CEO Mag & AIB: The Transformative Impact of Specialised MBAs

Career & Development, MBA
Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
CEO Mag & AIB: The Transformative Impact of Specialised MBAs

In the latest 2024 CEO Magazine Global MBA Rankings, AIB again secured its Tier 1 Global Status for the third year running and upheld its position among the top 5 online MBAs in Australia for a second year, ranking 25th globally. In this edition of the rankings, CEO Magazine spoke to AIB and took a deeper dive of AIB’s specialised MBA programs through the real stories of AIB graduates. Below, we share the original article with you.

A Closer Look: How Specialised MBAs Meet the Demands of Today’s Business World

As you progress in your career, you inevitably face a decision that will shape your future: Do you focus on a specialised area or embrace a wide-ranging path of generalisation? Opting for a specialised MBA is more than just an academic decision, it’s a strategic move to align your career with your passions. Research from the 2022 PwC’s Global Workforce Hopes and Fears survey, which surveyed over 52,000 workers from 44 countries and territories, found that those with specialised training are more likely to feel empowered to ask for a promotion within 12 months, at a rate of 37%, compared to just 21% of those without it. 

For a more insightful perspective on how specialised MBA education meets industry needs, we delved into the experiences of graduates from a leading MBA provider, the Australian Institute of Business (AIB), where almost one-third of students opt for a specialised MBA program. Across each of AIB’s five specialisations: Finance, Entrepreneurial Management, Marketing Management, Human Resource Management and Logistics and Supply Chain Management, these graduates share compelling stories about leveraging their specialised knowledge to secure a competitive advantage and achieve their career ambitions.

Mark Lennock

Breaking Barriers in Finance: Mark Lennock’s Leap from Experience to Excellence 

In the finance world, experience often speaks volumes. But for Mark Lennock, the combination of his extensive practical knowledge and the pursuit of a specialised MBA in Finance truly set his career on an upward trajectory. Mark’s journey is a testament to the transformative power of an MBA, even for those already well-established in their careers. Without a prior degree, he faced limitations in career advancement. Despite 15 years of IT project experience in finance, his resume was often overlooked for those with traditional academic backgrounds.

‘I felt that my CV was put into the pile where there was a reason not to progress me. I concluded that it was because I didn’t have a benchmark qualification. I didn’t have a degree.’ 

His decision to enrol in a specialised MBA program paid off remarkably. Not only did Mark excel academically, earning the valedictorian award in 2020, but his career also took a significant leap forward. During his MBA, he moved from a Senior Project Manager to Professional Services Director and, within a year of completing his degree, ascended to Director of Project Management and then Program Director. 

Mark attributes this rapid career progression to his MBA, emphasising the practical application of the finance specialisation in his role, particularly in dealings with central banks and corporate treasuries.

‘The “Financial Markets & Institutions” specialist subject has been particularly relevant to my day-to-day activities.  The focus on the flow of funds and payment systems, and the ADIs and the asset classes they utilise, provided an excellent foundation for me to progress to my current role, as Program Director for ION Group’s ‘APAC Central Bank’ initiative.’

Additionally, the broader business insights gained from subjects like Leadership, Marketing, and Strategic HR, offered through the MBA, equipped him with a holistic view of business operations, further enhancing his professional growth.

As Mark puts it, ‘I hadn’t had that career progression before the MBA and the only thing that changed was the MBA. So, I absolutely attribute it to this qualification.’ 

I hadn’t had that career progression before the MBA and the only thing that changed was the MBA.

Mark Lennock – Program Director, ION 
AIB MBA Graduate, Finance 
Gibran Maher

From Concept to Creation: Gibran Maher’s Entrepreneurial Journey with an MBA 

Embarking on a new business venture is an exciting yet daunting journey. Despite that 48% of Australian businesses fail in the first four years, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the entrepreneurial spirit is thriving globally. This growth is evident in Australia, where the number of small businesses increased by an impressive 34% in 2021. 

After 16 years in the medical device industry, AIB graduate Gibran Maher saw an opportunity during the COVID-19 pandemic to channel his expertise and boredom into innovation. His lightbulb moment came during his MBA studies, leading to the creation of Additive Surgical, a groundbreaking company specialising in 3D-printed titanium spinal implants. 

Gibran’s application of his MBA learnings was pivotal. He utilised his assignments to develop his business plan.  

‘The AIB MBA and the assignments were very applicable because I was able to do them on my own company concept at the time instead of picking a case study or a report from an existing company. It was great because the Online Learning Facilitators (OLFs) gave me feedback on that work, and I was able to implement that into what would then become my business plan. It was all very real world.’ 

This approach, enriched by feedback from his teachers, was crucial in shaping a solid business strategy. Gibran credits his MBA for his ability to secure investments, using his final project as a persuasive tool for investors. 

I was flying all around Australia and Europe with my Final Project under my arm to secure investment.  Some of the investors even asked if I’d had a consultant create a business plan for me, but no, it was all fruit of my MBA.’ 

Gibran Maher – CEO, Additive Surgical  
AIB MBA Graduate, Entrepreneurial Management 
Kwong Chuen

Delivering Success: Kwong Chuen’s Rise in Australia Post through Specialised Education 

Mastering logistics and supply chain processes is critical for any modern business to stay competitive in a rapidly evolving global economy. Kwong started to pursue his management career with Australia Post in 2007 as a Production Manager. Despite holding a Bachelor of Civil Engineering, Kwong recognised gaps in understanding of complex concepts, admitting, “I felt that, at the time, I was missing something.” 

