Last year’s winner of the Rising Star of the Year category at the Australian HR Awards shares her postgraduate experience with HRD
Kelly Watson began her Master of Human Resources Management degree at Edith Cowan University (ECU) with one goal in mind, to progress into a senior management position with her current employer, retirement home operator St Ives Retirement Living. Remarkably, with less than a year left of her postgraduate studies, she has not only achieved her goal and become human resources
manager at St Ives, but also won the 2016 Australian Human Resources Rising Star of the Year award.
This prestigious national prize recognises an individual who has demonstrated excellence in the first five years of their HR career, based on leadership, communication, strategy, drive and results – all of which Watson has in spades.
She attributes the development of these traits in part to the focus of ECU’s Master of Human Resources Management degree, which emphasises practical and hands-on knowledge. This focus has helped her to connect theory and concepts with real-world application, something she appreciates both as a student and as an industry professional.
“The degree’s content is really relevant to what we do day-to-day on an operational basis in the workplace,” Watson says. “Being in human resources
I do a lot of shortlisting and a lot of recruitment
, and I know that when I see ECU on someone’s résumé then that’s straightaway a tick or a thumbs up.”
The breadth of the degree is also beneficial, as it goes beyond the ‘warm and fuzzy’ aspects of HR management to include ‘bottom line’ areas of organisational life such as accounting, budgets and finance.
Motivation meets flexible study options
Always striving to improve and enhance her skills, Watson began her postgraduate study only a year after completing her undergraduate double degree, acting on the advice of her manager at St Ives, who also graduated from the course. While balancing work and study seemed daunting, Watson was spurred on by ECU’s flexible and supportive course structure.
“I actually worked full-time and then went to class for night school. One of the great things about the Master of Human Resources Management is that it is offered on a part-time basis, and that made it easier for me to fit around my professional life,” Watson says.
“The fact that the seminars were held later in the day made it easier, and that the lecturers were available in the evenings and on the weekends meant that I could email them and expect a response within 24 hours. “The lecturers are really helpful and experienced – they have first-hand knowledge and are very interesting and approachable.”
This reflects ECU’s ethos of having strong industry connections and treating students not as numbers but as individuals who can flourish with guidance and care.
The proof of this philosophy is evident, with the university having achieved a five-star rating for teaching quality in the Good Universities Guide for an astonishing 10 years in a row. Furthermore, a 2017 Federal Department of Education and Training study found ECU students to be the most satisfi ed compared to students at any other public university in Australia.
For those thinking about making the leap into postgraduate education, Watson is unequivocal. “The best advice I could give to anyone who wants to progress their career in the workplace is the same advice that my manager gave to me, which is, do it now,” she says.
ECU’s AHRI-accredited Master of Human Resources Management degree is available as two years full-time or four years part-time. The course is the third stage of the postgraduate Human Resources suite of courses at ECU, which includes the Graduate Certificate and Graduate Diploma. For more information, visit www.ecu.edu.au/degrees/courses/master-of-humanresource- management.