As an officer in the Australian Defence Force (ADF), Andy Nguyen thrives on challenges and structure. Looking to expand his knowledge in leadership beyond his defence background, Andy wanted an MBA program that would provide the opportunity to bring contemporary ideas to the Australian Army, but also the flexibility to suit his service commitments.

Based in Brisbane due to his most recent posting, Andy is currently studying an MBAX specialising in Technology at the AGSM @ UNSW Business School in Sydney. He is balancing this online MBA program with career commitments as a Logistics Operations Manager in the Army.

As a 10-year Army veteran, he is committed to making a contribution to the organisation and the communities it serves. Andy has already broadened his perspective on leadership and has found great value in working with professionals from different industries brought together by the MBAX program.

“You join the military to serve, and through this service we’re taught that you should always try to leave the organisation in a better state than when you found it. That’s one of the things that lead me down this path of study. To make a contribution.”

Andy’s current role involves planning training exercises and activities for the Army. It’s his team’s responsibility to sustain officers and soldiers while they are out in the field. This also includes ensuring there is sufficient medical support, supplying transportation to sites and meeting legislative requirements for using army grade vehicles.

“We need to make sure there are sufficient rations, fuel, parts, support activities, ammunition – every aspect of someone’s life support requirements in an off-site environment needs to be considered.”

The importance of remaining flexible

AGSM’s flexible study schedule suits Andy’s lifestyle perfectly. Andy’s full-time role can keep him away from home for weeks at a time. As an interstate student, the flexibly format also allowed Andy to continue studying remotely as he was posted from Perth to Brisbane.

“The other local MBA programs looked good, but they don’t work with my personal situation. My posting cycle doesn’t align with me being there the entire time to study. Social or personal needs give way to service needs – so it makes life difficult if you’re stuck in a certain location.”

Andy had already completed his Masters of Logistics Management with UNSW, so he was familiar with their approach and very happy with the rigour and quality of learning he had previously experienced.

“Studying remotely has been a part of my educational journey for a few years now, having to study remotely for my master’s through ADFA and my bachelor’s degree through UNSW. So, when I started the AGSM MBAX program, the remote learning experience was no different for me – I was able to work around my schedule.”

Andy also says the array of options provided by AGSM means he didn’t have any concerns over the distance.

“You’re able to interact with your cohort and facilitators as you need to, pretty much in real time – if people are looking for flexibility but are motivated enough to commit to the program and engage with the content, the study experience is never going to be diminished by distance. If these programs didn’t exist, I don’t see a way I could complete an MBA right now.”

A new perspective

While studying his bachelor’s degree back in 2008, one of Andy’s lecturers planted the seed of studying an MBA in the future. He said it would be a great opportunity for Andy to expand his perspective outside the military and achieve personal and professional growth. After finishing his masters, Andy took one semester off and jumped right into the MBAX program. He’s looking to finish by the end of 2021.

The program has taught Andy how to think outside his military ‘box’ and about the importance of networking with others. He’s taken an interest in civilian logistics and wants to learn more about how he could transfer his skills outside the Army. Being introduced to a range of leadership and management guidelines and frameworks during the MBA aligned well with Andy’s Army leadership training. He says the two pathway functions have blended together quite well.

“The introductory leadership courses have been really good for me – as military officers you are going to be in command of and manage people at some stage throughout your career. Going through the military college gives you a good understanding of what leadership is and a good introduction to what is required of an officer,” he says.

Andy says the program has given him a great appreciation of how to utilise those soft skills with those he manages and leads in his military role. He’s already been able to identify and set challenging work assignments to enable growth in his team.

Andy has started providing tailored individual feedback for his team members and has implemented motivational strategies to get everyone involved in new team improvements.

Bringing MBA learnings back to the ADF

Andy is interested in how technology can impact the Army and the opportunities advancements in AI, data analytics and machine learning can bring. At 30 years old, he still sees his immediate career in the Defence Force and wants to use his MBA to improve military operations.

“In the Army we’re already seeing a shift towards technological advancements and products, so having an MBA that specialises in technology will be helpful in the long run for me and the organisation.”

“These technology specific electives will help me understand how both major technology firms and smaller organisations are doing things in the private sector and how this thinking can be applied to the military.”

Andy says one of the most valuable parts of the program is the chance to work with high achieving professionals from varying industries. This has widened his perspective on what’s possible in this current role and how to approach challenges and possibilities for his post-military career path.

“You are exposed to people from so many different backgrounds who bring their own ways of thinking and life experiences to the table. Engineers, accountants, bankers, start-up founders – they all have experience that can feed into the program, especially when the course is grounded in cohort learning and teamwork assessments.”

Andy said one of his last assignment groups included people who worked in the education, government, and the technology sectors, which makes the tasks much more interesting for him.

“I didn’t think I would ever find a group of such diverse people anywhere. Being in the military and moving around so much, you tend to hang out with military people most of the time. But this has opened my network, and it has been great being exposed to different ideas and industry mindsets. I see this as being extremely valuable in my current and post military career.”

To learn more about AGSM’s globally-ranked MBAX program, click here.

To find out more about AGSM @ UNSW Business School, click here.