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Belong, Believe Achieve: Paula Gardner

Paula is using the skills she’s learned at UEL to take her business to the next level

Paula Gardner had already built a successful career and her own public relations company when she decided to enrol at the University of East London (UEL) to pursue a MSc in Business Psychology.

Paula said, “I’d been on auto-pilot for a long time, but my course made me think in a much deeper way, and made me realise how much I love those deep conversations and discussions.”
Paula previously earned an undergraduate degree in English Literature, then trained as a journalist before moving into public relations.

Her career in music involved doing press for 1980s pop music icons likes of Bananarama, Sinitta and George Michael. She later founded her own business promoting restaurants.
Paula said, “I liked the glamour of music, but I was always interested in the business side, so I was drawn to working with businesses.”

After having children, Paula switched from doing public relations for small businesses to coaching owners on how to do it for themselves.
She said, “A lot of the businesses that were interesting to me couldn’t afford to use me as their PR person, but they could afford to use me as their coach”

She also wrote two books on the subject – Do Your Own PR and Get Noticed. But as the years passed, public relations started to feel a bit superficial to Paula. It was as she was accompanying her son on university open days that she became inspired to return to study herself.

She said, “I was taking him on all these trips, and I was so envious of him going to uni. The first time you go to university you often don’t appreciate it. I was thinking, ‘If only I could go back’.  But studying while also running a business as a single mum with three kids is a big challenge.  

After considering both Psychotherapy and Business Coaching degrees, a conversation with Dr Mark Holloway, the course leader of UEL’s Business Psychology programme, convinced Paula to sign up for the master’s course. Two years later – before she has even graduated – Paula’s decision has already paid off.

Paula is currently running five mastermind groups (where small business owners come together to brainstorm solutions) creating a new income stream from the skills she learned in her Business Psychology classes. Paula is also working with business leaders on promoting their own visibility, and has come up with the concept of ‘Scarlett Thinking. 

Paula said, “Scarlett Thinking is not about how people look, but about raising their profile and building a reputation within their organisation or industry." 

And with both mother and son at university at the same time, it has been an interesting time in the Gardner household. 
Paula said, “My son’s been doing his finals, I’ve been doing my dissertation, and my daughter has been doing her GCSEs.  But we’ve really supported each other. It’s been a really nice bond