MBAs The MBA Payback – Is it worth the investment?

Smart companies are reaping the benefits of encouraging their senior managers to do MBAs.
The investment they make in giving them time off to prepare for and sit exams is being repaid 10-fold as the skills they gain through executive education broaden their outlook and stimulate them to make more of an impact on their business.
To say these managers-come-students are part-time is technically correct, but belies the sacrifice and dedication needed to make it happen.
Getting up at 5am to study, putting in eight hours minimum at the office, getting the kids settled and then hitting the books again until 1am, sounds anything but part-time. And of course it’s not.
New Zealand companies supporting their middle to senior managers doing an MBA are seeing them becoming more worldly, more communicative, more skilled, more open to innovation, and more in touch with the big strategic picture.
These students return to the office more motivated, more productive, and more efficient and more inclined to be aware of and supportive of their employer’s quest for business excellence. Management spoke with six MBA students from around the country who exemplify the ethic.

Steven Yong
Technical analyst, Air New Zealand head office, Auckland
MBA student, Auckland University of Technology

Steven Yong readily admits that before he started his MBA studies, he didn’t have an accurate appreciation of Air New Zealand’s mission and strategic objectives.
“It didn’t make much sense.”
Now, year into the degree course, Yong says he is more in touch with the airline’s vision and what lies behind it.
Yong is one of four working on process improvement team at the airline’s head office in Auckland. The team’s job is to simplify and improve processes within the revenue accounting department, using business principles, accounting principles, and IT.
Yong, 28, says the airline has been supportive of his extra-curricular study, giving him time off to prepare for and sit exams.
His bosses, knowing he is doing the MBA course, now feel better able to expose him to tasks and problems, which traditionally have been outside his usual remit and comfort zone.
Yong has been assisting the departmental trainer with various courses. When Management spoke to him in late April, he was preparing for several weeks of leading training courses himself, associated with using spreadsheets and accounting principles.
He says he is better able now to apply broader perspective to information which comes into his department. For example, he claims greater insight into why, from human resources standpoint, employees undergo performance evaluations and appraisals.
Doing an MBA has also honed his time management skills, he says.
The airline industry, he notes, is constantly changing and becoming more competitive. “I think the vision is to actually be ready for this change and to be able to think on an innovative level.”
Yong says he feels lot more passionate about his role, having experienced the disciplines of an MBA course. He also has new-found confidence. “You’re more able to put things together, and ask ‘if I’m doing this now, how will it impact in the long run?’
“It makes you look at things in further distant future, rather than just in the short term.”

Nic Lees
Business manager, Crop and Food Research head office, Lincoln, Canterbury
MBA student, University of Canterbury

As one of several business development managers at crown research institute Crop and Food Research, Nic Lees has pivotal role in ensuring there is ongoing commercial funding to pay for scientific research, and in working with scientists in commercial environment. It’s even more pivotal considering nearly half of Crop and Food’s revenue comes directly from private sector companies and grower levies.
Where products have been developed within the organisation and the intellectual property produced, Lees and his colleagues help progress those concepts so they are more market-ready or investor-ready.
He has almost finished two-year part-time MBA degree, but in Lees’ case and many others like him, the term part-time is misnomer.
Lees, 41, works at Crop and Food four days week, with the fifth day reserved for study. Holding down full-time job and studying, being dad to three children 13 and under, and serving on their local primary school board of trustees, is to put it mildly, balancing act.
“The MBA gives you very good understanding of how lot of different businesses run and function. You also end up rubbing shoulders with lot of people from lot of different backgrounds.
“The greatest benefit is that it gives you different way of thinking and different way of looking at things because it takes you out of your own immediate experience and line of focus.
“It does allow you to see things from different perspective. It also enables you to look at the business as whole.”
Lees also thinks Crop and Food benefits from an incremental growth in his attitude and the occupational stimulation he gains as an employee. “It’s stimulating your motivation for your job and I guess your motivation for the company you work for as well.”

Bob Parkinson
Airfield operations manager, Auckland International Airport, Auckland
MBA student, Manukau Institute of Technology

At 50-something, Bob Parkinson has done most things there are to do at senior management level at Auckland International Airport.
But it was conversation several years ago with former boss which shook Parkinson out of mild dose of complacency.
To get senior management role in the company, Parkinson was told, he and others of similar seniority could forget promotion if they didn’t have top-line degree.
It set Parkinson thinking and wondering what he could do to not only protect his position, but enhance it. The MBA course was his solution.
Parkinson has been in his current role for three-and-a-half years. He has background of electronics and IT, but his wide experience with Auckland International Airport includes consulting and project management.
Parkinson says at his age, he wasn’t looking to specialise. “I’ve been through my specialisation in electronics and IT as I’ve progressed.” What he wanted was broad experience, which he says the MBA delivers.
Parkinson came to realise the hole in his education was in finance. While his job involved working with budgets, he didn’t swot up on certain financial terms because he didn’t need to know them.
Parkinson has been doing the course for four years. He says he wouldn’t have been able to do it any faster and fulfil all his other responsibilities.
“On some courses you have to give up your weekends and go on block courses. The one I’m doing, as long as you spend two hours day working on it, you can effectively do it in your own time.
“Every so often you have day off for an assignment, so effectively you are doing it from mid-January to the start of December. Initially when I did it I wondered how I would cope.
“Someone told me MBA stands for Married But Alone.”
Initially he questioned whether his family life and work could cope with the extra pressure. He set his sights low, only wanting to pass, but over time gained several distinctions.
That changed his focus, and his employer was the beneficiary.
“When I first started I wanted to protect myself to make sure I was going to get qualification that was going to last me another 15 years. It does make you more marketable. I went from just wanting to get an MBA to: ‘I can do this, I’m good at it, I can use it usefully.’
“What you find is that what you’re learning you can virtually apply the next day.”
Parkinson didn’t tell anyone other than his family that he was doing an MBA until year into it. When he finally told his boss, Parkinson felt he wasn’t telling his supervisor anything he didn’t already know, “because you start talking the jargon”.

Dean Harding
Risk assessment executive, Wrightson head office, Porirua
MBA student, Victoria Un

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