What is it like doing an MBA at an elite school in India? Athena School of Management

Vibhuti Desai  IndiaAthena School of Management

Vibhuti Desai graduated from the Athena School of Management last year – but remaining part of the school’s alumni community means her journey is still ongoing. She explained to us how the process changed her as a person, benefiting from Athena’s emphasis on internships during the program and what makes it such a unique business school in India.


What is the difference between an MBA and a PGPM?

What I studied at Athena was a PGPM – a Postgraduate Program in Management. In India only very specific universities have the authority to award an MBA. The other colleges – even the top ones in India – award something called a PGPM. The courses and subjects we take are very similar to an MBA program, but there is more of a practical aspect associated with a PGPM. That is the only real difference between an MBA and a PGPM.


Internships are a big part of the program at Athena School of Management. Tell us about them.

Based on the subjects we are keen to learn about there are several internship options that we have available. The first internship gives us an idea of what we want to do and if that’s something we want to specialize in for our second year. 

I was always interested in doing something which was a mixture of financial services and marketing. Hence the first internship that I did was at a stockbroking company known as Edelweiss Financial Services in Mumbai. For my second internship I wanted to explore my options in the financial services field, so I went ahead and got an internship at a digital bank.

For my third internship I went into a different sector altogether (hospitality), at the corporate office of a group of hotels. My fourth and final internship at Sony Pictures Network was completely different because I wanted to try something new. 


Did Athena help you obtain these internships?

All four internships were given to me by Athena, so I didn’t have to find them on my own. They looked at my interests and what I’m interested in doing in my internship, then based on that they helped me get an interview with several different companies. 


What makes Athena School of Management an elite school in India?

Athena is a unique school. Why? Because the student intake is comparatively less than other schools, but also because of the internships and other activities on offer. A lot of schools in the country are solely focused on education and studying, but [at Athena] there are a lot of extracurricular, cultural and in-class activities that you can do. It is not just study, study, study – you are trying to develop yourself as a human being.

Athena School of Management MBA students


What were your biggest takeaways from the program?

The biggest takeaways from the program have been to never give up, never limit yourself and always believe in yourself. There will be lots of feedback and advice given to you, so follow up on them, work on them and it will help you to be the person you want to be.


Keen to learn more about studying an MBA degree at Athena School of Management? Reach out to Vibhuti directly and ask her anything:


Vibuti Desai, MBA ambassador Athena School of Management

by Nick Harland

The Santa Clara Leavey School of Business MBA support system

Leavey School of Business

Rikun Patel  UKLeavey School of Business

Working at a tech company in the day and studying for an MBA in the evening almost overwhelmed Rikun Patel – until some timely advice from a fellow student put things into perspective for him. He told MBAGRADSCHOOLS about his Evening MBA experience at Santa Clara University, Leavey School of Business.


What motivated you to apply for your MBA?

I had been working at eBay for a number of years and I started feeling as if there was more that I could offer. What is it that could get me to that next level in my career? How could I be part of the overall decision-making process in a more effective manner, rather than just executing someone else’s decisions?

One of my old bosses, a mentor of mine, was actually an alumni of Santa Clara. When I used to report to him he always used to say “Hey, this is a possibility”, “you should think about this opportunity.” So it was always in the back of my mind [to apply for the MBA at Leavey School of Business].



Describe your Evening MBA experience at the Santa Clara University Leavey School of Business.

There are two things I would highlight. One is that all of the professors are very well-known in the Silicon Valley area. Their day jobs have been in a lot of those [Silicon Valley] companies. So you’re getting real-life exposure to some of the biggest problems that these companies are trying to solve around the world.

The other one is that the Santa Clara Bronco alumni network in the Bay Area is just massive. With Santa Clara, the people who come here to study, stay here. When I’m on LinkedIn looking for jobs or connections and I click on a company, it says: “You may know 60 alumni [from Santa Clara]”. And just like that, you have an ‘in’.

Santa Clara Leavey School of Business

What were the biggest lessons you learned in your MBA?

In one of the first classes we were talking about how we’ve become very transactional; we try to do business just for the sake of doing business. So we started going through some of the things that are wrong in business; about how people are conducting themselves, how it becomes so political and how the right people aren’t brought into the room to make the decision. 

