Ashley Jones recently graduated from our Global Online MBA with flying colours, making it onto the prestigious Dean’s List, which comprises the top 10% of students from the programme.
The Global Online MBA allowed Ashley to study his MBA in Francistown in rural Botswana, about 400 kilometres from the country’s capital while continuing his career as Operations Manager at A-Cap Resources.
We are in conversation to find out how the programme helped Ashley grow and develop, as well as the most enjoyable and challenging parts of the Global Online MBA.
You have recently completed your Global Online MBA. What are the top skills you learnt on the programme that have been most useful to your role?
The MBA opened my eyes into the broader aspect of dealing with people and groups. It has definitely made me appreciate different people and how to get the best out of them. I understand group dynamics much better and how to get the most out of people by understanding what type-personality they are as well.
I come from a very technical background where I’d build the story and understand the details. We threw that on its head on the MBA and said go through to the outcome. I’ve really turned the way I present backwards which has improved communication. I think it’s a much better way to present, especially to board members and different communities.
Also, managing time and managing people, I’ve improved my relationship with my employees. I used to get a lot of requests because nobody wanted to make decisions. Now they come to me with solutions rather than questions.
What were your motivations for doing the programme?
To be a better manager. I did a gap analysis on myself and said why do people make mistakes? My motivation is to one day run a listed resource company. I felt I was lacking some skills in the management area that I had to address. I had the technical and financial skills but I wanted that broad perspective of actually running a company and people.
Which modules were useful to developing your managerial skills?
Organisational Behaviour and Strategic Consulting were insightful. These are things I probably didn’t think about. We learnt about case studies in Mergers & Acquisitions. By the time I started doing those case studies I was thinking about the type of person they were as well. Change Management helped me a lot too. The idea of trying to change management from a different point of view and coming in as a new manager is very interesting and useful.
How did you find doing a Global Online MBA in remote Francistown in rural Botswana?
Challenging! The internet connection was the most difficult part. There are a couple of good things about living out here, we have domestic staff so I had a little bit more time than other people and there aren’t a lot of distractions in Francistown. There isn’t even a movie theatre so there are not too many other things to do. However, online you do miss being on campus. I’m glad we had the induction and the Capstone Business Game on campus. There almost needs to be one more compulsory campus course!
Studying online, did you feel part of the Imperial MBA community?
I struggled at the start but the group work definitely helps, whether or not you get to meet everyone. I probably could have involved myself with a few more things. Everybody was keen at the start but it is hard. You really deal only with your group and you don’t look at the broader community when you’re online. What they did do well was in the Induction Week and the subsequent time we came on campus, they organised a lot of things to make you feel part of the MBA community.
While studying your Global Online MBA, how did you find using the online learning platform, the Hub?
I thought it worked well, however, it definitely improved by the time the two years were up. I’m glad they took people’s suggestions on board. I had to download videos because we don’t have fast internet where I am. For the first two modules I’d sit there and let the videos buffer. By the time the third module started, they made the content downloadable so I could set them to download overnight and watch them properly.
What did you enjoy most about the programme?
It was probably the people and the content. The people made the content achievable with the different ideas people brought to the table. A lot of people hated the group work and it was pretty challenging, but you really did end up with different ideas and approaches. That made it for me, I learnt a lot from other people and how they approach topics and coursework. It broadened my mindset.
What was the most challenging aspect?
The group work – it was the most enjoyable aspect but also the most challenging. Not all of the group assignments were positive experiences, but I learnt from all of them.
What you did for your final project and what impact has it had?
I’m a pro-African person so I wanted to see the financial centres develop and see more funding come from inside the countries. Being in the mineral industry, we always see funding come from the UK, Canada, Australia and US, and all the profits disappear as well. I looked at the Sub-Saharan African exchanges and asked why would you invest ton them?
I interviewed two CEOs and asked them what their motivation was for listing on these small exchanges. I looked at the exchanges as a whole and I found out they didn’t correlate with the main exchanges. There could be a diversification strategy, when the NASDAQ falls everything around it falls, whereas these ones don’t. They don’t really behave in the same way.
Added to this, I looked at strategies the governments could take to make the exchanges stronger. There’s a big African Union push to get regional synergies and platforms and not make them the same as the London Exchange because they can’t compete. I looked at all the things governments could do – can they offer tax incentives to build their financial sectors and a whole range of things. I’d love to list a company here but there are big challenges and there would be a lot of lobbying to do. I got a Distinction which was great, and also received the comment that it was quite a unique topic.
I’d love to find a project here, and list it on the relevant exchange for that country, wherever it is. I think I’m very mindful of the challenges that it would take but there are avenues in which you could do it. You get a lot of mileage from within the country as well. There’s a lot of words about empowerment in Southern Africa; if you listed and tried to get investment from inside the country, being listed is actually part of being empowered. You’re empowering the people into the project as well. I haven’t got there yet but I’m definitely trying to go down that path and list in Sub-Saharan Africa.
You travelled many hours to Botswana, followed by an 11 hour flight to make it London for 48 hours for the Dean’s Graduation Reception and your Graduation ceremony. Can you tell me about this story?
It is a long way, but I had flown to Nairobi four days earlier so I flew from Nairobi this time. I missed my graduation when I did my undergraduate honours so I thought – why not? I made some great contacts on my Global Online MBA and I was really chuffed with getting on the Dean’s List so there was more than one reason to go.
Graduation was about cementing some of the relationships with people I have met on the Global Online MBA. I can see myself asking them for advice or doing something with some of those people in the future. At graduation, I was able to meet my cohort in person and make sure those relationships carry on in the future.
What advice would you give to someone who was thinking about applying for the Global Online MBA?
If you’re thinking about it, you just have to do it. There’s never a right time in your life. I’ve got another 25 years of my working career. Even as one of the older people in my cohort, you still have a long time in your career and you can always change, make a difference and learn something new. You’ll enjoy it. It does come with hard work but just don’t get behind and you’ll do fine.
Why did you choose Imperial and more importantly, did it live up to your expectations?
It did. I’ve never done an MBA before but I believe the coursework was pretty similar to other MBAs. I really enjoyed some of the case studies in the lectures and we also had some very high profile lecturers.
I learnt a lot. Whether I can apply that and be a good investment in the future, the next 20 years will tell. Just having the Global Online MBA on your CV means a lot. The programme is number one in the UK now. It will get you in the door over somebody else. Whether it be a job or to a financier, people have confidence in Imperial and it will help you along the line.