Coming into Beedie, I must confess that my goals for what I wanted to get out of the MBA program didn’t necessarily focus on the academics. Yes, I did want to learn how to write a business plan, figure out what exactly it is that all these “professional service companies” do, and understand if those numbers on a financial statement mean more than just a lot of zeros. But that was about it in terms of what I thought I’d be learning.
Okay, to be fair I may be understating my expectations, but the truth is that I was far more excited about the other perceived values and experiences I knew I would obtain from the program rather than the theoretical course work. I had thought that the academics were just a necessary component through which I—having quite a limited background in business—would probably get some basic foundational working knowledge of business concepts, theories, and environments.
Emerging fresh from the last course of our program, I’ve gotten the chance to reflect on our journey thus far and really appreciate all that we’ve worked through. I’ve been saying this a lot, but the “book stuff” that I’ve learned here at the SFU Beedie School of Business have turned out to be a surprisingly enriching experience for me and a component whose value I had seriously underestimated in my expectations of an MBA.
There were those foundational courses on accounting, economics, and analytics. Being literate in the language of business and having a strong grasp of key quantitative concepts lays the groundwork for everything else that we do.
The teachings of what we might call “soft skills” included not only leadership, teamwork, and coaching, but also negotiation and conflict management which I never had the opportunity to be being formally trained in.
Similarly, what use would we be as leaders without an understanding of how to effectively approach team management taking into consideration individual, organizational, and international cultures, or how to deal with and drive and enact change successfully on an organizational level.
We sequentially delved deep into studies of finance, marketing, and operations—various frames through which we can analyze and understand businesses and each of which provide at times coherent, and at other times very divergent insights into the nature of firms and their strategic implications.
Pushing further, we began applying these various frameworks in a more holistic manner. We assessed company strategies on a higher-level basis taking into consideration internal and external analyses, corporate decision-making, and global strategies. With information management and digital transformation becoming more and more inseparable with business operations, we also explored the implications, threats, and opportunities it poses on organizations.
Meanwhile, we had numerous opportunities to apply these learnings practically and tangibly by working alongside actual firms making real decisions in real-time. We were also challenged to each become entrepreneurs in our own rights articulating problems, formulating solutions, discovering customers, and building business models canvases. Not to mention that our how we defined entrepreneurship was challenged as well.
Of course, weaved throughout all the notions of growth, management, and innovation were core principles such as ethics, sustainability, and indigenous business environments. Because first and foremost, we are human after all, and what good would all this be without having a genuine consideration for our people, our planet, and our own identity and values.
Ultimately, our rigorous studies culminated in a capstone simulation where we were pitted against each other in teams each leading a firm in a competitive and limited market. It was quite a sophisticated test amalgamating everything we had learnt, putting together all the various dimensions of running a business; from managing corporate finances to refining operational details; coordinating as a team to establish governance norms and responsibilities while delivering under time constraints; anticipating and reacting to customer preferences while making sure we weren’t overworking our poor virtual employees.
It was an intense 3-day campaign of data analysis and decision making, but at the end of it all, we realised how simple it really was compared to the complexity and uncertainty of the real world. As graduates of business administration, ready and eager to embed ourselves back into the professional workforce, it seems that what our cohort comes out with is not the master key to establishing the next Apple or Tesla, but rather a respect for and better understanding of what it takes to operate a successful and ongoing business; the humility to acknowledge the challenges and an appreciation for the people that are critical in solving them.
Business is tough. The real world is confusing, and the market is ruthless. What drives success is the perseverance to overcome challenges, the willingness and adaptability to learn and grow, the capability to assess, reassess, and execute, and the wisdom to nurture people, teams, and relationships. Through everything we’ve learnt over the past year and a half, I imagine we’ve become better at this and that we’re a little more equipped to face the new trajectories each of us will be taking. What’s for certain is that we’ve now got an incredibly diverse and talented network of colleagues to collaborate with henceforth, as well as the skills we’ve learnt in our classes, that’s got to be worth something!
About the Author
Upon obtaining a BSc in Biology, Yongnak pursued a career in the food services industry working in restaurants and mobile catering. He has recently completed his coursework in the Full-Time MBA Program at Beedie School of Business and has pivoted into a career in business banking and relationship management. Growing up all around the world has nurtured in him a love for all things to do with food and travel and a curiosity to discover new people and experiences.