Richard Harrison, CEO of Smart Power Myanmar and AACSB 2021 Influential Leader, shares how pursuing an MBA mid-career helped him expand his professional achievements and impact in society. Harrison is a graduate of IE Business School in Spain.
Richard Harrison: [0:14] If I'm really honest about my own career, there was a point in my late 30s where I was in positions of responsibility, leading large organizations in the development sector.
[0:25] If I'm brutally honest, there were many times where I was flying blind and guessing about what is the best strategy to apply here, or how do I build a successful human resources approach in my organization using instinct?
[0:47] I suppose good guesswork can take you so far, but what I really gained from the MBA, and the reason I wanted to take one mid career, to earn one in mid career, was I wanted to build on instinct, but actually [laughs] have some knowledge to go on at times. [laughs] That was incredibly helpful.
[1:16] It's very important to know where you are in your career, and what you're not good at, and where your gaps are. That self realization is very important, and getting an honest appraisal from others about where your weaknesses are is really helpful. My advice would be not to treat it just as getting the letters after your name, which is possibly quite common.
[1:45] I would encourage anyone wanting to do this because, again, there are many MBAs out there, and many people earning MBAs in the next 10 years. It's going to be something that's quite ubiquitous.
[1:59] Really think about, "Why am I doing this? Am I doing this just for the letters, or am I doing this because there are some very clear and tangible things that I want to learn, and that I need to build on?" That would lead to a set of very clear choices that I would recommend thinking through, around where do you want to study and why?
[2:23] What kind of placements do those schools have, and what are they strong at? What type of network are they going to draw on? One of the reasons I chose the business school that I did, IE Business School, was because of the global nature of the students. It was a tremendous mix of different students. They weren't just grown from one country.
[2:47] It was an equal spread across the whole world. Today, 10 years later, I am in regular contact with many of my former student friends. It's not always for direct business gain. It's often for casual advice and collegial comparing of progress, and, obviously, there's social [laughs] benefits as well. Ultimately, the connections that you're able to draw on from that experience are tremendous.
[3:27] I would say choose your school and your network carefully, and ask a lot of questions about that. Without question, if you're interested in becoming a more rounded professional, go beyond the letters. Think through which area do you want to emphasize, and then choose accordingly, but definitely do it.
Recorded virtually in February 2021.