And all of this really resonated with me. Then there was really an aha moment where I was just like: “We are doing EVERYTHING wrong! I work at such a dysfunctional place!” But at the same time, I think: “I can bring change to this place.”

What were the biggest challenges you faced?

However you can be challenged, you will be challenged! I remember one example where I was sitting outside class and I waited until the very last minute to walk in, because I was so drained from work. One of the students in my class saw me outside and asked me if everything was OK. I told her how everything was so crazy at work, and she said: “Don’t worry, we’ll get through this together.”

So no matter how stressed you are or how taxing it is on you, or how challenging you find it, the people in your program will become your family. You will build a bond with them that is unbreakable and you will have a support system.


Is now a good time to do your MBA?

I always emphasise to a lot of students that it’s education. You never know when you’re going to lose a job, but your education will always be there. For those who are on the fence it’s just figuring out what it is that you want to get out of your life, and what are the steps you need to take to get there.

From forming close bonds with his classmates to the revelation of being able to apply classroom theory into a work environment the very next day, Rikun Patel’s MBA journey was one of constant self-discovery. “The most important thing is that I’ve learnt so much about myself” he recounts. “I don’t regret anything about it.”

Keen to learn more about studying an MBA degree at Santa Clara University, Leavey School of Business?
Reach out to Rikun directly and ask him anything:


Rikun Patel, Leavey School of Business MBA student

by Nick Harland

Sabri Assali: Choosing the Nyenrode MBA for its focus on Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Stewardship

Nyenrode MBA students

Sabri Assali   Nyenrode Business University

Sabri Assali has lived through his MBA journey by following his own advice: embrace the change and be open to improving yourself. The MBA challenged him to improve emotionally and welcome the personal and professional change it brought about. He told us more about the impact of the MBA on his academic, professional and personal growth.


Where does your passion for green tech and renewable energy come from?

During my final year of my bachelor’s degree we had to do a graduate project and I was scrambling to find a good group to do it with. I came across a couple of students that were working on a renewable energy grid that combines solar, wind and battery storage for remote areas in Argentina. While working on this project I really started appreciating the beauty of it and how much of an impact it can have. Incidentally I was applying for oil and gas companies at the time – a completely different end of the spectrum, but I quickly abandoned the oil and gas prospects and stuck to my green energy preference.

The Netherlands green energy

Why did you choose to study in the Netherlands?

The Netherlands is very big on green technologies, they have a lot of innovation in that field and they support smaller firms that are interested to take big leaps in this industry.

How did you experience the move to the Netherlands?

I found it quite easy, to be honest. I find the Canadian and Dutch mentality very similar so I felt right at home as soon as I came here. I was warned before I came that finding housing might be a problem but I was lucky enough to know someone who did the MBA before me and who could connect me to someone looking for a roommate, so I already had an apartment before I came here. One thing to know is the number of bikes – in the city of Amsterdam bikes are priority over pedestrians and over cars (!) If you have that notion in your head, you’ll be able to walk around safely and not get hit by anyone. The number of bikes is quite a beautiful sight to see, especially since the weather is quite rainy most of the time, but that typically does not stop people from using their bikes.

What attracted you to Nyenrode Business University?

They have three core values namely leadership, entrepreneurship and stewardship. It was really stewardship that spoke to me – it meant to me that, being a person with capabilities and abilities to influence the environment around me, I have the responsibility to take care of this planet. That is why I chose them over others.

Nyenrode gave me a network that I could immediately tap into when I arrived here. They were very quick to respond and support me in all of my needs. With any questions, the faculty and supervisors were very helpful, giving very candid and honest answers to my questions. At first, it was striking to be told something was not possible without any negotiation but in the end, it was helpful because it allowed me to stop wasting time on one aspect and focus on another aspect that could yield better results.

Have you noticed any changes in yourself since you started the MBA?

The major difference between when I started the MBA and now would be that my level of confidence has gone up significantly. I am much more comfortable talking and presenting in front of people even if I haven’t met them before or if I am talking about something that I have no idea about. It really allowed me to be more comfortable in discussions and networking events. The other thing which I found Nyenrode to be excellent at is developing my leadership skills. I have really grown as a person and I understand better how to manage big teams of people and how certain aspects in environments work better for some and others would work better for others. So, it was really about learning how to create an environment for those around me to succeed.

