Learning Hub

The Experience in the Room with Susan O’Dwyer

Our Experience in the Room series continues with Susan O’Dwyer, Chief Executive at Make-A-Wish Foundation Ireland. She shares with us how the IMI journey has influenced her career and organisation so far. Susan has completed two IMI Diplomas – Management and Strategy and Innovation

make a wish logo

Career Background

I have worked in the Charity Sector for over 22 years and became CEO of Make-A-Wish Ireland in 2009. I am passionate about this wonderful organisation and the work we do. This is a very special charity that means the world not just to the child and their immediate family but can affect the community at large.

Over the years I have witnessed many changes and experienced numerous challenges in the sector and have learnt to adapt to new approaches to fundraising and new ways of thinking. Not only do you have to be mindful of your mission but you also need to care and nurture your donors and their expectations.

Start of my IMI Journey

My first IMI Diploma in 2013 in Management was an opportunity to examine case studies, frameworks and best practice of management theory and assimilate the learning to benefit positioning the charity for the future. I had developed a passion in strategy during the Diploma in Management and wanted to deepen my understanding of the subject, therefore the decision to participate in the IMI Diploma in Strategy & Innovation was a natural next step. However, I had no real expectations around innovation starting this IMI Diploma but I can now say I understand the importance of innovative thinking. My objective was to bring the key findings back to the organisation and drive this thinking into the Charity’s culture.

on boat

As with the first IMI Diploma, it was hard to find the time for all the reading and assignments. At times, I felt completely overwhelmed but, the support I got from my classmates and lecturers was fantastic. We all realised we were in the same boat and became a tight team working towards one goal – the finish line. Learning to manage your time, ensuring you can attend the three days a month without anything else pulling at you and then finding the time to “read” was key.

Make-A-Wish is at a crossroads in relation to growth. The IMI Diploma in Management had given me a confidence and a self-belief to broaden my perspective. The IMI Diploma in Strategy & Innovation gave me the tools to motivate the team and drive the Charity forward. This IMI Diploma has allowed me to push the boundaries of our strategic thought processes and plan for significant growth over the next three years with controls in place to adapt to change.

I had not studied since 1986 and yes it was daunting to go back to lectures, projects and reading, especially as I have a busy and demanding fulltime job, but it is so worth it. The course gives you the confidence and self-belief you need in order to look positively at the future and thereby help your organisation to improve and become the best it can be.

One piece of advice I would give if you are interested in further study

Choose a course that aligns with your career, your personal goals and that you feel you will enjoy. If you do not enjoy the subject matter you will find it incredibly difficult to give it the time commitment it needs.

The second piece of advice is really simple – “do it” – you will never regret it.



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