Online Courses: MBA

Jacko van Wyk

Online MBA with Data Analytics

I am currently working on a finance compliance implementation project as a Lead Data Analyst. My career started in 2004, and since then I have managed to acquire experience in the finance, telecommunication, ISP and the manufacturing industry.

Over the past 15 years, I have worked with various clients based locally within South Africa and on the African continent (Ghana, Uganda, Congo Brazzaville). This opportunity allowed me to work and experience different cultures and business practices in action. On my most recent work projects I had started to lead and liaise with senior management more often, but I found that my business knowledge lacked a lot. I could not fully communicate my understanding of specific business concepts or what these executives would like to see. A few years ago, I had also started a smaller business which ultimately failed, so I decided first to skill myself up and then look for new opportunities again.

I had already completed my Postgraduate diploma but was still not satisfied with my business knowledge, so I decided to start searching for a business qualification which could fill the gap. So to move forward in my career, I decided to embark on this MBA journey. Soon afterwards, I stumbled across NTU’s Online MBA with Data Analytics specialisation, which interested me. I reached out the team at Nottingham Business School to get more information and soon after that, I decided to register for the course; I was part of the mid-2017 intake.

I chose the online study method because it is a more accessible and affordable means of studying. I found the online programme at Nottingham Trent University to be on par with MBA’s from other universities around the world. I found that online studies also allowed me to work at the same time as completing my degree. I am determined to devote myself to the online programme and keep myself up to date with the latest developments in my chosen field. I also like the balance between business and analytics, as this is my current field of knowledge and expertise. I know that this course will give me a better understanding of global business and analytical requirements, which could be of use for my organisation in South Africa. I find myself in a position where I can make a difference in our government, as well as the private sector in which I currently work.

I have learned that time management is critical while doing the Online MBA; you need to plan to keep the family satisfied and to be able to still go out during weekends, but moreover left with enough time to finish assignments and submit before the deadline. I study roughly 2-3 hours every night after work; I also get up early on weekends to do some work on assignments or study. This gives me enough time to spend with family and friends later in the day over weekends. Sometimes work commitments do get a bit hectic, but I have also tried to work a set number of hours during the week, thus giving me enough time to cook, spend time with my family and then sit down with my books to study. I had negotiated some time off in my current role, as well as the flexibility to leave a bit earlier where needed when I had assignments due.

The Online MBA course does teach you to become more accommodating and tolerant of others. Group work was always a challenge for me, as I like to plan ahead of time and be in control of my situation. However, I have learned to accommodate my classmates, even when there were work commitments or business travels in between an assignment or task, especially as you are working with people in different time zones. So far, I have managed to work reasonably easily in all my teamwork engagements.

I have found that the Professional and Leadership Development, Responsible Leadership, Values-Led Organisation and Financial Management modules have been the most exciting modules for me. I think it's because I have been fascinated by leadership books and influencing my teams on projects. I have always been part of leadership structures, and I have been working with organizations where I lead development teams. It helped me to think about ethical business practices and dealing with people, as well as how you deal with everyday life and to develop that inner leader while on the job. I also learned how to negotiate deals in business, taking into account all the frameworks and methodologies taught on the course.

I enjoy working and studying with people from around the globe and I have learned so much from them, seeing things from their perspective and listening to their views, opinions and feedback on my work. I was also able to express my views and give some input in relation to my personal experiences, work and life.

In terms of the challenges I faced, there were a few modules I struggled with, merely because it was not my strength but I managed to conquer that. I had to put in extra hours and reading to grasp the concept and to be able to participate in class discussions, but I have always tried to find ways to get around issues where possible.

The support provided by the online academic mentor has been invaluable and very inspiring. I always enjoyed our frequent Skype catch ups, to check in with me and my progress; I really can't imagine the two years without her on my team. I found most of the admin team, module leaders and tutors very engaging and helpful. There is absolutely nothing to be afraid of when embarking on this journey; the virtual assistance does make a difference. Whenever I had questions or just needed guidance, support was an email away. The team has been able to help me resolve my issue, and they have been of great help to get around these various areas.

The virtual learning environment has been comfortable; at first, the experience was daunting, getting around the new environment and finding my way. As time went on, the effort became less demanding and more natural. The video clips were sufficient, and the reading materials, discussion groups and guidance made it easier. Communication via Skype also played a huge role, as we are all scattered around the world. I also stay in contact with classmates via WhatsApp, which also made it easy to find help where it was needed.

I am looking at some future career prospects globally, but the Online MBA has already opened a few doors for me in the insurance and financial industry. I had found that it was tough to get into this industry, but the Online MBA course has allowed me to get a foot in the door. Where I have previously been turned away, now I am able to work on current insurance compliance projects. I am also now able to work at all levels of my organisation and to translate business requirements into IT requirements.

My advice to anyone thinking about doing an Online MBA would be that you do need to be ready emotionally and mentally for this journey; support from family and friends is crucial, as well as an employer who understands and is supportive of this journey. It's also good if you know someone who already has an MBA, as it helped me in terms of bouncing ideas and discussing my own journey, as well as providing me with additional support and encouragement. I think the course takes a lot of your time over the two years and you need to be aware of the ask and ready to sacrifice personal time. However, this course is valuable and has added excellent soft and technical skills to my portfolio. I can see my personal growth, I can see developments in the way I handle situations and moreover, I can see progress in the way I do business.

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