How the MBA at UCT GSB taught this student to be more honest with himself

Stuart Murray South Africa – University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business

Despite approaching his MBA at the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business (UCT GSB) with a clear purpose of what he wanted to get out of it, Stuart Murray was left surprised not only by the course content but by the way the experience changed him as a person.

Why was this the right time for you to embark on an MBA?

I chose to do an MBA because I was looking for a career switch and I wanted to move into a different field. I had gotten into a very niche field (economics) and I needed a broader range of skills, so I believed that an MBA could assist me in developing new competencies.


How has the program changed you as a person?

The biggest difference my friends and family have seen has really been about introspection and learning about yourself. For me, at least, I didn’t do an MBA to learn more about myself. I did an MBA to progress in my career and become a manager or consultant, or to change my field. But really, this leadership course has been about understanding who you are and learning what drives you – but also just being more honest with yourself. I think that’s had a big impact on my relationships with my family and friends. It has been a lot more authentic with all of them.


What did UCT GSB MBA teach you?

There might be right ways and wrong ways to do things in life, but one of the most important things you can be is authentic in how you go about it. For me, that’s been one of the best lessons I’ve learned: being more honest and transparent in my actions.

Stuart Murray, MBA student at UCT GSB Cape Town

What are your post-MBA plans?

After joining the MBA I had a very vague sense of where I wanted to go, but throughout this MBA journey that sense has changed quite dramatically as I’ve started to learn about myself, what it really is that motivates me, and where I want to go in my life. So while the future’s always uncertain, there’s an element of me that wants to get involved in public sector consulting to help and develop the world around me.


Does the UCT GSB prepare students for a career outside of Africa?

The knowledge I’ve gained at UCT GSB has certainly prepared me for a life in work that values critical thinking. Whether it’s here in Africa or overseas, I don’t think that makes too much of a difference. I think the skills that I’ve learned here have certainly equipped me to add value to the organizations that I join.


Does the UCT GSB help students to make a career switch?

I think it helps in a couple of ways. When you are senior enough to have experience, to change into a different field is often quite difficult. I feel like an MBA is a good transition step to develop skills you might not have been exposed to in your previous employment. 

The other good part about it is that instead of going out and looking for a job, with an MBA often the jobs will come looking for you. It’s a great way to switch fields, particularly if you know where you want to go. The UCT GSB has a great careers office that can leverage connections to get you that initial interview.


Keen to learn more about studying an MBA degree at UCT GSB?
Reach out to Stuart directly and ask him anything:

Stuart Murray


by Nick Harland

How the MBA at HKUST teaches you to focus on what is really important

Malvern Wong, HKUST MBA alumn

Malvern Worn Canada – HKUST Business School

When his “once-in-a-lifetime experience” was interrupted by a global pandemic, Malvern Wong chose to look for the positives – and ended up learning skills that proved invaluable in his current role. With MBAGRADSCHOOLS, he recounts his time studying for an MBA at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST).

What brought you to Hong Kong?

I wanted to get the best global experience that I could from my business education, but at the same time open up the gateway to Asia. The reason I wanted to go to business school was to make that regional transition, but also to make a career transition from more of a marketing function to a business function.

Why HKUST Business School?

What stood out to me the most with HKUST is the care that they put into the classes. As you’ll notice with the HKUST MBA, the class sizes are typically a little bit smaller than other MBA programs. You don’t really feel the benefits of that until you actually get to immerse yourself in the experience, because right off the bat you’ll notice that you’ll be able to connect with your classmates at a much deeper level versus if you’re one of 200-300 people.


HKUST in Hong Kong

What’s your advice to students considering Asia for their MBA?

Be open and be excited. The great thing about Hong Kong is that it’s very dynamic but it’s also very international. So you’ll have a lot of exposure to different cultures and you’ll be able to see a lot of different things as well. But you’ll never feel alone or isolated here.

Did HKUST help you land a job in Hong Kong?

To provide a little bit of context, whilst I was doing my MBA I had the opportunity to do a marketing internship at Schneider Electric. That only came about because of the connection the school had with the company, so they were able to reach out to me directly. With the resources that I was given by the CPD (the Career Personal Development team at HKUST), they were able to prepare me for my interview but also create that connection and in the end land me that internship.

Thankfully, in June I was subsequently converted into a full-time employee. So now I’m going to be staying in Hong Kong for the foreseeable future!

What was the real value of the MBA?

With an MBA you have the education side, but it also teaches you a lot of intangible skills. One of the most important things I learned was that during that time you had a lot of priorities and a lot of tasks to manage. Not just from the education; you also need to balance the networking and job search side of things. So the MBA teaches you how to manage all of these priorities and figure out when is the right time to say, “This is the thing I need to focus on right now.”

Looking back, it’s actually changed me a lot. It taught me how to persevere. When they talk about one-of-a-kind experiences, this is one of them. How you get through those experiences is something you’ll remember for the rest of your life. I definitely wouldn’t change anything in my MBA experience.


