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Make your MBA work for you

by Tracy Greenwood
Choosing a course that suits your needs and embracing all aspects of the programme are the first step to MBA success, both personally and professionally, says Henley Africa MBA candidate, Trevor Ncalo.

Most people say I look much younger than 35, which can be a blessing and a curse! In the business environment people tend to underestimate me based on my appearance and automatically assume I’m too young to take on particular roles. Luckily, what I say and how I behave always sets the record straight.

I hold a Master of Science degree (Project Management in Construction) and I’ve worked in the built environment industry for the past 13 years. Up until now my positions have been very technical. I currently work as an infrastructure finance advisor at a medium-sized consulting engineering firm but my decision to move into a more strategic business management role within the firm and industry is what informed my decision to do an MBA.

Selecting the right programme to suit my needs was extremely important. I looked for a course that was more applied and practical in nature rather than theoretical because I am just so tired of doing theoretical degrees! Choosing Henley Africa, the applied MBA, is a decision that has worked out really well because even though I am still studying I have been able to apply my learnings to current business problems at work.

At Henley it’s like your degree is your work. The projects we focus on as part of our studies are always based on real-life examples in our own workplace. This has afforded me the opportunity to have the right conversations with the right people in the business. And I think I’ve made a good impression.

At the same time, the personal mastery component of the MBA also had a profound impact on me. More than I could have imagined. I am an intensely private person by nature but thanks to the trust I had in the facilitator and my belief in the confidentiality of the process I felt safe enough to do the intense self-reflection required to reach a deeper level of self-awareness.

Henley Africa's approach to group work turns the conventional approach on its head. They don't force you to work in groups, they teach you the benefits of collaboration. Group work is another important part of the Henley Africa MBA and can make a huge difference to the experience. On our first day the class was divided up into smaller groups of six to seven students. In my group of six there are four women and two men, all from different industries: complete strangers. From the beginning we were extremely intentional about how we wanted to work and over time we were able to create a culture of trust that has allowed us to continue working together successfully.

I think that mutual respect is the key to our group’s success. We are now in the third and final stage of the MBA and our group is still going strong. We are able to leverage off each other because we know that each person will be given the opportunity to contribute and nobody will be shut down.

Sharing the load and working collaboratively – but still independently – has been invaluable to us, especially during the pandemic. For example, when a team member’s husband contracted COVID-19 and landed up in the ICU we were able to support her while making sure our work didn’t suffer. We juggled the workload, reassigned tasks and recorded sessions so she was able to catch up more easily when she returned to class.

I think this level of care shows that our relationships have grown beyond the classroom. We may have started off with weekly meetings that were only focused on work but that soon progressed to breakfasts or lunches after assignment submissions where we would let off a bit of steam and debrief. More recently we took our socials to the next level when we got together with our families, which was truly special. MBA programmes often promise you that you will make friends for life, and in my case, at Henley Business School Africa, this has literally, been true!

Useful resources:
Henley Business School
At the core of Henley’s philosophy is the belief that we need to develop managers and leaders for the future. We believe the challenge facing future leaders is the need to solve dilemmas through making choices. We work with both individuals and organisations to create the appropriate learning environment to facilitate the critical thinking skills to prepare for the future.
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