Speaking the C-suite language: Building business acumen in an MBA

After working at PwC for four years, Nigerian student Obinna Obiora realized he needed to do an MBA to work on building business acumen. He told MBAGRADSCHOOLS about his experience in the Full-time MBA program at Smith School of Business, Queen’s University, including its effective team-based approach and career development opportunities.

In short

Give yourself an edge by building business acumen

Before Obinna joined the MBA program at Smith School of Business, Queen’s University, he worked at PwC as an auditor. After four years at the firm, he decided he needed to improve some of his business skills.

“It was one of those things where you realize that you just want to take a big step to something that challenges you,” Obinna tells us. “One of the things that I realized was that I needed to build my business acumen. [When] I worked [at PwC], I realized that I wasn’t able to interpret and understand opportunities for the firm. Obviously, as you grow [and] rise through the ranks and get promoted, you should be able to understand and see opportunities and how you can create value for your clients.” (01:05)

Obinna quickly learned that an MBA would help him in building the business acumen he needed to level up his career. He states, “I know that skill is going to give me an edge when I get back into the workplace.” (02:16)

Choosing the Smith MBA: A team-based approach in a diverse environment

Obinna began searching for an MBA with two requirements. The first requirement was that it had to be a one-year program. The second requirement was that it had to be in Canada.

“Canada really appealed to me [because] I wanted a very stable economy [where] you can do your MBA program, you can get a very good job, and then start to build your network and create a great career here,” Obinna explains. (04:33)

Originally from Nigeria but having studied in the UK, Obinna craved a dynamic learning experience in a new environment. He says, “Canada is definitely much more advanced as a country than Nigeria, so when you’re learning, you’re learning now on a global scale because some of the case examples that we’re using in class could be touching on things in Brazil, in Australia – it gives you a very global mindset.” (05:01)

As for his one-year requirement, Obinna wanted to “do an MBA program that was very quick.” This way, he could return to the workplace with his business acumen. (02:35)

He ultimately chose the Smith MBA because of its length (one year) and team-based approach. “The MBA office [at the Smith School of Business]…explained to me how working in teams simulates what you would experience when you’re out in the workplace,” Obinna says. “It was a very brilliant experience [and] that team approach definitely helped me.” (02:58)

Working in Canada post-graduation: 3 takeaways from Obinna

As a non-Canadian, Obinna had some initial worries about finding a job after graduating. Would he need some form of Canadian work experience?

For Obinna, three things helped him feel more confident in securing a job in Canada:

The first was his experience at a global firm. “When you have conversations with recruiters and you tell them [that you] worked in PwC and they see your resume, they have an idea of how you [work] because you worked in a firm that is global, so they feel like your work experience can kind of match up to what you have here in Canada,” Obinna explains.” (06:26)

Second, Obinna embraced the power of networking. “Networking definitely helped me a whole lot because when you network, you get to speak to different people and it’s a process,” Obinna says. “I saw it as an opportunity to really build my network very early on.” (07:09)

Lastly, Obinna worked with the Career Advancement Center at Smith School of Business. He worked with a career coach to develop a plan for who to reach out to and how to reach out to them. “The MBA program also helped [with] lots and lots of career events that give you the resources and put you in touch with people that you can actually speak to,” Obinna adds. (07:39)

In sum, there’s no need to worry as an international student in Canada. Obinna concludes, “As a non-Canadian, you have lots of resources that you can leverage to get a job and build a great career here. With all these resources, it’s now up to you. What do you want to do with them?” (07:51)

Today, Obinna is an Associate of the Leadership Development Program at the Royal Bank of Canada.

Leaving the MBA program a brand new you

Obinna joined the Smith MBA with a laser focus on building his business acumen. Needless to say, he has accomplished what he set out to do – and more.

“I came here to get business acumen, to be able to understand opportunities that I can get for businesses or if I’m working with clients, how I can create value for them,” Obinna says. “And that’s what I’ve gotten from the MBA program. It feels like I’m leaving the MBA as a problem-solver.” (11:36)

Feeling “a lot more confident” in his abilities, Obinna is ready to take on new challenges. “Just touching on the number of presentations I’ve done, it’s just incredible,” he tells us. “When you’re doing presentations, you’re gaining confidence – even understanding how to speak to C-suite executives. It’s something that I had never learned in the past.” (13:02)

Whether it’s gaining confidence, improving your teamwork skills, or learning how to speak to C-suite executives, an MBA can give you the business acumen you need to succeed in today’s fast-paced, high-pressure business world.

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