When I started to think about pursuing an MBA, I was an LA guy working as a Logistics Officer at Cheetah Development, a company based in Tanzania; we were storing maize and helping famers to get good returns at market. I had first moved to the country as a volunteer for two years teaching maths and physics in a remote village with hardly any electricity. Life then was about adventure and seeing the world, but I began to think about finding a purposeful career.
One day I spotted a Wall Street Journal article talking about the average income of MBA graduates and CBS came out really well in its global earnings list. I was taking home a low income back then and felt I needed to level up. I didn’t and don’t think there’s anything wrong with going to school to get a higher paid job – that was a deciding factor for me!
Then there was also the opportunity to live in Europe – and Copenhagen itself. It’s a cool city, the design, the people, the atmosphere, hygge… And the Scandinavian business community has so much to offer (although I didn’t fully appreciate that then).
The difference between rural East Africa and Copenhagen is like night and day, as you’d imagine. Tanzania is so chaotic. There’s terrible infrastructure, the roads are dusty, it’s crowded and there are cattle in the marketplace, but I like the country and back then it had been home to me after three years.
By contrast, Copenhagen was clean and ordered, the buses were expensive, beer was expensive and I didn’t understand the language – that got me in trouble a few times but the Danish people are very forgiving! I soon began to integrate, marvelling at the way Danes are able to travel everywhere by bike and still arrive looking gorgeous! I can’t do that – but it is still my favourite way to get around!
The full time MBA was intense, there was a big workload – but that really helped us all to bond – there were around 40 other students from 20 other countries on that 2012-13 cohort. We all worked out how to handle it and succeed together. On the first day, you could see the nervousness and anticipation on all the faces of people who had moved from all over the world, not knowing what to expect. But no one was disappointed. The professors had a deep knowledge of their area – whether that’s CSR, marketing, management. It was entertaining. It was also daunting, but it’s set up in a way that will challenge you and change you, make you read and solve problems. It was a great education.
I was concerned about getting a job afterwards. My plan was to change industry, country and income level – that’s a lot! It took me a few months after graduation, but CBS offered me great coaching and support, with my CV, with networking and generally how to get myself in a room and be taken seriously. I landed an executive support level job at IKEA – it quickly put me into the top 10% of earners in my age bracket in Sweden.
It was the job I thought I wanted in one of the greatest companies in the world. It has a great Scandinavian ethos and a flat management structure. My MBA helped make it possible and I was able to put so much of my learning into practice and get great insight into how hugely successful businesses work.