Being an introvert in an MBA is difficult but doable: Are you up for the challenge?

For Duke Madisakwana, an MBA at the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business (UCT GSB) was the perfect opportunity to take his engineering career to new heights and to push the manufacturing industry forward in Botswana. He spoke to MBAGRADSCHOOLS about how his MBA journey helped him transition to management.

In short

How Duke learned his craft as an engineer

Duke Madisakwana’s passion is in manufacturing. This passion saw him leave Botswana for Ottawa, Canada, to study electrical and electronics engineering as an undergraduate. Upon graduation, he immediately found a job as a Manufacturing Process Engineer at Kromet International. From there, he developed his skills at Linamar Corporation, the second-largest automotive parts company in Canada. 

After four years in technical roles, Duke felt the calling to take his career to the next level. He says, “I’m all about growth and experience so I wanted to grow further, more into management.” (01:26) In almost all MBA courses around the world, this attitude is common. It is a restlessness that pushes people to think beyond their current circumstances and make a bigger impact in the world.

Making the transition to management with an MBA

With a wealth of experience in engineering, Duke headed to South Africa, just across the border from his native Botswana. Hoping to stay within the manufacturing industry, he knew that an MBA in Cape Town was the logical next step in his career. 

Managing a business in Africa is very different from technical jobs in Canada. Having moved abroad for his bachelor’s degree, Duke had never worked or done further education in Africa. He explains, “The MBA from UCT gave me that onboarding experience into Africa as an emerging market.” (02:50)

His idea was to build on his experience in Canada with the hard and soft skills that an MBA offers. At the same time, the environment and connections at the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business would give him a better knowledge of what makes local markets tick.

Building professional skills with an MBA

The classic reasons for taking an MBA include increased salaries and a career transition to management. However, Duke has his own motivation. As he told us, it was “to be more of a complete manager, both technically and business-wise.” (02:05)

After studying and working in Canada for a few years, he went into the MBA with a lack of knowledge of his local region. Luckily, other students helped to give him a better understanding of Africa from a business perspective. He tells us, “I feel like I have a balance of both worlds.” (03:52)

His home country of Botswana is heavily dependent on the diamond trade but is somewhat lacking when it comes to manufacturing. Duke aims to use his technical skills from Canada and the business skills he learned in South Africa to advance the manufacturing industry. According to him, “Not only does it bring in more money for the country in terms of GDP, but it also creates a lot of jobs.” (05:04)

Experiencing an MBA as an introvert

What Duke didn’t expect was the effect the MBA had on him on a personal level. As he says, “As an introvert, the experience has been one of the hardest ever.” (07:20). Naturally shy, the environment at UCT GSB first came as quite a shock. With class discussions and presentations, the MBA meant Duke had to overcome his fears in order to succeed.

Although it wasn’t easy, Duke pulled through. Looking back on his progression, he says, “From the time I started the MBA to now, I’m still an introvert, but I can be out there more, just because of what I’ve been through during the MBA.” (07:49) With a newfound self-belief, he can now confidently present to the public, which has been a major step forward in his transition to management.

Duke adds, “I used to have a lot of imposter syndrome.” (08:36). This is not uncommon, no matter what area of work you’re in or what level you reach. It can even be seen as a sign of high ambition. Duke’s MBA journey pushed him to believe more in himself and overcome these unhelpful thought patterns. Now, he focuses on his own career without comparing himself to others.

Was the MBA at UCT GSB worth it?

With a substantial investment, MBA courses all over the world may seem out of reach for many students. Even after graduation, there isn’t an instant return on investment financially speaking. However, as Duke Madisakwana explains, “In the long term, you’re going to see the return financially.” (11:38)

That said, MBAs shouldn’t only be measured in numbers. As Duke’s experience shows, some of the most impressive results are in personal growth. Duke says, “You come out a better person, you come out more confident, you have a different outlook on life.” (11:47). Now a Technical Manager at Procter & Gamble, Duke is using his new confidence and interpersonal skills to cover the financial costs already. 

Duke’s journey is quite the inspiration. From engineer to manager and from introvert to confident leader, he has shown how education can help people grow. If you’re working in technical roles and looking to transition to management, an MBA could be just what you need.

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