Keen to learn more about studying an MBA degree at HKUST?
Reach out to Malvern directly and ask him anything:

Malvern Wong, HKUST alumn

by Nick Harland

The value of adaptability at HKU MBA

Rajendra Shroff India – The University of Hong Kong, HKU


Rajendra Shoff is an alumnus of the HKU MBA. He told MBAGRADSCHOOLS why this program is different, the benefits of a diverse intake, and receiving advice that you simply can’t get from a Google search.

Why did you decide to do the MBA at the University of Hong Kong?

I decided to choose the University of Hong Kong simply because I had heard very good things about it. I had also heard that in addition to a finance specialization, they were really covering the intersection of technology and business – and I felt that’s where I really wanted to be.

The intersection of technology and business really resonated with me because in my time at an insurance company, I had noticed there was more and more of a push towards digital transformation within the industry.

I started to ask myself: “Okay, if we’re doing digital transformation now, what’s the next step? What happens later? And where do I want to be in terms of positioning myself professionally?” I didn’t know the answer to this as I walked into business school, but I did know that I wanted to go to an institution that really covered the technology aspect of business. Hong Kong University actually did that instead of just saying they do it.

What type of student does HKU attract?

Obviously if you’re trying to study in Hong Kong then you’re going to attract a lot of people that want to be in finance. But at the same time, at the University of Hong Kong in particular, they attract people from a lot of different cultures and countries. My classmates were from anywhere from Portugal to Peru, so you had that diverse mindset, different cultures…and when you put all of that together, it actually becomes a fairly laid-back environment where there’s a lot of idea exchange.

The environment and the culture there was almost like a mature undergrad situation where you had people that knew what they were talking about, but were still there to have a good time and to make the most of it. I think we realized that if you’re going to a business school, this is probably the last time in your life where you can do absolutely anything you want and grow as an individual. 


Raj Shroff, MBA student The University of Hong Kong HKU


What is the overall value of an MBA?

The word I think of when someone says MBA is ‘adaptability’. This has become increasingly important over the last five to 10 years, and it’s actually critical now. A couple of my professors that I looked up to told us that the way they made it in an industry is that they reinvented themselves every five years.

Going to do an MBA really helps you to do that. What an MBA does for you is that it puts you in touch with people that have made this transition. It really expands your network and it shows you what is possible. So instead of doing a Google search saying “What can I do in terms of my career?”, you can talk to people that have done it or are doing it. This is not knowledge you will find in any textbook or any kind of forum. 


Keen to learn more about studying an MBA degree at HKU?
Reach out to Rajendra directly and ask him anything:

Raj Shroff, MBA student The University of Hong Kong HKU

by Nick Harland

What sets the RSM MBA apart from other programs – Roberto’s story

RSM MBA students

Roberto Tijerina  Mexico – Rotterdam School of Management

From initial doubts about his suitability for the program to graduating in the midst of a global pandemic, Roberto Tijerina’s RSM MBA experience was like no other. He told MBAGRADSCHOOLS about what sets the program apart, how much he grew as a person during the MBA, and how the school gave him vital support when he needed it most.


Why an MBA in the Netherlands?

When I started looking at the program in the Netherlands, everything seemed easier. It seemed like the migration processes in the Netherlands were pretty easy, the people here are quite open to immigrants, so their culture is quite open to having people from different backgrounds. In the end there were just a lot of things started piecing together and I thought it was going to offer a really good experience. Here in the Netherlands you see a lot of people from all around the world, and it’s quite interesting to see how all of these cultures exist together in one small country.

What was your biggest learning moment during the MBA?

At the beginning [of the program] I was very nervous because I was coming to a class where the average age is 31 and the average work experience is between six and seven years – I had three to four years and I was 26 when I first started the program. So I was kind of coming up with this mentality of: ‘I don’t know if I’m good enough.’ So at the beginning I was laying back a little bit and trying to see what the scenario was like. 

But then I realized no; even though they have some things to add of value to the class, I also had my things to add. Slowly but surely I started participating a little bit more. I think for me it was about losing this fear of not being good enough and also losing the fear of being wrong. The years of age and the years of experience don’t actually make a difference; it’s [about] the way you think and all of your background.

RSM MBA students

What should people know about the RSM MBA?

Rotterdam School of Management  is like a small family, and there were several situations where we got to meet people from other MBAs. You started noticing that we were actually given the space and time to meet each other and not only work in class. We’re not only working on cases, we’re not only doing our assignments, we’re actually getting to know each other on a personal level. This is something that for me was the best thing about RSM, which now that I’ve talked with people who did other MBA programs, they didn’t have this experience as strong as I did.

Is the RSM MBA worth the investment?

Well first of all I did a financial analysis to make sure it will be worth it! The first thing I would recommend is to think about this as a mid to long-term investment. But I do think, looking at my friends from my class and also my situation, that the MBA gives you an extra jump. This jump will also give you a ladder salary jump to eventually pay back the program [costs].

The salary that I’m having right now actually gives me a good space and a good scenario to pay back my loans and also enjoy my life. My quality of life has increased for sure.

How did COVID-19 affect your MBA?

