Malik Marafie (EMBADS2016) wanted to study the Executive MBA to gain exposure to international markets and build up his global network. Six years later, he already has a lot more than that to show for his time spent studying the programme.
I decided to study the Executive MBA because I wanted to gain more exposure to international markets, in terms of studying, case studies and group discussions. In my class of 50 students we had people from all different backgrounds, sectors and nationalities. That meant I could hear different ways of thinking and gain new perspectives, as well as see the way people from different backgrounds assess and analyse cases. This really helped broaden my way of thinking, especially when I was challenged by the professor, because regardless of how well prepared I was with a case, there’d always be different perspectives to listen to which sometimes challenged my own. The application process for the EMBA programme really meant that I was studying with the best of the best, with a great network of alumni, too.
The programme really helped me broaden and expand my work roles. Since completing the Executive MBA, I have taken on new roles and bigger responsibilities. I was a Director at Zain Group and during the programme I became the Head of the Executive Team for the Vice Chairman and Group CEO’s Office. Since completing the Executive MBA I am now also the chair of an investment company, as well as a board member of an energy company and a hotel in the Middle East. I am also a consultant and advisor for many other businesses and CEO of a renowned family business in Kuwait.
Whenever someone sees you are a graduate of London Business School you are automatically viewed differently. Graduating from the School says a lot about you before you even introduce yourself. You are by default attractive for many different positions. I turned down myriad job offers during the Executive MBA, from running investment companies to establishing them from scratch. I wasn’t looking for a lateral move; I was looking to make a leap in my career that would take me to a different league and further enhance my personal development. Without that, I wasn’t willing to change my career. I’m also loyal to my current occupation and have a sense of belonging in my organisation.
The Executive MBA helped my career because I could apply what I was learning. I learned a lot from the cases in the Turnaround elective. I learned how to literally turn around a corporation, and how to apply the theoretical knowledge to an organisation. So that became the challenge in my current company; if I saw a diamond in the rough and I knew there was huge potential in the company, I would apply what I’d learned at the School and tweak it a little, and that really helped. For example, we applied this knowledge to one of our companies and successfully turned it around.
So, now that I have the knowledge I gained from the Executive MBA, I’ve been avoiding the failures that other corporates have made. For example, I look at management, the way companies are structured, and how they take care of their financials. I can sense signals ahead of time and make pre-emptive changes today rather than waiting for the damage to happen. I know that you have to be the first mover and have enough guts to cannibalise your current line of business. Everything in this world is evolving and you have to be quick. You must act and be agile, and potentially jeopardise your own line of business in doing so. It might hurt you in the beginning, but the outcome is worth it.
When you study the Executive MBA, you have the choice to make the most of it. My approach from day one wasn’t just to get the certificate, but to learn as much as I could from every hour in class and from every case we studied. Every day I tried to apply what I’d learned, even if it was just one small thing. Some things weren’t relatable for me personally, such as when we studied a football club, as the case study had nothing to do with my line of business, but it had a huge human capital element that I learned from and tried to apply in my own role. I learned that one of the biggest assets you have in your company is the human capital. I’ve tried investing in our employees, and our Vice Chairman & Group CEO has also made the decision to send two executives a year to an MBA programme, to invest in their education. Three employees have been sent to London Business School already.
The network I built during the Executive MBA has also really helped in my career. Now, whenever I’m operating in a different country, I always know someone there due to the international diversity within each class on the programme. When I have any questions about different countries, I ask my fellow alumni. We spent a good year and a half together so there’s trust built between us. We’ve also hired one of the alumnus; we put him forward for the role and now he is one of our group employees.
I studied my Executive MBA in Dubai but I also had the opportunity to go to universities in the UK, Hong Kong, and New York as well as an internship in Moscow. So I covered all of the essential markets, from the Middle East, to Europe, to Asia, to America. I recommend that everyone gets the chance to experience those markets first-hand, because it really added to my background. I met people from so many different countries and backgrounds, in addition to all the people I met on a daily basis. I was at each university for around one to two weeks.
My time as an exchange student at Columbia Business School really stood out, because I got to experience a different way of learning. The American system is completely different from the English system. I loved both. Columbia Business School is in the Ivy League so it’s one of the top schools over there which I was proud to be a part of.
What we learned about productivity during the Executive MBA also stood out as a key factor for me; we learned that employees should be 90-95% productive at the company. If you see someone take more than two hours a day as a break, then the allocation of employees might be off-track and redundancies might need to be made. So now I track employees and their behaviour and how productive they are. For me, if they’re not 90-95% productive then I have to shrink the department or hire someone with a better background. We must place the right people in the right jobs.
For the next step in my career, I want to be less involved in the day-to-day operations and more involved at board level, as well as working more on restructuring companies and finding mergers and acquisitions. The best practises I learned during the Executive MBA will help me to achieve this, such as knowing the exact elements needed for an acquisition and merger, and how to properly analyse and read financial statements. When you do a merger you always wonder what the outcome will be, you never know unless you do it; but London Business School gave us the opportunity to explore so many case studies that we can simulate the outcome.
Overall the most valuable aspect of the programme was the networking, this was a key element for me as well as the exposure to international markets. My advice for anyone considering the Executive MBA is to dedicate time each day to the programme. Try not to leave everything to the last minute; being organised is very important. Always proofread your work, always be ready in class, always learn as much as you can during your classes and most importantly don’t forget to enjoy your time at LBS!