Juggling the MBA with the job

October 2012


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Most MBA students are in full-time employment, so how do they balance course work with the pressures of their job? Education Review asks current and former MBA students about their experiences.

MURRAY TAYLOR, MBA student, University of Auckland

Q: What qualifications and career path did you take prior to deciding to embark on an MBA programme?

A My career path has predominantly been within finance and commercial roles within the New Zealand manufacturing sector prior to making the transition to a Regional Manager position at Fletcher Reinforcing, a move aimed at broadening my cross-functional experience. My qualifications include a Diploma in Business Studies and I am a Fellow Associate Chartered Accountant.

Q What prompted you to take an MBA course?

A My decision to complete an MBA was made in conjunction with my employer, aimed at continuing my training and assisting in realising my potential. I look for where the gaps are in my knowledge, skills, and experience and look to fill those gaps to assist me to be a top performer in both my current and future roles. The MBA programme offers content to enhance my business knowledge and the opportunity to apply skills learnt.

Q What direction has the MBA programme taken for you?

A While the first year is largely a set course, there remains significant opportunity to tailor the programme to my specific needs. Assessable material is often based around your application of lessons learned, providing plenty of opportunity to apply course content to issues that you may currently be facing in the workplace.

Q How have you managed to juggle study with your role as Regional Manager for Fletcher Reinforcing and your personal life?

A I am doing the MBA to progress my career. You have to still perform at work. It would be no good having the qualification if you don’t have a job to apply your knowledge in. Part of the challenge of completing an MBA is finding the balance and time to keep up with the demands of the programme, your commitments to your employer, your family, and also yourself. You have to figure out what is important, something will have to ‘play second fiddle’ and it is up to the individual to find what works best for them. For me, my day starts at 5am, a half-hour run or cycle, followed by an hour of study before the first of my family wake. This reduces the impact of study time on my family and allows a little quiet time for myself. You use your time differently. For example, rather than watching my son’s water polo training for an hour, I will sit in the car and use that time to read course material.

Q Has it been beneficial learning from the experiences of other candidates/professionals on the programme?

A We have a small yet highly diverse class, professionals that are all high achievers in their own right. Some of the best learning can come from in-class debate and the dynamics associated with group work throughout the programme. The experiences that fellow students bring add a real richness to the programme.

Q What do you think the MBA will add to your professional career?

A Rather than climbing a ladder faster, I believe I will be climbing a sturdier ladder. I am looking for the MBA to aid me in being a top performer. Many of us will know a means of completing a task, but I am looking for the MBA to add to my toolkit, to provide me with a wider array of approaching challenges and open my eyes to see and act on opportunities that others may not notice. I also see real benefit through increased confidence, confidence that I can perform at the level of my fellow professionals on the course, and senior executives within the wider business community.

Q Have you found that your experiences drawn from your current role at Fletcher Reinforcing have helped you with various aspects of the MBA course? And vice versa?

A Definitely. The MBA is about application. We learn and we apply, and we learn from what we have applied. I, and each of my class mates, bring to class real life experiences of material we cover in the course. This moves the content from the academic to the practical, while the academic aids in our understanding on the theory behind what we witness and have influence on in practice.

Q Has the MBA course met with your expectations so far?

A To date the course has met with my expectations. The calibre of the professionals that I am learning with is at the standard I had hoped for, the lecturers are vastly experienced and subject matter experts. It’s a challenge balancing an MBA with wider commitments, a challenge I am thoroughly enjoying.

Q What are your plans upon completion of the MBA?

A A two-week holiday on a warm sunny island somewhere in the Pacific with my family!

Q Would you recommend an MBA course to other professionals?

A My recommendation of an MBA to other professionals would be dependent upon why they wanted it. If you just want to formalise what you think you already know, why do it? If you are prepared to approach it with a mind open to new ideas, ideas that may challenge your traditional thinking, choose a reputable MBA and go for it.

Q What advice would you give others thinking about pursuing an MBA?

A Understand what you want from the course while remaining open to be challenged. Be prepared to commit your time, have confidence in your ability to contribute, and plan your studies around what will work best for you. As with so many things in life, you will get back from it what you are prepared to put in.


JACOB MATHEW, MBA graduate, AUT University

Q What inspired you to take the MBA in the first place?

A The need to progress one’s career up the corporate ladder. After 15 years of corporate life around the world, I felt stagnated.


Q Did you have any reservations about embarking on the MBA at the time?

A No, my employer was very supportive as I was putting what I had learned into practice immediately. I believe it’s all about putting that across to your employer and to help them see those benefits from the support they give you. In fact, they paid for my fees and study time.


Q How specifically did your MBA help your career in the short term?

A It changed my thought process, which changed the way I started making decisions. In short, it changed my life. Once I was into the MBA programme, I started looking at all the hurdles that I came across as opportunities and turned them around. In fact, over a period of 18 months during the programme, I was promoted three times and moved up the chain at a fast pace.


Q How has your MBA helped in the long term?

A It has given me the ammunition to be an entrepreneur now. The learning journey that I started has never ended. I have gone on to being a Six Sigma Master Black Belt and now a Certified NLP Trainer from the American board of NLP.

Q Would you recommend an MBA programme to others?

A I would recommend it to anyone who has the flair and finds the need to grow and change in life.