Name: Emily Horswell

Lives in: Shaftesbury, Dorset 

Studied: ICS Diploma in Business Management

Why ICS? Being able to complete a qualification in just nine months, rather than several years.

Emily had been working at Virginia Hayward, a luxury gift hamper company, for almost seven years when she decided to sign up for a distance learning course with ICS. Having not studied beyond her A Levels, she felt a business qualification would go a long way toward helping her grow within the company.


“I have been working my way up the family-run company and am now a manager responsible for a small team of individuals, so a management course was best suited to me. And living in the south west of England, a distance learning course suited my work and home life,” she explains.

“I'd been aware of ICS Learn for several years from TV ads, and so the name helped attract me. Also, the length of the course was appealing, as it meant I wouldn't have to dedicate a few years, only nine months.”

“I think it’s important to grow my knowledge”

Although it was her director who encouraged her to sign up for a business course, Emily didn’t need any convincing. The opportunity to expand her skills was something that naturally appealed to her.   

“As I didn't go to university, I think it's important to grow my knowledge and understanding, and also help develop my maturity by learning about the more complex parts of a business,” she tells us.

“Once I started my ICS Diploma in Business Management, I got into the rhythm of spending a Saturday reading and learning. As my partner works on most Saturdays and I don’t have children, this fit well with my personal life.”

“Completing the course was a big achievement”

When Emily passed the course, it wasn’t just the qualification she was proud of, but also her ability to pick up where she’d left off back in school. 

“Completing the course was a big achievement for me. It had been eight years since completing my A Levels, so I didn’t know if I would have the discipline to undertake a learning schedule on my own. But I have successfully managed and both myself and my manager are extremely happy.

“I learnt a lot whilst studying, much of which I could relate to my own workplace, which really brought the coursework to life and helped me to absorb the information. And I enjoyed interacting with my tutor regularly, who was very insightful and patient.”

“I have a better understanding of leadership styles now”

In earning her Diploma in Business Management, Emily developed a deeper perspective on what it means to be a leader. She realised that leadership isn’t as much about the leader herself as it is about responding to the different personalities within a team.  

“I have a better understanding of leadership styles now, so before I act at work I can think about the best way to respond to help my team members be efficient and also help their development.

“I think approachability is really important and encouraging staff to be honest and speak to you if they have any concerns. I also feel communication from the top down is important too, so everyone is told about news sooner rather than later. I have developed my ability to be patient and to also make time for others that need my guidance or help.”

“Who wouldn’t want to live Christmas every day?”

For Emily, progressing in her career has never meant looking for work at a new company. She feels lucky to have landed in an organisation that she genuinely enjoys being a part of.

“I love working at Virginia Hayward, so I would like to stay here for as long as I can. It is a family-run business and everyone pulls together like a family to get the job done.

“When I was younger I never thought I would be a project manager for a Christmas hamper company—I always wanted to be an air traffic controller. That said, I am good at what I do, so it makes sense that this became my dream role. Who wouldn't want to live Christmas all day every day?”

“You can do it”

So, what’s next for Emily?

“I am now contemplating further qualifications to help develop this learning, and I will definitely consider ICS Learn when investigating my options,” she says. She also has some advice for other students who have recently enrolled on a distance learning course.

“Have faith that you can do it, take your time and reach out to your tutor if you are worried or struggling—they're there to help.”

Watch out for more ‘ICS Real Stories' right here on our blog. In the meantime, find out more about the Diploma in Business Management course that helped Emily hone her leadership skills.