Back to uni helps businesswoman banish COVID déjà vu

While the resurgence of COVID-19 is causing deja vu for many business owners, Fiona Roberts is looking forward to “another amazing year” in 2021.

Fiona who, with husband Scott, runs national finance business IBN from their Sunshine Coast base, has found a new lease of life and career after starting a Professional Communication degree at USC in 2020.

She said that while the upskilling was already improving her business communications, she had enjoyed some surprising benefits, from boosting her creativity and mental wellbeing to finding new ways to help her community.

Perhaps the most unexpected benefit was her recognition as one of Queensland’s emerging photo-media artists last month. Fiona had only picked up a DSLR camera for the first time for her USC studies.

“It was around Christmas 2019 when we decided to reassess our business direction,” she said. IBN specialises in commercial and development finance.

“The property market had slowed, COVID’s economic impacts had started, it was coming into election year in the United States, and the whole financial industry was changing.

“I’d wanted to do something constructive to future-proof us, but I’d studied business years ago and felt almost burnt out.

“I was excited about public relations, communications and advertising, and how they could help us promote the business as well as provide a creative outlet, so I enrolled at USC.”

The Little Mountain resident said her experiences went beyond what she expected.

“My lesson for the year is that life is all about perspective,” she said. “You have to choose how you see life. Going back to uni has shifted my perspective.”

She said the degree enabled her to examine facets of the business in an objective way.

“In the first six months, I learned so much, not just about business communications, but about myself. It was all-encompassing and I was exposed to this amazing range of people and subjects. I had such interesting conversations with the younger students.

“I volunteered my new skills to help a local church parish get their staff online, live-stream services and set up newsletter and database templates. They’re supporting people in the community during COVID.”

The encouragement of Lecturer in Photography Tricia King gave Fiona the confidence to enter a black and white photo of a steaming coffee cup for the ‘First Light’ exhibition of emerging Queensland photo-media artists at The Maud Street Photo Gallery in Brisbane. It was chosen from hundreds.

“I’d always love taking photos with my phone but, now that I can use a DSLR, I’m going to take my own stock images for marketing and promotions in 2021,” she said.

Fiona, who has a young son at home, said the overall university experience, blending both online and on-campus learning, eased her stress levels despite the upheaval of the pandemic and juggling work and family.

“Early last year I had high blood pressure, which I was monitoring closely. When I started uni, it went down by 10 points top and bottom, consistently.

“I think USC gave me something positive to focus on, other people to talk to, and the stimulation of new ideas.”

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