Home Month and Year February 2023 Life After MBA

Life After MBA

It’s business, but personal


Of course, it’s business. And professional. But it’s also personal!

There’s no doubt about it. Despite the ongoing impact of emerging technologies, redefined workplace dynamics and other transformational shifts in business, an MBA is – professionally and personally – a valuable contemporary credential.

Stats and tracking show that, whether in technology, finance, management, marketing, manufacturing or any business sector in between, an MBA degree opens opportunities for greater responsibility, career advancement and increased financial reward. They are often credited as a catalyst for seeking and getting a promotion.

It is also a proven boost for earning potential. A recent business study showed that the average MBA graduate’s pay was some 50 per cent higher than pre-MBA. The study also showed that five years after earning an MBA, the average pay increased by 80 per cent.

A key value-add of an MBA is significantly boosting professional skills, improving the theoretical and practical knowledge of how businesses operate. Not only the intricate details and specifics but having what bizspeak calls “hard skills” – like strategic planning, risk management, decision making and constructing a P&L model – and “soft skills” – such as communication, teamwork and leadership.

A familiar business cliché emphasizes the crucial importance of an MBA as a potent example of walking the talk. Whether it’s a catalyst getting a promotion, climbing a corporate ladder or the gutsy move of launching a start-up, the hard and soft skills taught in an MBA are often the difference between professional success and failure.

The personal dimensions of getting an MBA are sometimes intangibles but extremely important and relevant. In addition to the sometimes exaggerated or accurate requirements of personal time and money, MBA programs are woven with the vital thread of verbal and written communication skills. Comprehension and communication are vital MBA components. They are critical personal skills, essential in business for leadership and successfully conveying concepts to different people at different levels of an organization.

For Calgary’s Alisa Porter and Tair Ibatullin, recently earning an MBA was a professional and personal matter.

Alisa Porter, BA, eMBA (Executive MBA) is founder and CEO of the Calgary-based My Move Canada Inc., relocation specialists with a solid business success story about City to City Moving Made Simple. Born in Calgary and graduated from the University of Calgary, Porter is married with two children, and spends much of her family time in Fernie. She admits to being hooked on reading and often has three or four books on the go at the same time.

Tair Ibatullin, PhD, MBA is technology lead with Suncor Energy, responsible for leading technology development projects in Suncor’s strategic in-situ technology portfolio. Ibatullin has lived in Calgary for 13 years since immigrating from Norway. He is married with three school-aged children and enjoys an active family life skiing, biking, hiking, camping and exploring Canada and the U.S.

What triggered your decision to get an MBA?

Porter: Almost five years ago, after 14 years working in the client relations side with a relocation management company, I was three weeks away from my boss retiring. I was set to take over her position when the company was being purchased by our competitor. I made the decision to stay, although uncertain where it would leave me in the long run. So I decided to enroll in the Executive MBA program at the U of C to get more business acumen in case I decided to make a career change.

Ibatullin: Before applying for an MBA program, I spent 11 years in different engineering roles within the energy industry in Europe and Canada. I enjoyed solving technical problems, but I have always been interested in the bigger picture and business dimensions of projects. Pursuing an MBA had been on my mind for quite a while.

Was the time/work required to complete the MBA a factor, and did you have to juggle your work and life balance?

Porter: I knew going in that it would be a challenge. The way the eMBA program is laid out worked for me as classes were every other weekend, all day Friday and Saturday, so I could maintain my other obligations like work and family life.

There was juggling required since I was working full time, had two small kids at home, my husband runs his own company, and there were still household things needing to get done on top of my studies

Ibatullin: I have several friends and colleagues who completed their MBA before me, so I knew this journey would require a lot of commitment and sacrifice. As John F. Kennedy said in his famous speech, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” For anyone pursuing an MBA while balancing full-time job and family commitments, it is comparable to a moon landing mission in life.

I had to put on hold some activities I used to enjoy in my free time, as well as reducing time with family and friends. Most weekends and holidays were the days to catch up on the assigned readings and assignments during the semester.

What were your key business expectations and some challenges about getting an MBA?  

Porter: I really just wanted to understand all the different departments and how everything fits together in business. I love business for the sake of business and am really industry agnostic. I just love looking at processes and making things better and learning new things. I love going to school, and if I had unlimited funds I would go back in a heartbeat.

Although the days were long, the conversations and topics we discussed were rich. The people I met in my cohort have become friends and have helped me with growing my business.

Ibatullin: My key expectations were to build a foundation in core business disciplines, to enrich my experience through exposure to other industries and not-for-profit organizations, and to expand my professional network. The Haskayne MBA program was an excellent fit. It provided a good balance between the mandatory core business curriculum and a variety of elective courses and specializations.

The first MBA semester was undoubtedly an adjustment, requiring new routines and modification of my schedule. Also, learning how to be more efficient with my time.

Which specific MBA program content and new skills are particularly valuable?

Porter: I ended up taking a specialization in finance because it was the area I knew the least about. I figured, at the end of the day, all business ends with money. So I thought finance was important to understand.

I have been using the skills I learned in the eMBA program to help me with all aspects of building the business from accounting to marketing to pulling together a strategy for going forward. I don’t think I would have had the courage to do it had it not been for the program.

Ibatullin: Most of the MBA courses are linked to each other in one way or another. Developing a solid grounding in finance, accounting, marketing and HR disciplines was valuable to successfully navigating the program and preparing for real-life business situations. Throughout the program, I developed a passion for strategy, decision modeling, technology and innovation management and used this knowledge and skills in my daily work.

The most valuable takeaway of the MBA program is not a particular piece of course information but rather the skill to frame and develop a solution to any business problem, even if one has no expertise in a specific field.