Why an MBA was Important to Me

I left school at 16 and joined the RAF. Six months later I was at college taking A-levels, before falling into a job with a local council doing Data Preparation. It was 14 years later, after fulfilling the role of ‘technician’ across a number of different disciplines, that I was first assigned to ‘manage’.

I was an untrained, inexperienced worker, and yet had responsibility for seven staff all looking to me for leadership and guidance. What resulted was a virgin manager being over-worked, under-paid and critically under valued. Why? Because of a lack of credibility – stemming from limited management competence. The time had arrived to re-invent myself, to redress the fact that I had not made the most of my youth and education. To face the fact I had no professional qualification, and to make the transition from ‘techie’ into manager.

I needed training and education in the nature of organisations. What is strategy and does it matter? What role did culture and organisational dynamics play in making organisations and managers successful? Why were operations always ‘sold out’ by marketing, and why did the financial director always seem to have the real power? If I was to be successful, I knew that I personally needed to know all of these things and more.

The thought of studying corporate strategy, marketing, corporate finance, and organisational change filled me with excitement, and if I could survive what I knew would be a hellish three years of distance learning, then I could survive anything. I had never been an academic, yet I was confident that I could readily tie together the theory to the practice – that I would make myself a capable manager and deliver to my staff the sort of leadership, methods and practices which they deserved.

I would be lying if I said that I didn’t think my studies and qualification would gain me career advancement. I wanted recognition and I wanted to be different – I wanted the skills I needed to be successful, and I saw the MBA as a route to that success. I expected it to give me an advantage over other managers, and it did. I was able to communicate effectively with senior managers much more readily.

I firmly believe that the MBA remains the most comprehensive and challenging management training programme, but only when it is tied to practical experience and undertaken in a real life environment. No amount of lecture theory can substitute for six months in a fast changing and dynamic organisational environment. Tie the two together and you have a recipe for success and development, both individually and organisationally. For me, the experience of doing it was worth more and was more important than the end qualification; the learning experience was terrific. I grew as an individual and as a manager. I learned how to survive under a ridiculous workload; I understood more about myself, and what makes me tick. I now have a passion for strategy. A real coup for me was entering the Cap Gemini International Business School, the company’s elite corporate university, that everyone wants to attend but only a few are accepted. I was fortunate to be chosen, and my MBA helped open the doors to the programme. I have now taken up a position as a technology head in our strategic technology unit.

I set out to re-invent myself, to develop myself and to make myself more valuable to my staff, my organisation and to me. I think the MBA experience has done that and more, and I would recommend it to anyone. I am now part of Cap Gemini’s Ebusiness team – advising on the future strategy and direction of both our and our clients’ business – hard at work, putting the MBA to use.

Author: Sam Forster, Head of Technology, Strategic Technology Unit, Cap Gemini

 

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