The perceived benefits of obtaining a master of business administration (MBA) degree are tempting: better job opportunities, higher salaries and the possibility of securing key roles within a company. These are all valid and common reasons for wanting to invest time and money in a graduate program. But what exactly does an MBA offer beyond learning in the classroom? Are there other options for new or recent graduates wanting to further their business knowledge but lacking the work experience required for an MBA program?
Producing successful MBA graduates is no easy feat. There is much competition out there and many post-secondary institutions offer MBA programs. Proud to “play an important role in shaping the next generation of leaders in Canada’s most enterprising city,” the Haskayne School of Business is currently the only institution in Calgary to offer MBA programs.
Experiential learning is an important component in today’s MBA programs as it allows students to learn outside the classroom and solve real-world business challenges. As well, experiential learning helps to bridge gaps between theory and practice, while increasing networking and engagement opportunities.
Martin Halek, director of MBA programs at Haskayne, explains there are three components to the modern Haskayne MBA: in-class learning, out-of-class learning and networking. The last two, says Halek, can be grouped into the experiential learning category. “There is truly overlap between all three of these elements – and all of them build upon the prior experience(s) a student brings with them into the MBA program.”
Experiential learning for Haskayne students includes participating in case competitions, where Haskayne has an excellent track record of students excelling at both the national and international level. Events that bring the Calgary community together with students and researchers, such as Haskayne’s breakfast series, Haskayne Hour, is also an important element to the MBA program. Halek adds that guest speakers further expose students to industry leaders and different viewpoints.
Halek is proud of the Wilderness Retreat and the Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) Rockies – two experiential learning experiences that are unique to the Haskayne MBA. “The Wilderness Retreat is actually a class in which MBA students have an opportunity to experience the Canadian Rockies while simultaneously exploring their own leadership development. The consistent student feedback from this course is that students experience tremendous personal growth in a very short period of time.”
Haskayne is one of six locations in North America offering the CDL, a seed-stage program for massively scalable, science-based companies. According to Halek, Haskayne MBA students can be part of the program through a course where they are paired with one of the ventures throughout the process.
Networking remains an important part of building successful business graduates, affording students the opportunity to establish mutually beneficial business relationships. According to a Financial Times survey, more than 9,000 alumni from top MBA programs around the world said networking was the third most important reason they decided to pursue an MBA.
“When Haskayne MBA students attend events outside of the classroom, they build their network. Networks are invaluable for not only potentially obtaining a desired position, but also for increasing one’s knowledge and perspective,” explains Halek. “MBA students attending an event like the Jarislowsky Dinner and Discussion Series have an opportunity to network with Calgary’s industry leaders and Haskayne alumni, connecting on important issues that are relevant in today’s business environment.”
The speaker series, says Halek, focuses on a variety of industries and are meant to inform, challenge and provide a broader perspective for decision-makers and those who aspire to become decision-makers. “The Progress Energy International Speaker Series is an annual highlight for those interested in energy industry issues. Approximately 600 people registered to see the 2018 speaker, global head of commodity markets strategy and senior oil market strategist at BNP Paribas, Harry Tchilinguirian. It has become a popular, great event to learn about future trends and make connections.”
While the thought of going back to school can be intimidating for some, others know exactly where they want to go and how an MBA can lead them there.
Essex Lease Financial Corporation’s chief financial officer and chief risk officer, Trevor Sterner, decided to pursue an MBA through Haskayne because he realized he needed to get a new skill set in order to break into the business world. Sterner graduated with a bachelor of science in electronics engineering hoping to start his own engineering firm. However, after eight years of engineering, he realized he needed to switch gears.
“I set myself a new goal of becoming a CFO, and I knew an MBA would be a strong start in that direction,” says Sterner. “Pursuing a Haskayne MBA has allowed me to make the transition from engineering to business finance, and after a few moves through the banking world, and after getting my CMA, CPA, I managed to build my dream career. My MBA was the launching point for all of this.”
Caitlin The, clinic office manager for Advanced Primary Care, started her career as a registered nurse. While working in her field, The found the issues staff and patients experienced stemmed from larger system issues – funding, politics, the operations of the hospital and the public system as a whole. “A Haskayne MBA allowed me to acquire business basics such as accounting, operations, human resources, finance and marketing. What was most valuable, however, was the program experience itself.”
The adds that she met some really great people from different industries. “Their experiences provided me with insight into the health-care industry and vice versa. Most of the people I met had engineering backgrounds, so we worked well together because their strengths were the ‘hard skills’ (operations, accounting, systems, etc.) and mine were ‘soft/creative skills’ (human resources, marketing, design, presentation styles, etc.). Together, we came up with a lot of fun and creative solutions, strategies and presentations.”
In terms of the appropriate age for starting an MBA, it is never too late, according to Halek. “If you believe in lifelong learning, then it is never too late. We specifically look for potential MBA students to have several years of work experience before entering the program. The work experience is critical as it allows students to have knowledge of various industries and themselves. Often, our applicants have come to a point in their careers where they have realized what competencies they are lacking or needing in order to take the next step in their career.”
For new or recent graduates in a non-business field with limited work experience, Haskayne is launching the master of management degree in May 2019. Catherine Heggerud, director, master of management program (MMgmt), says provincial government approval was given in July. “This is the first new degree in approximately 20 years at the school,” Heggerud says proudly.
While an MBA is designed for professionals with managerial experience, and typically seven or more years of work experience, the MMgmt program is designed for high-potential students from non-business programs wanting to launch their careers with graduate-level coursework. The cohort-based program can be completed over a 10-month period.
According to a list compiled by Maclean’s magazine, tuition for a Canadian MBA program ranges from $4,000 to over $100,000. “While I would argue Haskayne offers one of the most competitively-priced MBAs,” says Halek, “it is hard to put a price on the experience, network and knowledge an MBA student receives through these outside-the-classroom opportunities. The connections made can really pay dividends in the student’s future career.”