How A QUT MBA Equipped Michelle To Expand Her Career Into The Boardroom

QUT MBA Michelle Hughes is using her new skills to expand her portfolio of directorships

Being a director of any organisation comes with a raft of responsibilities and obligations that can be daunting for the uninitiated.

The role requires a unique set of hard and soft skills that must be learned and continually developed to ensure you provide your organisation with valuable advice and leadership required. One of the best ways to gain the skills required to be a director is with a Master of Business Administration (MBA).

Michelle Hughes has used the QUT Business School MBA to help establish a growing portfolio of directorships, including her recent appointment to the board of high-profile disability support charity Endeavour Foundation.

After an extensive career in marketing, communications and executive leadership, Michelle was appointed to a board position in 2019 with mid-tier legal firm McCarthy Durie Lawyers, where she is the Chief Marketing Officer.

While she now considers herself an emerging professional director with a portfolio of governance and non-executive roles, her introduction to the robust and rigorous discussions that take place in boardrooms was the same as many new appointees taking on the role for the first time.

“After the first couple of meetings as a Director, I felt I was contributing but not articulating my contributions very well,” she said. “I didn’t feel like I had the vocabulary or financial literacy needed to communicate with other Board members on their level.”

Like many executives looking to expand their responsibilities, Michelle saw the solution to her challenge in a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from QUT Business School.

She looked at a few options for an MBA but was sold on QUT’s curriculum and the flexibility of the MBA’s delivery format, with each subject delivered in a seven-week block or Teaching Period (six weeks of teaching with a final assessment in week seven) with a short break between subjects.

“With so many competing priorities, it was important that I could balance professional and personal commitments while doing the MBA at my own pace,” she said.

Michelle shared that the MBA was a deeply rewarding experience that gave her the opportunity to learn new skills and enhance her existing knowledge.

“I expected to go into classes and learn different frameworks and methodologies, but what I got was a new way of thinking about problems and opportunities… over the course of a few years, my mind was remapped, which was transformative for the way I work,” she said.

“There is a real mix of hard skills and soft skills. The hard skills – finance, law, strategy – become coded in and automatic to the point where it is now just intuitive.

“The soft skills tend to be more about increasing your emotional maturity and emotional intelligence. You stop viewing things from your own perspective and begin to see them from an organisational lens.”

“For me, the MBA was about empowering me with the skills and empathy to lead and transform an organisation.”

She said the leadership programs as part of the overall MBA were instrumental in helping her develop the skills to be a better Director and expand her career.

“It is not just about learning about great leaders, you have to take a magnifying glass to yourself and have an honest look at those areas where you can improve. All the programs were productive and insightful in terms of enhancing my leadership capabilities.”

The MBA, which she finished at the end of 2023, has opened the opportunity to expand her portfolio of Directorships with her appointment to the Board of the Endeavour Foundation.

For more information on the QUT MBA, please visit

Ben Ready
Ben Ready founded MBA News in 2014 and is the Managing Editor. He is a former business and finance journalist with Australian Associated Press (AAP) and Dow Jones Newswires in London. Ben completed his MBA in 2012 and was awarded the QUT GMAA Entrepreneurship Prize. He is also the founder and Managing Director of RGC Media & Mktng (