When should you do your MBA?

An MBA increases your value as an employee, as well as your chances of climbing the corporate ladder to become a CEO. That being said, it’s important to do research and thoroughly prepare so as to ensure you're ready before committing to this intensive programme

Nicola Kleyn, Deputy Dean for the Gordon Institute of Business Science (Gibs) MBA programme, doesn’t mince words when it comes to the preparation required of students aspiring to this sought-after degree.
Studying for an MBA is an intensive process that requires significant commitment. Our students report that the pressure enables them to learn to manage their scarcest resource – time. An MBA requires energy and resilience to maintain momentum and stay on course. The high number of students who successfully balance the multiple demands of family, career and studying is testimony to the fact that it’s manageable,” she says.

Tabby Tsengiwe, Head of Corporate Communications at British American Tobacco and mother of three boys, signed up for an MBA in 1999. Taking time out of her career to study full-time wasn’t an option; besides, her employer was funding her course. Accordingly, she looked for a part-time programme that would allow her to juggle her career and studies.“I felt the time was right to embark on this gruelling course before getting married and starting a family. Support was also very important and mine came from the team I led and my manager at M-Net, where I was a marketing manager.

Most importantly, I was undertaking this journey with a good friend and flatmate. We were both ready to invest in our futures,” recalls Tsengiwe. After researching the diverse MBAs offered in SA, she settled for the one presented by Australia’s Bond University at its Johannesburg campus. The attractions included the 18-month, part-time duration of the programme, access to lectures and the institution’s global recognition. Once accepted, she re-arranged her lifestyle to be able to attend classes seven evenings a week, from 6-10pm on weekdays and full days on weekends.“It was extremely laborious and academically demanding, but I loved the stimulating lectures and syndicate environments.

I got very little sleep during my studies because I didn’t want my work at M-Net to suffer. My social life also took a huge knock. For almost two years, I couldn’t attend weddings or funerals. I was also in a long-distance relationship with the man who later became my husband, so that was also truly tested.”

Tsengiwe’s highlights include getting global perspectives from the individuals with whom she interacted and valuable business insights from her syndicate members, who were drawn from various fields to ensure that they each brought different skills to the group.

The high number of students who successfully balance the multiple demands of family, career and studying is testimony to the fact that it’s manageable

Looking back, she’s grateful for the opportunity and says that had she delayed doing the degree any longer, she wouldn’t have been able to make the sacrifices necessary to complete it – especially since she’s now a parent.
“When you sign up for an MBA, you need to first ensure you have the right support structure, especially at home, because it takes over your life,” she cautions.

Mbali Mogalanyane, a Mining Engineer at Glencore and a second-year MBA student at Gibs, had a five-year plan to take her career to the next level. She began by saving towards the R200 000 required to fund the degree and changed her lifestyle to prepare for her studies.

She describes the process as being similar to preparing for a marathon. The Witbank, Mpumalanga-based professional looked for a programme that would allow her to study part-time, while still benefiting from lectures and interacting with syndicate members who added value and helped her along the way.

“I signed up for the class of 2013/14. I’d been working as an improvement specialist and before that I was a shift leader and a mine captain. Despite the experience I gained on the job, I realised I didn’t have the skills to be an efficient manager and job shadowing my superiors wasn’t enough. I started researching post-graduate degrees and realised that an MBA was the appropriate option. I had the full support of my husband and my employers,” she recounts.

To fit in her career, Mogalanyane opted for a modular MBA, a part-time block programme which allows students to study while they work. Her highlights have included learning how to read financial statements and understand aspects of human behaviour, skills that are needed when managing a team.

However, she admits she’s encountered several hurdles. Last year she gave birth to a daughter and had to leave her newborn baby to be raised by her mother, as she couldn’t balance the various aspects of her life – and dropping out of the programme wasn’t an option.

“Since I work in Witbank, travelling after hours to attend syndicate meetings in Johannesburg is often a challenge. It requires a lot of planning on my part so I don’t let my team down. I often Skype in and I’ve had to put in extra hours, but my planning seems to be paying off,” she says.

Despite not having much of a social or family life, Mogalanyane says the benefits far outweigh the sacrifices she’s made.

Read full story: DestinyMan

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