GRADS 2023: Iman El-Sakka
Iman El-Sakka’s ties to the University of Canberra span more than a decade: she started as an undergraduate student in 2011, became a staff member in 2014, and in March 2023, she graduated with a Master of Business Administration (MBA).
Born and raised in Canberra, Iman went to Lake Tuggeranong College and, at the time, thought about pursuing studies in different disciplines such as business, law and industrial design after school.
She ended up enrolling in a double degree in Business Administration and Management.
“I liked the idea of studying business as it’s so broad and I thought it would be a great starting point to find where my passion lies,” Iman says.
She completed the four-year course in three and a half years, picking up extra units in Winter Term to fast track her studies.
“I didn’t have a proper job during my undergraduate studies, I went straight from college to uni, so I was keen to get into the workforce and start applying what I had learnt,” she says.
Iman’s real-world experience remained on campus. After completing an internship with UC Careers during her final semester, she worked as a casual employee, before taking on a contract position with the Faculty of Health.
“I never actually thought I would work at UC. It wasn’t something that was planned!”
Iman was then offered a role as a Research Administrative Assistant with the now-defunct Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis (IGPA). IGPA later merged with the Faculty of Business, Government and Law in 2018, where she remains a professional staff member.
“When I was working with IGPA, I was originally supporting HDR [Higher Degree by Research] students – now, my role has evolved and I mainly work closely with the Research Manager in managing the business processes associated with the Faculty’s diverse research administrative portfolio, and with the Associate Dean Research (Strategy and Performance) on a number of high-profile strategic and outreach services within the Faculty,” she says.
Iman’s aspirations to grow into managerial roles led her to pursue her MBA in 2019, with the support from her colleagues and family, as it was a “natural progression” from her undergraduate studies.
“My manager, Lorna Evans, has been so supportive and motivating – the former Executive Dean, Professor Wendy Lacey, our Faculty Manager Rob Rigby, Professor Linda Botterill and Associate Professor Jennifer Loh have all been supportive and wonderful too!” she says.
Iman says living with her family throughout her postgraduate studies helped her to keep going, as she’d often go from working a nine to five job during the day, to classes and study in the evening.
“Having home-cooked meals has been amazing. Not to mention the unwavering moral support – I think I’ve finally made them proud.”
One of the biggest challenges came about when she first started her MBA, simultaneously undertaking a secondment with the Business Operations Team within Student Connect .
“I was learning about the fees, course completions and all the back-end processing – a completely different job, combined with studying part-time,” Iman says.
It took Iman three and a half years to complete her studies and she can recall several highlights along the way. Learning from the academics and being able to work alongside them was a great opportunity for Iman and led to her input into an external review of the University’s MBA course offering.
“Another highlight was the final unit I took in my last semester called Strategy, Innovation and Change, where we were asked to undertake a change project, which I chose to do in the HDR space,” Iman says.
Her choice stemmed from experience acting in a role that managed HDR students’ expressions of interest and applications, as well as having an overall passion for improving processes.
“The project involved coming up with a change, and managing that change throughout the workplace,” she says.
Towards the end of her studies, Iman was pleasantly surprised with an invitation to become a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society, recognised for being in the top 15 per cent of her class.
To cap off her student journey at UC, the Faculty of Business Government and Law nominated Iman to be the student speaker at her graduation ceremony, a testament to her hard work and dedication to both her studies and employment for more than a decade.
“I couldn’t have chosen a better workplace, the environment here is so flexible, the culture is so accommodating, and the people are very supportive. I hope to continue my professional career development at UC,” she says.
With undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications, Iman is looking forward to celebrating her latest achievement with family, colleagues, and peers after her graduation ceremony.
“It feels so surreal as I think back to when I first started my MBA and felt like the end goal was so far away and it was going to be such a long road ahead, with so many sacrifices and challenges. Now I think, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve done it!’”
Words by Emma Larouche, photos by Tyler Cherry.
This March, the University of Canberra would like to congratulate the graduating class of 2023.
We are so glad to celebrate such a milestone with you – you have overcome challenges with grace and resilience, and grown in remarkable ways.
Many of you are already impacting your chosen fields, while others embark on the postgraduate study path – we look forward to seeing the next steps in your amazing journeys.