2 March 2020
Emma Clark has embarked on an incredible journey thanks to the #WhatIf campaign and her own determination to succeed
Emma Clark spent 10 years working on the ticket desk for Ryanair, but the mum-of-three has now embarked on her own special journey - thanks to Women in Football's #WhatIf campaign.
Liverpool-born Emma is currently studying at the University of Liverpool, having been selected as one of two lucky recipients to be handed a full scholarship as part of #WhatIf.
And now single parent Emma is enjoying the journey of a lifetime as she combines her studies with looking after three children, Tom (16), Jamie (12) and Holly (9)... aided by a big helping hand from her mum, Linda.
"I've always been a firm believer that you should try to reach for the stars no matter how ridiculous it sounds," says Emma, "Because I am living proof that if you have the drive, anything is possible.
"I had 10 years working at Liverpool airport with Ryanair, which was a great learning experience on a lot of levels; dealing with pressured situations, people, organising etc, but it came to a point when it wasn't really fulfilling me and I ended up leaving.
"It might not have seemed the most sensible thing to do, but I took that leap of faith because something had to change - and I was determined to make sure it did. There I was, without a job, a single mum and not knowing quite what to do, so I wrote a five-year plan with the intention of sticking to it as best as possible. It could not have gone any better."
Emma undertook a masters degree at Staffordshire University, while at the same time juggling an evening class to take English GCSE.
"I applied for a place at Staffordshire Uni via Cronton College and with help from Iain Douglas and Mark Brennan they took a chance on me. I didn't have the right GSCEs, but they gave me a place and allowed me to take my GSCEs alongside the course at evening class, so I was in uni from 9am - 4pm and then going to night school. I'd finish at around 9pm with my head ready to burst, but it was something I had to do.
"I was really, really lucky Staffordshire took a chance on me. The experience there took me to a different level of dealing with pressure; in one week, I had three assignments due which needed to be proofed and then had my GSCEs exams - and my son broke his wrist... all in the space of six days! That was one of the hardest weeks ever, but I got through it and those 14+-hour days were worth it when I graduated."
Emma, a die-hard Liverpool fan from a young age, wanted to work in the football industry, but like so many other women wasn't entirely sure of the best way to try and get a foot in the door. Instead, she nearly pursued a career in psychology.
"I didn't know anything about the Football Industries MBA programme at Liverpool University," she says. "I was going to do a psychology masters after I graduated from Stafford. I had done my dissertation in that field, so it seemed like a natural thing to do.
"But I applied and got rejected and then fate intervened. I was at a sewing class and was chatting to a woman who used to work at Liverpool Uni. She forwarded me the details of the course - and it was obvious to me that it was exactly what I wanted to do. I needed to do the course.
"I couldn't believe that I was accepted with a partial scholarship, but thanks to Women in Football and #WhatIf, it was then changed to a full scholarship."
Emma started the FIMBA course in September 2019 - but by her own admission, it took a few weeks to fully settle in.
"There's been a fair amount of plate spinning because I have three children and it was some time before I managed to get that work/study/family balance right. I can't believe that it is going so well. I'm 100 per cent meant to be on this path.
“My family, my children, all the other students in the class have been so supportive and my fellow students have accepted my kids brilliantly. Things have worked out the way they're meant to be. I help the people on my course and they help me. I will proofread if English isn't their first language and people will help out if I get stuck on something.
"This has been the most amazing experience. I was used to meeting people from all over the world when I worked for Ryanair, now I am sitting in lecture theatres and meetings, learning all about the football industry.
"The opportunity and course have opened up a whole new world for me. It is incredible to learn what goes on behind the scenes at a football club in terms of how it is run as a business - and all the factors that come into play. There is just so much more to it than I had ever realised.
"I'm learning as much as I possibly can as I know what an incredible opportunity I have been given. I've met everyone from CEOs to agents and have listened to some amazing speakers. The workload is intense, but that comes with the territory. I just want to be as prepared as I possibly can be, so that I can make the most of this chance when the course finishes and I get a job working in football."
Emma has already met Women in Football board member Jo Tongue, who owns Tongue Tied Media, along with CEO Jane Purdon when Jane was giving a talk at the university earlier this year (pictured above).
"They are both brilliant women who have so much experience and knowledge about the industry," Emma explains. "I think now that I'm really leaning towards working in the commercial agents and talent management side of football.
"But then I'd like to work at a club too - so maybe I shouldn't put all my eggs in one basket! In football there's such a wide array of jobs, more than you realise, and skills you acquire in other careers can be transferred over in so many areas.
"I'm very people oriented and think that working in the airport has helped prepare me for everything. It taught me to be very precise and was a job where there was absolutely no room for error. It moulded me as a person and gave me the confidence to take that leap of faith.
"I'm so happy the way life is going and can see a massive future panning out for me. I want to be a game changer and want to be successful and I'm going to continue driving forward to get there."
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