Profit vs. purpose: The importance of a values-based MBA program

In today’s extremely uncertain times, it might not seem like the best idea to do an MBA – Necessity disagrees. As an MBA student at the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business (UCT GSB), Necessity Ngorima tells us why now is the best time to do an MBA and why she advises prospective students to focus on values-based MBA programs instead of profit-driven ones.

In short

Necessity Ngorima (Zimbabwe/South Africa) – University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business

Choosing an MBA for your legacy

Most people choose to do an MBA program to build their professional skills, boost their careers, or simply take the next step in their learning journeys. For Necessity, it was about her children.

“After graduating [as an undergrad], I went to work in the finance industry in investment banking and I actually absolutely loved it,” she explains. “But there was always a sense in me that I needed to do something in leadership, I needed to do something that’s focused on values – and that feeling grew deeper as I was progressing in my career.” (0:21)

“And then eventually, I had children,” she continues. “After I had children, I looked at myself and I looked at my career and I thought, ‘What would I want to leave for them? What kind of legacy would be important?’ And I decided that I needed to actually stop and look at where I was heading – and that’s when I applied for UCT.” (0:48)

From profit to purpose: An MBA program driven by values

When deciding on which MBA program to apply for, Necessity thought, “I’ve come from Zimbabwe, I’m now in South Africa – people [are] actually living in very difficult times, the everyday man is living a very difficult life – how can I make a difference?” (01:13)

Reflecting on her own career in investment banking, Necessity describes a lot of her work as “profit-driven.” But now, she had to make an important shift: “I had to think about what my values are – my core values – what I want to drive going forward…And through that, I wanted to interact with like-minded people, with people who want to make a difference…I knew there was something missing, and I thought this holistic kind of MBA program is what would help me. That was the missing link in my career.” (02:20)

She eventually found what she was looking for in the UCT GSB MBA program because it is a “values-based program, and it’s looking at who I am as a woman who is driven, who is career-oriented, but who also wants to give back to society and wants to make a positive contribution – not just for my children, but for other people’s children.” (01:53)

How soft skills can transform your leadership

The biggest impact that the UCT GSB MBA program had on Necessity was its leadership courses, where students are challenged to examine their values and the way they work and lead.

“Once I sat and actually did that, I saw that even at work…my values were not aligning exactly with my actions,” she tells us. “Sometimes I would actually pull myself back and say, ‘You say you want to be patient, you want to be understanding and that will foster better relations…and an environment of sharing and inclusiveness, [but] sometimes you’re not being so patient.’” (10:16)

“For me, it’s been a lot [about] softer skills that I think are quite important in the office setting that I’m actually starting to put in place now in how I interact and how I think about other people’s perspectives – and it’s been amazing because it’s actually opened up a whole new perspective to how people deal with me and how people think, and I’ve actually been gaining a lot of insight into people and into situations.” (10:45)

Why now is the best time to do an MBA

Now that she’s been through the intense, yet rewarding, experience, Necessity is adamant that now is a better time than ever to get an MBA. “It’s always scary, especially during this time, because it’s a big financial investment,” she admits. “And you want to feel that you’re going to get a return…but I would do it.” (12:52)

“I think times are going to be tougher and you need within your portfolio some knowledge of actually how to deal with uncertainty, and I think this would be a great opportunity right now to see even how the professionals are dealing with uncertainty.” (13:22)

So, how do you choose the right MBA program for you?

“I think it’s important to actually sit and go through the MBA programs to say, ‘What are the values that are in each program? What are they trying to teach? And is this the direction I want to go [in]?’ Not just having your name on a prestigious piece of paper,” Necessity advises. “It’s actually what you’re going to learn and what you think they’re going to teach you that will change the rest of your life. So, I think it’s important to get into a great program academically but also a program that teaches you to be a better person, not just for yourself and your family…but actually just for society.” (14:41)

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