If more business leaders in the SADC region could do a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or Master of Business Leadership (MBL), there would be a real difference in how we approach and grow business. This is according to Tongesai Chingwena, the top 2-year MBL graduate at the Unisa Graduate School of Business Leadership (SBL). “I believe our business environment would be very different, and businesses in the region would be expanding beyond what they are now.”
Of course, not everyone has the time, determination and sheer grit it takes to complete a two-year Masters degree online while working, but for those who do – their conclusion is that it has absolutely been worth the effort. Most are moving on to management or leadership roles while others are growing their businesses with a heightened strategic perspective and stronger management or leadership skills that they may not have gained within the workplace.
Nevlin Naidoo, the SBL’s best MBA student 2018, has experienced a career boost and moved from the technical roles he was in for 11 years into a new role as a production area manager. “My MBA degree has facilitated my move into a management role. It has given me a better understanding of the broader business and how the different departments must integrate and find synergies in order to function optimally. For those who aim to move into management from technical areas or even those who are changing careers – this degree is excellent. It has enabled me to adapt to my new role far more easily.”
Naidoo says that he was quite apprehensive initially to take it on, understanding the major time commitment involved. “Now that I’ve completed the degree, I realise that it was absolutely worth it. I see things differently and have a better perspective in business conversations. I found that the Unisa SBL MBA covered very critical and relevant elements of business in South Africa and the region.”
While the MBA is offered online only, students whose careers do not allow them to attend contact session, may continue to work while they complete the degree. In many cases applying the practical case studies to their own workplaces, can be challenging. Unisa SBL actively mitigates this with online engagement opportunities. Naidoo says, “The MBA was a rollercoaster at the start, particularly adjusting to the online way of studying. It’s important to realise that you can still benefit from the human interaction the online chatrooms and study groups offer. The onus is on you to reach out to fellow students, lecturers and professors.”
Ontlametse Khwene, a Project Manager at Siemens, is a recent MBA graduate who also holds a Postgraduate Diploma in Business Leadership (PGD) from the SBL. She says that the MBA enables you to select the most relevant subjects for your career path, and greatly enhance your skills with a strategic focus. “One of the MBA elective subjects was Project Management, my current job. I thought it would be a walk in the park – it wasn’t! What we learnt was at a very strategic level which has greatly enhanced my approach. It provides you with a good perspective for the senior management position I’m hoping to fill one day. The assignments were very practical, feedback was helpful and my research supervisor, Sanele Nhlabatsi, was strict, but excellent. I was able to ask her work-related questions, and I’m truly thankful that she was so accessible.”
Again, Khwene says that it was absolutely worth it. “I’m inspired to study more and in future I think I’d like to do a PhD. The solid research foundation I have gained will help me. My MBA paper on non-conformance costs in projects has been useful at work and is already being submitted to an international conference.”
The MBA and MBL graduates agree that the degrees are very relevant and applicable to the current workplace. Naidoo says, “I actually would love to see more collaboration and consulting between the university, its students and big companies, for example, in the area of corporate governance, to ensure that the theory we learn is being implemented.”
Regarded as one of the top business schools in South Africa, the SBL has produced more than a third of all the MBA and MBL degrees awarded by South African universities since its inception. Unisa SBL MBA is consistently highly ranked, with the business school enjoying a strong reputation for its ethics and governance courses, deeply relevant in the African environment.
Acting Executive Dean of Unisa SBL, Professor Raphael Mpofu, says, “Africa needs accelerated growth to achieve its potential. More business school graduates with an entrepreneurial mindset, equipped with leadership skills and the right networks, will help us to achieve that growth. We’re working hard to developing skills in our students, so that they can embrace a leadership role in the evolving African business environment with confidence and drive growth in the region. The results we see in our students are testimony to how worthwhile these degrees are, not only for personal careers, but for Africa.” Visit www.unisa.ac.za/sbl for more information regarding the Unisa SBL's qualifications.