Kevin Brown had seen a fair bit of life before he took an MBA. With degrees in economics and psychology, he had worked as a deputy superintendent at a juvenile prison and a team leader for a state department of community services. Then he entered the business arena, rising to be head of human resources at Qantas, moving to NBN Co as the head of corporate. Along the journey, Brown felt he needed “a better frame of reference to look at businesses”.
A broader perspective
When Kevin Brown signed up for his MBA 20 years ago, he wanted exposure to all facets of a business, and that’s exactly what he got; in his project team he had an investment banker, a dentist, a corporate treasurer and a colonel.
One thing’s for sure, MBA graduates emerge with a wider view on the world, partly from their classmates, and partly from the wide array of subjects, from finance and accounting to marketing and ethics.
MBAs wide and varied
Melbourne Business School has consolidated its full-time MBA program from 16 months to 12. Modules are more compressed, and so too are holidays. “It is high-impact, high-intensity, high-concentration,” says David Senior, MBS director of career services.
Sydney University is following a different tack. In its global executive MBA, it presents students with real business problems, sending them on offshore missions. Graduate Jason Wilby, who has a background in HR, signed up because he liked the “clear entrepreneurial focus”.
Brown jokes that he applied to Sydney University through “poor due diligence”. “When I got there I discovered there are all these bloody overachievers who picked the hardest university to get into,” he laughs.
MBA versus Masters in HR, or focused executive training
Rhonda Brighton-Hall (FCPHR) is the general manager of human resources, retail bank at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. Brighton-Hall was AHRI’s HR Leader of the Year in 2009. She looks for a thirst for learning among recruits.
“If I took the best five people that I’ve ever worked with in my life, two of them had really strong post-graduate qualifications, including a doctorate. One of them had a good quality undergraduate degree, and two of them had really low levels of formal education. And they’re the five best people I have ever worked with, and they’re equally great.”
“The guy who had done the TAFE course, and the woman who had no formal qualifications, past high school, they read more and had an appetite for learning; the likes of which I have never seen. So it isn’t just a formal ‘can you tick a box or do you have a masters or an MBA’. It’s what you do with it.”
Full-time or part-time?
Some students prefer to take a year or two out of their career to focus on their studies; others find it helpful to balance the two.
That was the case for Jason Wilby. “Most of the modules aligned very well with things that were going on at work,” he says. “I had the opportunity to go away for two weeks to study, explore some new ideas and actually apply them three weeks later at work.”
The cost of doing an MBA varies widely. At the Australian Graduate School of Management, it’s about $68,160 for a full-time degree. The University of Queensland charges about $46,575 for its one-year degree.
For Nick Linnett fees totalling about $100,000 didn’t faze him. “I wouldn’t even think about it to be honest, the richness and the depth of the program is just amazing,” he says.
Jason Wilby also says his $100,000 investment was “a no-brainer”. “The thing that makes it easy is that you can defer and pay the same fees over a period,” he says.
Jarek Polak completed his MBA full time at the Australian Graduate School of Management (UNSW) last year. He is now an HR management associate at Hewlett-Packard in California.
1. What was the most valuable learning from the degree?
Leadership and financial acumen. I often work with finance, equity teams and data analytics teams; a lot of my understanding of these areas comes from the MBA.
2. How do you feel it has helped your career?
It has allowed me to discuss the impacts of business strategy changes and financial results on HR and vice-versa.
3. Would you recommend this degree to people with a HR background?
Absolutely. More and more companies are looking for HR business partners; this means having the ability to understand what’s happening in the business and providing guidance in a business language that everyone will clearly understand and buy into.