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09 Oct 2019 16:51
Byron Christie was awarded a scholarship for his MBA full-time programme and is a graduate of the 2018 class
Making the decision to do an MBA is no small thing. The financial and time costs alone are not insignificant — not to mention the fact that it will stretch you emotionally and intellectually.
Why, then, does it remain such a popular degree choice the world over? The simple answer is that the right MBA can be a game-changer for your career.
It can be daunting to step out of the safety of the classroom and into a world of work that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA World), where challenges will be coming at you from every direction. A good MBA programme can prepare you to face this reality with confidence.
Managers and leaders are not operating on a plane removed from the world around them where they can employ abstract, rational thinking to lay out their options and pick the most applicable theory. Rather they are constantly thrown into the deep end where agility, responsiveness and adaptation — rather than pre-determined plans — are required. Throw away the playbook. To be successful in the future world of work you will need a certain amount of practical wisdom that only comes from experience.
The right MBA programme will give you a solid grounding in the fundamentals of business and a healthy dose of experiential learning to ground you in the realities you need to face to lead in a complex environment. At the UCT GSB we achieve this through a variety of approaches including the examination of relevant case studies, reflection on one’s own experience, and practical or consulting assignments. In 2020 we are also planning to offer unique internships that give students a practical immersion in a specialised area in order to grow their expertise in consulting and enhance their ability to theorise through practise.
The UCT GSB is also spearheading the development of award-winning local teaching case studies compiled by faculty and/or MBA candidates that focus on current and relevant issues on the African continent. An immersion in local material will help ensure that you’re where you should be when you leave the classroom: leading, not following.
Employers around the world are increasingly looking for a balance of generalist and specialist skills, valuing talent that is both flexible and able to dive deep into certain areas. This means that to increase your employability, you need to ensure you have both.
An MBA degree is traditionally generalist in nature. For more than 100 years, the degree has successfully delivered an outstanding business education covering general aspects of management including finance, marketing, accounting and strategy. At the same time, the demand for specialisation options at business schools has surged in recent years in line with employer demands. The right MBA should offer you some good choices, enabling you to enhance your generalist business skills with a set of in-demand specialised skills.
The UCT GSB currently offers five MBA specialisation streams including: innovation and entrepreneurship; leadership & change; management consulting; marketing management; and operations & supply chain management. And there are plans to launch additional streams in impact investing, systems change, healthcare management, and managing infrastructure reform and regulation.
It is no longer a secret that, as technology and AI is gaining ground in the workplace, the need for essential human capabilities is growing apace. According to LinkedIn, the key professional traits that are likely to persist over time and across industries are actually soft skills such as critical thinking and problem solving, flexibility, communication, and innovation and creativity. Leadership is also critical.
Feon Ang, LinkedIn’s vice-president for talent and learning solutions in Asia Pacific, says those skills are readily “learnable,” and are not innate traits. However, it requires commitment from both employers and employees to develop them.
An MBA programme that puts sufficient emphasis on leadership and personal development and gives you the space and autonomy to co-create a leadership journey that resonates with your core values can help you draw out and grow these human qualities, which will increase the chances that your CV finds its way to the top of the recruitment pile.
If anything, in South Africa and in Africa more broadly, the need for excellent human capital to run organisations with skill and wisdom is greater than ever. And the opportunities for those with the right skills to make a difference and get ahead are huge. Research from McKinsey and Company shows that Africa is the world’s next big growth market. Its population is young, fast growing, and increasingly urban, while rapid technology adoption makes the continent a fertile arena for innovation. There are already over 400 companies on the continent creating revenues of over $1-billion. Be first in line. The right MBA can set you on a path to capitalise on these untapped opportunities.
The UCT GSB has been at the vanguard of management education in Africa for more than five decades and is perfectly positioned to be your guide and partner in growing your business and career ambitions, both on the continent and more broadly.
Find out more about the UCT GSB’s globally recognised MBA programme at https://www.gsb.uct.ac.za/mba
Kosheek Sewchurran is the interim director of the UCT Graduate School of Business
Read more from Kosheek Sewchurran
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