Professional Development: My MBA

For many it’s seen as the passport to advancement, dangling the prize of more challenging roles, better money and the cachet that goes with completing course of study notorious for pushing students beyond their comfort zones. Two years of juggling study and work, social life flying out the window, and trading heavily on the support and understanding of family and friends – is it all worth it?
We asked cross section of MBA students and graduates about their motivations and expectations, challenges and achievements – and what they’d do differently if starting over. What shines through is that the MBA programme is not only an investment in your career, but becomes life-changing investment in yourself.

Adrian Hendry
Final year student, Victoria University

I have an IT background, to CIO level, with substantial project and programme management experience. I thought the MBA programme would enable me to better understand C-level executive risks and requirements, helping me to add value and to be more effective as an IT leader, and giving me springboard to the next level.
Although I now have rhythm to what I do, initially I found it quite difficult and tiring to do further 16-20 hours week on top of work, as well as balancing family and social life. My wife has been extremely supportive.
A second challenge was to understand and apply subjects in areas where I’ve had minimal contact – organisational behaviour, HR and change management. These definitely helped me to better understand myself as an employee in large organisation, with change going on all around me, and the reflections and experiences have already made me better manager.
With the benefit of hindsight I would relax more quickly and interact sooner and more confidently with my fellow students and lecturers. Many of the people who have travelled with me along the MBA journey have been outstanding. They have challenged me, encouraged me and laughed with me. Without them my studying would have been much less. Without exception, the academic staff have been passionate and knowledgeable – very approachable, and always ready to defend their own position or to challenge student’s, while showing great respect.

Jacqueline Moore
Currently studying, University of Canterbury

I wanted to challenge myself. I felt I’d hit glass ceiling at work and hoped this would open up further opportunities. The main challenges for me were loss of income as full-time student, and fear of failure.
I’ve met really great group of people and am being taught by extraordinary teachers. I’ve learnt more than I ever expected about business management. It has given me confidence in my abilities and opened my eyes to the opportunities around me. I have passed all my papers so far, nearly achieved Master’s, and it has encouraged me to continue my university studies.
The course and the outcomes absolutely met my expectations, probably more than I expected. I also realised that I knew more than I’d thought. The opportunity to share experiences with other students and lecturers was most satisfying, and coming from the not-for-profit sector there were plenty of hearty debates. I feel ready for the next step in my career.

Dana Ralph-Smith
Final paper, Southern Cross University MBA, MIT

I have clinical degree in physiotherapy but over time have taken on more managerial roles in the healthcare system. I wanted to ensure I had the theoretical skills to lead and manage teams and services efficiently and effectively, and move up to more senior management role. With the skills I’ve learned I was promoted to general manager position.
I was only able to manage one paper per term and had to be quite disciplined balancing my full-time role as healthcare manager, time with my husband and two young children, and getting the most out of the programme. Initially, I tried to read everything but the programme taught me to become more discerning – and more succinct with my writing. The study required to produce the work does become an achievable routine.
One of the main achievements has been the ability to study theoretical information and directly apply my learning at work. Every single paper has provided an opportunity to look at what I was doing as leader and manager and improve on it, to the benefit of my skills, my staff and the organisation. I have also improved my ability to research and synthesise information. The MBA has given me the confidence and skills to look at the business from any perspective, plan and articulate where and how we can improve, and lead effective change within very tight timeframes.

Kirsten McDonald
Graduates in May, University of Auckland

My background had been teacher training abroad. On returning to New Zealand I wanted to study further and the MBA seemed the logical choice to give me broad picture of business and management, and its application to education.
As well as maintaining work, study and life balance, it was also challenge overcoming my own (mis)perception of the irrelevance of my international teacher training background, also speaking in and about new contexts.
In terms of major outcomes and achievements, the main difference has been confidence in the transferability of skills and in my own ability to learn, research and apply new knowledge quickly. I have gained large toolkit of models to use in the workplace, global picture of business and an awareness of the key questions to ask in variety of situations. My role has now changed from teacher training to business development and international marketing. In addition, I was delighted to be invited to the Beta Gamma Sigma society at the completion of my MBA.
Those core achievements were what I expected to get out of the course and my expectations were met. Every paper I learnt great deal that I apply to my current working situation wherever possible.
With the benefit of hindsight I would be stricter with my life balance, and also convince myself sooner that my own context and experience are relevant.

Patrick Hunt
Completing final major research project, University of Waikato

I did the MBA to gain deeper understanding of the various business functions and be recognised in the market for having this knowledge – also, to better understand and develop my strengths so I can concentrate on what I do best and thereby contribute at higher level.
Balancing family and work commitments with the rigours of study was challenge. I have very supportive, understanding wife and her belief in the value of the programme enabled me to fully commit to the hours needed.
The biggest difference is in my self-knowledge. I entered the programme wanting to understand more about business and have come out with deeper knowledge of myself, not only in business but in wider context. How I interact with others, the way I communicate and my view of life have all improved and expanded.
Major outcomes certainly include improved interpersonal skills, time management, and dealing with stress and ambiguity. The MBA has added valuable academic dimension to my practical experience and I am pleased that I have done it in my 40s.
The course and outcomes far exceeded my initial expectations. I come away with so much more than I planned… tangible outcomes including the knowledge and practical experience gained from working on projects with other motivated people, and intangible outcomes including deeper appreciation of others, better understanding of the value relationships bring to business, and the confidence to try new approaches and accept that failure is sometimes necessary part of success.
Enjoyment for me was really important aspect of the MBA and even when it didn’t feel enjoyable at times I consoled myself that I knew more than when I first started, so was still progressing.

Pamina Prasad
Graduate (2011), AUT

I undertook the challenge of an MBA for variety of personal reasons. After the breakdown of my mar

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