Psychology degree adds to leadership skills

Rebecca Lambert-Lane
  • General Manager, Spray Marks

Having already graduated from Open Polytechnic with a Bachelor of Business (Accounting) several years ago, lifelong learner Rebecca Lambert-Lane has now completed a Bachelor of Applied Science (Psychology) which helped complement her role as a General Manager.

Rebecca completed her first degree in 2003 and for the last 13 years has been working at Spray Marks, an engineering and road marking firm based in Ashburton, starting as an accountant before moving into management.

Mixing business and psychology

Coming back to Open Polytechnic after 11 years to take up her psychology degree, she says “I’ve always had an interest in psychology and thought from a business perspective it was a great addition to accounting.

“I think it always pays to have a good understanding of people and in my job as a General Manager I have to deal with a lot of different people and problem solve. Studying psychology has given me a whole different perspective and the ability to step back and not take things too personally and just be able to view situations from a different perspective.”

In her role, Rebecca deals with anything from strategic planning, operational and financial management to implementing change, decision-making and evaluating commercial viability.

“The psychology really complemented my management position and I have been able to directly apply what I have been learning in the workplace. The company has been very supportive of me studying while working.”

Rebecca also completed her Graduate Diploma of Professional Accounting through Open Polytechnic while working as part of her professional development. She says the ability to cross-credit from some of her previous courses really helped when it came to taking up study again.

Balancing Act

With three teenage children it has been quite the balancing act when it came to study, working full-time and managing family commitments.

“It’s always difficult, but because I had studied by distance before I knew what to expect which really helped. I would just wake up early at 5am in the morning and get my study done first thing before everybody got up. I also tucked myself away for a few weekends and did a lot of reading in my spare time.“I’m also very lucky to have a wonderful supportive husband!”

Family is interwoven throughout Rebecca’s learner journey with her husband studying the Bachelor of Business degree with Open Polytechnic at the same time she did – and her son proving one of the motivations to re-enter tertiary education.

“I had my son while I was studying my first degree with Open Polytechnic. I remember having an exam when he was only three weeks old. Years later, when he was a teenager and thinking about going to University to study medicine, I thought, well I haven’t studied for a long time and it would be great to be able to help him - and have a Doctor in the family. Then I thought, why don’t I be a Doctor myself if that is what excites me!”

Future goals

With plans to eventually take up study again towards a doctorate and make the transition from the business world to working in the health psychology or research field, Rebecca feels the Open Polytechnic programme has set her up well for the future.

“I think the comprehensiveness of the degree was great. For psychology in particular, I had never written a research paper before, so learning how to write in a scientific way, as opposed to a business essay, was quite different so I think that sets me up really well for the future.”

On a personal level, Rebecca also says studying recently has helped her support her son in his study. “I just felt like I could offer him a bit more than from years ago when I did it the first time with such things as exam strategies and tips.

“And also, as a parent, knowing about psychology in general really helps in that role. So, it has given me life-skills as well.”

Distance learning worked best

Rebecca enjoyed the flexibility offered by studying online. “I enjoyed the online forums – you could either opt-in or opt-out, it wasn’t too in your face if you didn’t want it to be, but you had the option to become involved if you wanted. I think I just really liked that flexibility.

“It works differently for different people – I was just happy to work plugging away by myself but if I got a bit stuck I would be able to review the forums and answer some of my own questions and I quite liked having that option. It was also great to have a tutor call me in those first few weeks to check-in.”

Rebecca’s advice for those who are considering distance learning is to get a good study plan in place right from the beginning.

“First of all, when you start your course, get a good study plan in place and stick to it because if you procrastinate and you let it all bunch up it can be hard. But it doesn’t have to be much – just small chunks at a time. It’s about getting on top of it!”


Studying psychology has given me a whole different perspective and the ability to step back and not take things too personally and just be able to view situations from a different perspective.