"I completed a doctorate in operational research at the University of Lancaster. I studied part-time whilst also doing a full-time job. My research was sponsored by the Ministry of Defence, my employer at the time. It concerned a real-life problem, namely the need to forecast the demand for spare parts for aircraft. I quit my job to devote time to my doctorate when it became difficult to manage my studies – in all, it took six years. I undertook my doctoral research for personal development – I wanted to push myself. I had to make a lot of sacrifices for my studies – I had a long-term plan and I stuck with it.
"I am now where I planned to be, an independent consultant working across a number of industries. I have a daughter who has just turned one. At the time of her birth I was working on three contracts at once, which was not easy given the lack of sleep. Life is a lot more relaxed now.
"Having a doctorate gives me extra distinction on my CV and business cards. It has also made me more confident that I know what I am talking about when speaking with clients. And it allows me to justify charging higher daily rates than my peers!
"I would advise doing all you can to network. You never know who might want your services after meeting you at a conference, reading your article or seeing your online profile, perhaps years after you sowed the first seed."