Name: Abina Gilbert
Programme/year: OneMBA Class of 2018
Job title: small-business consultant
Previous degree: bachelor in accountancy at the University of Guyana
1. Why did you choose the OneMBA at RSM?
“I’d toyed with the idea of pursuing an MBA but never committed to a specific timeframe. After decades in the work force I knew that for me to have the competitive edge, I needed to develop fresh management skills and techniques, and to also cultivate the mentality of a big-picture thinker. To achieve this goal, I had to align with a programme focused on global leadership. I was also intrigued by the out-of-the-box context of five schools on four continents. It sounded like a once in a lifetime experience that I wanted to be a part of.”
2. What is the return on investment you expect from the OneMBA?
“I don’t think I can put a price tag on this experience. My life has changed irrevocably for the better. I feel privileged to be part of the high-calibre network of global connections and the opportunity to interact with academics who share their unique insights. These, plus the exposure to diverse cultures, are all benefits that are priceless. So, while I expect that I will reap significant monetary benefits in the future, I believe it is secondary to all that I mentioned before. I anticipate a lifelong return on investment.”
3. In what way do you notice different cultural approaches to working within global teams?
“While providing face-to-face feedback. While some team members downplayed any negativity, others are very direct. In essence, some focus on relationship-building and others are more task-oriented. Other factors contribute to this too, like gender and leadership style. I’m not opposed to these different cultural approaches. They add flavour to the team. No one will ever be bored in the programme. It’s fascinating.”
4. How do you manage the cross-continental projects?
“You need two key things: compromise and determination. We each adjusted our individual schedules to facilitate one that works for the entire team. We also have a team charter that we try to follow diligently. To maintain the team spirit I know that I need to be accountable and responsible for my portion of the group projects as the others depend on me doing so. Everyone has the same pressure of extra hours per week of study in addition to their professional and personal commitments. There’s a great support system.”
5. Tell us about the global residencies …
“The residency in the USA was challenging, but ultimately it was a great learning experience. The second global residency held in Europe was easier since friendships and bonds were established. At each residency professors and guest speakers shared their distinctive perspectives and experiences, giving us the option to either identify with a stated opinion, or recognise the fundamental differences between their stated position and our personal views. The classroom sessions were complemented by company visits which also helped to create greater awareness of the challenges and successes of doing business in the local region.”
6. What is the best part of the OneMBA?
“I love the programme. Every aspect of it is amazing. Through the Personal Leadership Development programme I’ve become more self-aware. But the global projects are the best part by far. This is where the true learning is. These projects highlight two core attributes of the programme: relationships and academics. They create exposure to various managerial and leadership styles because of the diversity of the team. The group effort provides a comprehensive approach to understanding and solving business problems, and I appreciate how culture affects decision-making.”
7. How do you plan to be a force for positive change?
“My heart lies in helping my community to lift themselves up from poverty. In my home country, Guyana, I want to tackle the high unemployment rate by creating a not-for-profit business to help people who leave high school. In this centre they can learn innovative skills and work with the resources they have in Guyana. For example, planting peanuts, refining coconut oil, or setting up call centres. I plan to send the city mayor my proposal and take it from there. I hope to improve many people’s livelihood this way.”
8. After the OneMBA, what does the future hold?
“The possibilities are endless. This OneMBA experience has redefined what constitutes ‘work’ for me and it’s a tool for personal empowerment. The programme influenced me so much, I changed my career trajectory. I want to pursue something more in line with my life goals. The programme enables me to make smart decisions and to flourish in an international career. I intend to use these tools to reach beyond individual fulfilment and make a greater contribution to society and specifically my hometown.”