Luckily the pandemic didn’t affect my experience. The only thing it affected was that our graduation was cancelled. What it did affect was my job search. I was applying to a few jobs and I had several processes going on. When the pandemic started all of these processes were cancelled, which freaked me out for a little bit! Luckily the school has a career center that helps you understand what’s going on, so I got a lot of support from them and that helped me to continue applying for jobs. That allowed me to eventually get a job along with a few of my classmates.

Keen to learn more about studying an MBA degree at Rotterdam School of Management?
Reach out to Roberto directly and ask him anything:


Roberto TIjerina, Rotterdam School of Management MBA student

by Nick Harland

Tears, long nights & making lifelong friends – Paul’s story | SSE EMBA

Paul Seimann, SSE Stockholm MBA ambassador

Paul Seimann AustriaStockholm School of Economics

The diversity of Paul Seimann’s classmates at the Stockholm School of Economics Executive MBA means he can now look at his job, his tasks and his colleagues from a completely different perspective. Here’s his EMBA story.


Why did you choose the Stockholm School of Economics for your Executive MBA?

I started looking at MBA programs in more detail around 2015. I started screening programs in Europe and went to an open house in Stockholm, where I visited SSE. It was the first face-to-face touchpoint with the organization and I looked into the whole environment. In the end I chose SSE because of the agenda and because of the setup of the program, meaning that in 18 months I studied [at the campus] for 10 program weeks. That helped me because I did it unsupported by my company, meaning I took my vacation for it. The third point was that it felt right! I felt at home in Stockholm and in SSE because people are so open, friendly and warm-hearted.


Did COVID-19 affect your EMBA experience?

I joined one program week fully online from Austria and I joined one week locally in August in Stockholm. With Zoom technology and great preparation from SSE, the classmates and the professors, even though it was just online it was a great week.


What is the time commitment for the EMBA at SSE?

In between the 10 program weeks, it’s in general between 15 to 20 hours of self-studies a week. That’s because there is a lot of reading, a lot of preparation and a lot of group work. At the beginning you read a lot and prepare the basics. Then they add in group work and exams.


How does SSE select its students?

What SSE does is select the most colorful cohort possible. They really do an amazing job with selecting and compiling the cohort. My cohort was 56 people and within this group we are divided into subgroups, and there they managed to put in so many characters, backgrounds, industries, ages…there are so many individuals in the group.

Stockholm School of Economics MBA class


How did you personally benefit from this diverse network?

You work on simple projects sometimes but [your classmates] bring such different views and mindsets that you start to look differently at tasks. You have so many different inputs that you can take with you and get different results. I recently had one case [at work] where I had a legal issue. I called a former classmate to help me, and although it was a no-brainer for him for me it was quite a tough challenge. So I can utilize this network for my daily job, even though we’re not in the same country.


Any tips for future Executive MBA candidates?

Be sure you will have the time, because you only get out what you put in. I would have said to myself to start reading earlier, because not having English as my native language [meant] it was quite an intense period at the beginning when I built the capacity to read, learn and articulate everything in English. The third tip? Just have fun! Enjoy the program and enjoy the trip. Be sure to utilize what you get [from the program] because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime journey.


Keen to learn more about studying an executiveMBA degree at the Stockholm School of Economics? Reach out to Paul directly and ask him anything:

Paul Seimann, SSE Stockholm MBA Ambassador card

by Nick Harland

Overcoming impostor syndrome during an MBA – Roxie’s story | ESMT Berlin MBA

ESMT Berlin MBA students

Roxie Overaker United States of America ESMT Berlin MBA  

“You’re putting your professional career on hold, you’re investing lots of money – in many people’s cases their life savings – and it can be quite a nerve-racking thing. I think impostor syndrome is a natural reaction to that.”

In a new podcast series from
The Modern MBA, in collaboration with MBAGRADSCHOOLS, current & former MBA candidates explain how they are making the transition from typically unorthodox sectors into business. The interviewee this episode is Roxie Overaker, a current MBA student at ESMT Berlin whose interest in the degree was ignited by working at a business school and seeing the ‘amazing things’ that the MBA students were doing there.

Whilst Roxie’s main motivation for studying an MBA was gaining technical skills as well as the knowledge to start her own business, there’s no doubt that the multicultural nature of the ESMT Berlin MBA (94% international students) was also a key factor. “I needed to be surrounded by classmates who were coming from very diverse backgrounds” she tells the podcast. “Not just in terms of nationality but in terms of industry and background.”

Working at a business school is very different to studying at a business school, but Roxie found that some skills crossed over into her program. “Before coming into the program I had really developed my soft skills – communication and teamwork were things that I excelled at. I had [also] managed a team for quite some time before coming here.” Whether organising teams or managing ideas, Roxie has subconsciously been using the skills she acquired from her career on a daily basis during the MBA.

Roxie Overaker, , MBA ambassador

As an MBA student from an unorthodox sector, Roxie also admitted to feelings of ‘impostor syndrome’ in the early stages of the program. In the podcast she explains how she overcame it as well as discussing her plans for the future, what to take into account when choosing an MBA and how it’s possible to make the jump into the higher education sector.

Listen to the podcast:


ESMT Berlin

Contact MBA student ambassador Roxie Overaker



by Nick Harland

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 Santa Clara MBA

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

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