Finding what he was missing, Kwong Chuen’s pursuit of an MBA specialising in Logistics and Supply Chain Management prepared him for leadership positions where he could foster innovation, sustainability and efficiency within global supply networks.

‘The AIB MBA certainly had a positive impact on my career. It gave my manager at the time an additional reason to promote me. My current role involves implementing infrastructures and automation for the frontline operations – from establishing new delivery centres to installing sortation systems to support parcel volume growth. Many concepts and principles I learned from the MBA program allowed me to align my work to the strategic intent and achieve a positive business outcome. Overall, it’s made me a better operator.’ 

The specialist subject, International Business, is one that Kwong found particularly useful. Offering a modern grasp of international business, the subject delves into global trade dynamics and strategies organisations use to compete internationally and secure a competitive edge.

‘I most enjoyed International Business. It was not something that I could just pick up from random online readings. It provided me with an understanding of why the logistics and supply chain industry is how they are today, especially post-COVID.’ 

Many concepts and principles I learned from the MBA program allowed me to align my work to the strategic intent and achieve a positive business outcome. Overall, it’s made me a better operator.

Kwong Chuen – Senior Project Manager, Australia Post  
AIB MBA Graduate, Logistics and Supply Chain Management
Kristy Skwaruk

Mastering the Business of People: Kristy Skwaruk’s MBA-Powered Career Advancement 

Canadian AIB Graduate Kristy Skwaruk already achieved significant success during a 20-year career in HR and worked her way to Director of People and Culture at Dynaleo Inc. However, when discussing further career progression with her manager, it was evident she needed to upskill and gain more understanding of the operational side of the business. 

Kristy studied an MBA specialising in Human Resource Management, which equipped her with in-depth knowledge and skills in areas such as talent management, employee relations and organisational behaviour, along with other fundamental business concepts. This interdisciplinary approach empowered Kristy to become a more effective and strategic HR leader, enabling her to tackle HR challenges with insight into their business impact.  

‘Managing Change was the most impactful HR course for me. It seems one of the only constants in business is change, and I have spent a lot of my career rolling out various HR initiatives to the business, trying to influence change.  This course filled up my toolbox with ways to be a better change leader. It provided me with many strategies to overcome barriers to change, which I have utilised in my work to make recommendations to address issues proactively before they happen.’

Kristy’s experience highlights the practical nature of AIB’s programs. Before she even graduated, she began to experience significant career advancements, reflecting the immediate value of her ongoing education. 

‘I went from the Director to the VP of People and Culture partway through the course. And then I got promoted to VP of People and Culture and Regulatory and Operations. As I progressed through the courses, I was working with the business strategy, and I had some real light bulb moments. I was able to apply my learning directly to the food production industry.’ 

Kristy’s story also emphasises the broader benefits of pursuing an MBA. 

I’ve seen a couple of promotions through the process. With that comes pay raises and the opportunity to mentor people. So, I’ve loved it.

Kristy Skwaruk – Corporate Human Resources Programs Leader, PCL Construction  
AIB MBA Graduate, Human Resource Management 
Solar Nicholls

Marketing’s Rising Star: Solar Nicholls’ Career Progression at a Young Age 

Solar Nicholls, a driven and ambitious marketing professional, embarked on her MBA journey with AIB at the young age of 23, and completed the program at 24. AIB’s reputation for delivering high-quality education attracted her, and she found the online delivery particularly appealing. 

‘The best aspect of studying online with AIB was the ability to work full-time. I also got just as much support as I would if I was on campus.’ 

AIB’s MBA with a specialisation in Marketing Management is designed for both experienced and aspiring marketing practitioners. It empowers professionals to move into more senior roles, with the tools to develop an organisation’s marketing strategy, oversee new product or service launch campaigns, and manage the customer experience. 

Solar completed her Marketing MBA in 2017 and has experienced significant career growth since then. She was promoted from Digital Accounts and Project Manager to Head of Digital Marketing and Strategy at BA Creative, a prominent full-service digital agency based in Brisbane, Australia. 

‘I definitely think that doing an MBA has helped me become successful in my career in reaching a management role sooner rather than later, especially for someone my age.’ 

Her decision to move from the public sector to the private sector was fuelled by the expertise she gained through her marketing specialisation. The MBA’s industry-specific focus provided her with the tools and insights required to excel in her new role within the private sector. 

‘My advice to people who want to study an MBA with AIB is to definitely consider it. It’s been challenging but very rewarding at the same time and has put me in the position I am at now at the marketing agency.’ 

I definitely think that doing an MBA has helped me become successful in my career in reaching a management role sooner rather than later, especially for someone my age.

Solar Nicholls – Head of Digital Marketing & Strategy, BA Creative  
AIB MBA Graduate, Marketing Management 

AIB’s MBA Specialist Subjects

Entrepreneurial Management
EntrepreneurshipNew Product DesignBusiness Consulting
Corporate FinanceFinancial Markets and InstitutionsInvestment Management
Human Resources Management
Organisational Learning and DevelopmentManaging People in a Global ContextManaging Change
Logistics and Supply Chain Management
International BusinessProcurement and Global Logistics ManagementGlobal Supply Chain Management
Marketing Management
Consumer BehaviourDigital MarketingNew Product Design

This article was originally published in CEO Magazine’s 2024 Global MBA Rankings.

*The Australian Institute of Business (AIB) is Australia’s largest provider of MBAs. Source Ready, B. (2023) Domestic Enrolments Surged During COVID After International Students Locked Out, MBA News. Available at: MBA News.

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