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"I didn’t know what my potential was until I started this course at ATU": Read Donna's inspiring story here

Balancing your study, family and career is possible at ATU.

IT PAYS TO believe in yourself. 

If you feel a well of untapped potential inside you, it can be hard to take a step or make the leap to bringing that potential out. Sometimes, you wish there was reassurance that things will be okay if you follow your dreams. 

Donna O’Grady felt that she couldn’t neglect her dormant capabilities any longer and made the decision to re-enter education. Having entered the workforce straight after school, she knew that education was the key to living the life she wanted to lead.  

For Donna, studying something that didn’t detract too much from her work-life balance was vital. As a mother of two small kids and working a full-time job, this would be a hard task, but an achievable one, thanks to Atlantic Technological University (ATU).

Donna O'Grady 4 Donna found a course that worked for her at ATU.

To begin her journey, Donna enrolled in the Certificate in Supervisory Management course at ATU. This part-time course helped her get her foot in the door in education and her chosen field of management, obtaining a qualification in the Supervisory Management course in 2021. 

It piqued my interest in HR and I chose it because I had previous experience in management and I wanted to further enhance my skills and abilities in this area,” said Donna.  

Satisfied? Not quite. Donna then gained entry into Year 3 of the Bachelor of Arts in Human Resource Management course

Keeping everything balanced has been tough at times, particularly with a young family, but Donna appreciates the challenge that brings rather than shirk away from it. She took even more responsibility by becoming a class rep for her course. In this role, she assists students and teachers in making sure they are supported in their studies, something she can strongly relate to.  

Working and studying full-time can “become a little bit overwhelming at times” Donna states. Alongside the support of friends, family and especially her classmates, reminding yourself of the ‘why’ is crucial. 

You have to remember the reason you’re doing it. That will get you through with the support of everyone behind you,” Donna said. 

Alongside learning career-specific knowledge during her time studying at ATU, Donna gained a wide breadth of skills that will help her advance her career. By working under what Donna calls the “good pressure” of balancing everything, this has given her those intangible qualities and unseen capabilities.  

This course has taught me to work under pressure, but a good pressure, and to focus on time management skills and ensure that you are able to meet deadlines and meet those pressures” she said. 

Managing her time was a key factor in Donna choosing ATU. Her course, like many at the university, offers a flexible delivery using blended learning, allowing students to continue working.  

She attends monthly lectures on campus, and in the other weeks, learns through recorded lectures, live tutorials, webinars, podcasts, and guest speakers. As part of her specific course, Donna will attend two residential weekends over the academic year, where she will attend lectures, work collaboratively with her classmates and hear from industry experts.  

53581025791_c90d84b3f1_k Blended learning helps students balance work and study full-time.

This is a fantastic opportunity for students like Donna, a self-described people person, to network with peers and industry guest speakers.

“It allowed me to develop relationships with my peers and also learn from their experiences in industry too. The part-time delivery format allowed me to continue to work in my current role full-time as a Clerical Officer in the HSE while also gaining a third-level qualification,” she said.

In Donna’s case, the practicality of the course was a really attractive aspect. It is aligned with the CIPD Profession Map and graduates are eligible to apply for Associate level CIPD Membership. CIPD-accredited qualifications are internationally renowned and are highly regarded in the jobs market.

Within ATU, Donna pointed to the lecturers and the Academic Writing Centre as helpful supports. Having been away from third-level education, it made her studies feel a lot less daunting. 

The minute you walk through those doors at the ATU campus, there’s a warm and welcoming feeling.

“The support is unbelievable from the lecturers and your peers. There are many opportunities for in-class discussions which also helps you develop your knowledge and to get an overview of different industries, backgrounds and experience. These in-class discussions were some of the best parts of my blended learning experience at ATU,” Donna added.

Donna decided to adjust her career path following 16 years in retail at Boots Ireland, three of which were in a management position, and she now works in the public sector with the HSE. Working in an office environment gave Donna the stability for family planning and also the opportunity to return to third-level education.

I didn’t know what my potential was until I started this course at ATU! I now have the confidence to truly progress my career in an area that I am passionate about and in an area that offers me the flexibility to be a mother and care for my family,” she said. 

ATU has brought flexibility and agility to Donna’s life that wasn’t there before and increased her options. Her time at the university has set her on a path that allows for progress in her personal and professional life. With that in mind, her advice for those on the fence about following in her footsteps and returning to education is to just do it.

“If you don’t change, you’re never going to progress or develop yourself,” Donna said.

ATU offers a suite of part-time flexible Human Resource Management courses and is accepting applications for September 2024 start. View full course list here

Atlantic Technological University offers over 370 online, flexible, and professional development course across Business, Engineering & Technology, Science & Health, Education, Creative & Social Sciences at undergraduate and postgraduate level. Download the ATU part-time Prospectus 2024/25.