What is your advice to future students?

Understand that you are part of a group, not an individual. Work with the people around you, if you try to do everything by yourself the workload will very soon become impossible. So, collaborate and be open to helping people because you will need their help at some point. Also, be brave. If you have already taken the decision to join the MBA it means you are leaving your comfortable job and probably have to take on some loans or dig into your savings to be there. Have faith and be brave – this degree will help you to get back to where you were and surpass that in the next couple of years.

For Sabri, a green tech and renewable energy expert convinced of his responsibility to take care of this planet, Nyenrode seemed like a natural fit because it holds “stewardship” as one of its core values. Reflecting on his MBA so far, this has definitely proved to be the case. If you are looking for leadership, stewardship and sustainability, this is the place to be,” he concludes.


Keen to learn more about studying an MBA degree at Nyenrode Business University? Reach out to Sabri directly and ask him anything:


by Maryke Luijendijk-Steenkamp

5 Reasons to do an MBA at Rotterdam School of Management

Rotterdam School of Management RSM MBA students

The MBA program at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University is one of the most prestigious MBAs in Europe. It’s also one of the most international, with the most recent class made up of 121 students and 40 different nationalities.

There are endless reasons why it’s worth studying for an MBA at RSM – and in this list they’ve managed to boil them down to the five most important. Let’s take a look!


1. Start a Career in Europe

Studying for an MBA at RSM gives you all the tools you need to start a career in Europe. 88% of RSM graduates stayed in Europe after completing the program, which puts RSM amongst the top ranked business schools for international mobility. But how do they manage it?

One key factor is the Netherlands’ visa policy. Your student visa runs for 18 months despite the fact that the MBA program lasts for just 12 months, and should you need extra time to find your dream job then all university graduates in the Netherlands are entitled to an additional year-long job search visa.

To help in your search all RSM students also benefit from a comprehensive careers service. The careers team provide you with personalized coaching, interview tips, negotiation skills as well as networking and careers events throughout the year.

2. Diverse & International

The RSM MBA brings together people from all walks of life to create a truly international experience. The MBA class here is typically 99% international students. You’ll experience diversity not only in the nationalities represented in the class, but also their work backgrounds.

Having the ability to work with people from different cultures and backgrounds is an essential part of being a global business leader in today’s world, and the RSM MBA can provide you with that.


3. Personal Leadership Development

Developing your soft skills is a big motivating factor for many people studying an MBA. Luckily, the RSM MBA has a program in place from the very first day of the degree that meets these demands. Their Personal Leadership Development program has been cited by many alumni as the most memorable part of their MBA experience.

Through a combination of one-on-one coaching, leadership retreats and self-reflection, the PLD program will not only develop your leadership skills but also allow you to learn more about yourself as a person.

4. Shape Your Career With Your Curriculum

The flexible curriculum on offer at RSM means that you can align your modules with your career aspirations. One such example is the nine different study trips offered by the school throughout the program. Each trip takes in a different destination and a different theme, so you can choose the one that’s right for you based on the country and industry that you’re most interested in.

Another chance to customize your curriculum comes in the form of electives. There are 35-40 on offer and you can choose four to study. For those hoping to use the MBA to transition to a different job function, RSM’s Advanced Career Concentrations can help you do that. They are a three week deep dive into a topic of your choice – Finance, Marketing, Strategy or Supply Chain & Operations – which will give you the tools you need to thrive in a different facet of business.

5. Become a Force for Positive Change

RSM believe that business can solve some of the world’s biggest challenges. Through modules on topics such as sustainability, the circular economy and sustainable finance, RSM is helping its graduates to become a force for positive change by taking on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals put forward by the UN.

From the application process to the delivery of the program itself, every part of the RSM MBA is designed to meet the school’s mission statement of becoming a force for positive change in the world. This mission is then carried out by the school’s alumni network around the world.


