Five lessons learned from expat MBA graduates

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Nyenrode Business Universiteit offers Modular Executive, Part-time Executive and Full-time International MBA programs with a focus on developing the next generation of business leaders.

Want to boost your professional skills to a higher level, become better at working in international multicultural environments, or enable a mid-career shift to a different field altogether? An MBA can empower you to achieve all of those goals.

Here are some things to consider if you want to pursue an MBA after a number of years as a professional, regardless of what your motivation is.

Career options and professional skills

"The beauty of an MBA program is that it increases your choices. If somebody would like to use an MBA for moving from the field they're working in now to a new discipline, that's very possible.

"I didn't even need to have the experience in operations to get a job in operations after finishing my MBA, despite the fact that I came from marketing and sales," said Alda Shabanaj, Sabic EMEA Customer Service Manager, European Supply Chain.

"My motivation for completing an MBA was less about career development and more about getting up to date with the latest academic developments for business.

"It was said that it takes a few years after graduation for a lot of the information learned to really sink in and to be able to apply it broadly to the work environment. I find that I continually go back to the text books to review an idea and apply it to today’s work environment," said Tim Jarvis, Microsoft EMEA Cloud & Data Platform Lead.

Be open to improving yourself

"If you're open to it, you can learn many things about yourself and improve on different aspects, attitudes and behavioral things. On a personal level, after finishing my MBA, I became much more open to compromising with other people's opinions and input.

"That's the one prerequisite you should have, and that's what I tell potential students: 'Stay open to improving yourself. If you do that, many opportunities will show up'," according to Shabanaj.



"I was somewhat surprised during the second year when my wife said to me that my conversation variety and content had gone to another level and my ability to converse across such a wide range of subjects was clearly noticeable.

"This was not an expected outcome I had in mind when considering my MBA and was clearly an indication of the effectiveness of the program," according to Jarvis.

Exposure yourself to as many cultures and nationalities as possible

"During the MBA we worked in groups of many different nationalities and we learned about cultural elements that can influence a working environment.

"For interaction and building relationships with people it's much easier if you've had a feel and touch of every continent in the world. When you encounter somebody from a country that you are a little familiar with, you always have something to talk about," said Shabanaj.

"I started the MBA with over 25 years work experience in the largest technology companies across the globe. The international modules (US and South Africa) were a special part of the program where we had the opportunity to learn in different cultural, economic and diverse environments.

The international module certainly broadens your viewpoint and challenges your personal biases to the limit," said Jarvis.

Be prepared to be treated like a student again

"You need to be prepared to have a period of adjustment getting used to being a student again. You're suddenly being addressed as a student, despite the fact that you are coming from a high professional background of several years.

"That's something that had to sink in during the first month or so. Now I was being told the rules, the grading system, how you are going to be judged, so I had to learn how to act according to the school system," said Shabanaj.

Don't underestimate an MBA

"The MBA is very intensive, it will challenge you on a personal level. They push you and put you in a situation where you have no choice, either it will 'make you or break you'," said Shabanaj.

"From a personal point of view, don’t underestimate the time commitment doing your MBA has on your life. My wife was extremely supportive during the two years of my MBA, understanding at times that deadlines meant cancellations for social events and other engagements.

"Sharing the experience with your friends helped them to understand what everyone was going through - don’t alienate yourself from your family and friends no matter how stressed you may become," said Jarvis.

Alda Shabanaj comes from Albania and is a graduate of Nyenrode's full-time International MBA Program. Tim Jarvis is from Australia and he followed Nyenrode's part-time Executive MBA.

Discover the Nyenrode MBA programs and their Return on Education:

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Javier Arias


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