Kirri Adams was confident in the strong technical skills she’d developed as a Senior Metallurgist at Kenya’s largest mineral sand mine. But when she was faced with managing some challenging workplace dynamics, she decided to work on improving her interpersonal skills.
“I knew developing these skills would help me in my role, and broaden my career prospects beyond my technical knowledge,” Adams says.
So, when Adams came across the MBAX (Online) program at AGSM @ UNSW Business School in Sydney, Australia, she knew it was right for her – despite the challenges of studying in another country and time zone.
“I was looking for an internationally recognised and respected MBA, and AGSM is one of the highest ranked business schools in Australia and internationally.”
The AGSM MBAX (Online) is ranked fourth among the world’s top online MBAs. Launched in 2014, it was developed to address the growing need for flexibility in higher education. This part-time program allows students to combine commercial business development with a specialist field – such as social impact, change, technology, finance or law. It is specifically designed for experienced leaders who want to specialise in a contemporary field, as well as technical experts like Adams who want to move into management roles.
The flexibility to learn from anywhere
With a choice of study options designed to suit individual work and family commitments, students can take between two to six years to complete the course.
“The flexibility of online classwork and individual assessments made it possible for me to do the course from Kenya, East Africa. The only thing that required more planning and coordination was group work, to find a suitable time that worked across everyone’s schedules and time zones.”
Adams says her teammates were very considerate about timelines – and the use of technology platforms also helped to coordinate these group work assessments.
“Facilitating the learning experience through platforms like Teams and Moodle really promoted student interaction and maximised our learning. It allowed us to learn from each other by applying the theory to practical examples from the multiple industries and disciplines represented in each class.”
Interactive learning, online
The MBAX is designed to equip leaders to make an impact in an accelerating world through an innovative, world-class program. And while online learning can be more challenging than face-to-face classes, Adams found the interactive course content very engaging - helping her prepare for a more virtual workforce in the future.
“The majority of the subjects I took were very interactive, with a high degree of engagement between students and the course coordinator,” Adams says.
“The team assignments were always exciting. Initially they were challenging, but over time I learned how to work with virtual teams and how to coordinate team activities in an online environment.” A hybrid remote weekend with intensive classes for intrapreneurship proved more challenging for Adams, as her classes started at midnight her time.
“But the subject material was so interesting, and the continuous interaction and participation was so invigorating that I hardly noticed the time flying past. It was definitely worth shifting my sleeping patterns for a few days,” she says.
Gaining a new perspective
Adams lists personal agility and adaptability among the top skills she’s mastered through the program.
“I have applied the Action Learning Cycle approach we explored during the MBA to many parts of my professional and personal life,” she says.
The approach helps leaders develop strong problem-solving skills and create simple solutions by taking action and reflecting on the results. She practiced the approach by taking up golf, which also helped her overcome a fear of failure.
“Every shot I take and each hole I complete allows me to reflect on my performance and helps me conceptualise improving the next shot. Over 18 holes I can refine and implement my approach – allowing me to observe and assess the outcome and refine the strategy.”
The 19th hole is the ideal opportunity for final reflection and creating a vision of future success.
“Playing golf like this has allowed me to reduce my tendency to towards self-criticism and analysis paralysis if I make a mistake and see first-hand my MBA learnings in a practical real-world example.”
Adams says the program also helped her balance a growth mindset with performance orientation and developed her ability to make sense of an increasingly complex world so she could act on ideas more quickly.
“These sense-making skills have helped me overcome the comfortable but potentially dangerous state of ‘cluelessness’ that technical folk often find themselves in when confronted with the multiple realities of organisations, and their politics,” she says.
Exploring Bolman and Deal’s four frames process – where leaders look at organisation challenges from four different perspectives – was really useful in helping Adams view the world through different lenses.
“Seeing the complexities and subtleties of each situation through these lenses has helped reduce the confusion and has allowed me to manage myself and my relationships in a more dynamic way and develop new ways of interacting with people in person and online.
“The MBAX was quite useful not just in helping me broaden my mindset beyond the technical, but it also gave me a new set of tools and ample opportunity to practice using them over the course of my studies.
A world of opportunities
When Adams embarked on her AGSM MBA journey, her aim was to open up new career opportunities through developing well-rounded interpersonal skills. After completing her program, she was contacted by several different companies and recruitment agents.
“I’ve now accepted a role as Technical Manager for a mine in Mozambique, Southern Africa. I believe my MBA from AGSM was one of the key differentiators that got me through the door.”
Adams’ situation was unique, as most MBAX students are located in Australia. However, thanks to the flexibility and interactive nature of the program, and Adams’ dedication, her experience is proof that location is not a barrier to getting a world-class education.
“Being based in Kenya, East Africa and studying my AGSM MBA in Sydney has been an amazing experience – even though I was on a different continent and time zone to the rest of my class.”