Keen to learn more about studying an MBA degree at the Rotterdam School of Management? Reach out to RSM’s ambassadors directly and ask them anything


by Nick Harland

Making an impact on a bigger level through the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business MBA

MBA students

Elvis Phala South Africa University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business

Elvis Phala has loved technology for as long as he can remember. Qualifying as a Computer Engineer in his native South Africa was a dream come true and he embraced the opportunities that came with it. However, he came to a stage in his career where he wanted to make an impact on a bigger level. He shared with us how the MBA at the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business has been the ideal platform to jump start this process and how he is very much looking forward to what is coming next.

How was the transition from engineering into an MBA Program?

Coming from an engineering background I have to say management seemed very foreign to me, especially since I am a very technical person. I delve into the technical detail, that is what I love to do. Now that we are moving into a world and a working environment where we have to collaborate more and understand the people that we are working with, that is where the managerial mindset comes into play. It was therefore important for me to branch out of my comfort zone – which is just me working in a corner on my technical projects – to now be more open-minded and be able to collaborate. That is what I have gained from the MBA. Participation in group work is an important part of this journey and has greatly helped me to be able to open up and share ideas with others and to be able to be vulnerable in front of other people and take criticism and to learn and grow from that experience. The transition has been challenging but very rewarding. I can see the improvement in the way I interact with colleagues at work and I am able to engage more with other people. I would recommend that all technical people at some point in their careers take a few managerial courses and they will see that they have actually been missing just a little something to add to their CVs.

Why did you choose the UCT GSB MBA?

I don’t think there is anyone that competes with the UCT program. I very much appreciate that UCT is very innovative when it comes to how they present the courses and material. They don’t follow, they lead. They have been the leaders in MBA schools in Africa for a number of decades now. The curriculum is very innovative – they are always adding and subtracting depending on what is working. They are very focused on sustainability which is something I think is very important going forward. As much as they teach you the technical skills and how to grow your business and how to be a good manager and all of these things they also focus on sustainability. They look at how everything is connected and how our actions not only affect us directly but how they affect the environment as a whole and how they affect our communities. This is what drew me to UCT. It is not just a technical school, it is also a caring school. At the end of the day it was a very simple choice for me – it was UCT.


What is the impact of the MBA on your current job?

I am a system engineer for a manufacturing company here in South Africa. As a system engineer, I have really seen a big impact from the MBA on my day-to-day business. I love technology and I am always trying to push technology into everything we are doing at work but it has not been an easy thing for me to not only get management but also the people on the floor to adopt the new technology. Now, with my new knowledge that I’m gaining from the MBA, I interact in a different way with everyone at work. Instead of me trying to push my ideas on everyone I am actually engaging them, I am having conversations with them, I am understanding the challenges that they are having. In that way I am more able to show them that technology can actually make their lives easier. We have been adopting a lot of new systems because of this new approach. I see it working very well, so I see a lot of value in the MBA.

What type of leader are you?

I had actually not really paid attention before as to what type of a leader I am and how open and connected I am to others. Going through the leadership journey on the MBA, I discovered that I am a high locus of control and am a person who believes that my own destiny is shaped by my own actions and my own decisions. I believed that as long as I work hard and I am in control I can make anything that I want to see happen, happen. However, as much as you believe that you are fully in control, you need to be able to work with others and to seamlessly integrate into your surroundings and learn from others. It has opened up so much to me that I never realized before. I am now at that point where, even though I think it is still going to be a long journey, I have learnt core leadership values and the character of a leader and how to always be aligned with your values. This has shaped the kind of leader I want to be and I am working to become. It is not an easy journey but it is a revealing journey where you get to learn about yourself.

What is your promise to UCT GSB?

My promise to UCT is that hopefully as a graduate, I will carry with me the values that I have learnt at UCT and use that in my future managerial and leadership positions. I will also uplift my community and always make sure that I contribute and pay back for everything that I was fortunate enough to receive. That is my promise to the institution.

Elvis is adamant that, despite the current uncertain and trying times, it is a time for us to show our resilience and to show who we are. He is convinced that, “if we remain strong and focused and work hard, the future is really going to be bright.” Judging by Elvis’ character and skills, coupled with his UCT GSB MBA, he is sure to add to this bright future.  


Keen to learn more about studying an MBA degree at the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business? Reach out to Elvis directly and ask him anything:


Elvis Phala, MBA alumn University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business

by Maryke Luijendijk-Steenkamp