecourse as an Events Duty Manager.

This involved coordinating and delivering events from 5 people to 5,000 people. I then spent a couple of years working for the Met Office as the Facilities Helpdesk Manager and also managing the Events Team who looked after the 30+ meeting and conference facilities on site.

Before starting at the university 3 years ago, I had a short career break for 2 years in Australia and New Zealand worked at a 5* hotel in Taunton as the Events Manager, and had 2 children. It has been very busy, and I began my current role as an Events Sales Manager just a year ago.

What made you decide to do an apprenticeship at the University of Exeter?

I strongly believe in professional development and I have always enjoyed learning, and challenging myself. Whilst at the Met Office I was funded to complete an ILM Level 3 award.

I had always hoped to then self-fund a level 5, or a higher-level qualification, but with 2 children and being a single parent, there is only so far your pennies can stretch.

The programme that the University offer is incredible, the depth of knowledge and experience that I would gain would be hugely beneficial to me personally and professionally, but also my department. I could not pass up the opportunity when my manager recommended I enrol.

To this date, the modules have been fantastic and have aided me to expand my knowledge – I can now see the bigger business picture, not just the operational issues we experience in events.

What are you responsible for at work?

Well like every good day, it starts with coffee. A typical day for me would be managing event enquiries. This may be writing a bid for a large association conference or working on a quote for a family function.

Every event enquiry is different, and all of our customers have their individual needs. I would normally have a few meetings a day, often with a future client, and internal meetings with my team or fellow managers.

Other tasks or responsibilities would include reviewing our current business, forecasting and analysing business income and our profit & loss accounts. This is an opportunity to identify where we need to focus our energies, drive marketing campaigns, and target the team.

Where time allows I would work on some projects that relate to either my degree, PDR or business objectives. I would also answer questions and support the team of 3 that I directly manage, and a wider team of 6.

How do you balance studying whilst working at the same time?

It is incredibly challenging. It is incredibly challenging just to achieve your job, and then find time to spend with family. That said, you will find a way.

I balance by dedicating a mix of my own time and work time. For example, I block out 2 mornings or 2 afternoons in my diary each week, based upon other meetings I may have, and I will work from home during this time, or sit somewhere in my building – anywhere but my desk.

I then like to spend some of my own time, a quiet Saturday morning, to read through anything extra that I think will be helpful. Because this is my time, I feel like I’m able to decide how to spend this and will focus on areas I’ve studied that interest me, or challenge me.

What are the 3 top things you have learnt?

The best thing is the challenge. The ability to achieve this whilst working is incredible. I would never be able to self fund a degree at this level myself, but above this the fact that I can see the benefit to my role is fantastic.

The top 3 things I have learnt would be:
1 – You can find time to work and study
2 – Don’t doubt yourself – have the confidence in your knowledge and ability
3 – Apprenticeships are changing – they are truly beneficial to all levels, at all ages, and all abilities

How have you put into practice what you have learnt on your apprenticeship?

All of the modules have 2 assignments, and the 2nd part of the assignment will relate to my role or the business. Every assignment has therefore linked in to either a project that I need to do or would like to do, and I am then able to feed this back into the management team.

On a personal level, some of the things I have learnt have given me the confidence to speak up in management meetings, or with senior colleagues, because I now feel I have a broader range of knowledge and skill.

How are you supported by your team?

My fellow managers are always willing to support if I need to ask questions that relate to a topic I’m studying or assignments I’m writing – they are my sounding board for ideas.

My manager is incredibly supportive and always allows me the flexibility to manage my diary, and choose when to study at times that suit me. If I need additional time to meet deadlines she is always willing to support where possible.

My colleagues in the wider team are brilliant – our Sales Support Co-ordinator is the person that gives me motivation and cheers me on if I’m struggling – a cup of tea does wonders!

What would you advise someone considering an apprenticeship?

I can highly recommend the University of Exeter apprenticeship scheme. The entire team that work behind the apprenticeships are brilliant, and the academics have been knowledge and great in teaching in a non-traditional format (online).

I would probably say my top tips would be to be realistic, and don’t think it will be easy. If you want a challenge, want to learn and apply that learning to your work, then there is no better option.

The programme and support that Exeter offer is second to none, and I have learnt so much more already through this apprenticeship than the 3-year degree I previously studied.

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