By Nader Bitar
Managing Director, MMPWW

A few weeks ago I posted a picture on my Linkedin showing myself and fellow Hult students presenting our final work ahead of graduation this summer. The reaction to this was unbelievable – I was truly humbled by how many of you reached out to congratulate me and share in such a special moment. It also got me thinking about the next steps in my leadership journey and how I could document it in a space like this, which is what this article is really all about: My career progression by going back to school. Punchy, right?!

Here’s the thing: I never imagined I would set foot in a classroom again. I thought I had learned everything I needed to get my foot in the door and experience would teach me the rest. Man, was I naive. I don’t mean that in a negative way, because I’ve always been open to new opportunities, but perhaps my outlook when it came to further education in a classroom setting was a bit too narrow.

Funny how things change. It was 2019 when I made the decision to sign up for my Executive MBA. I already wrote at length about my reasons for taking the plunge and what I learned one year in but now as we close off the final few months of study, I feel a mix of genuine sadness, excitement, and yes, maybe a bit of relief. It’s been an intense two years trying to juggle everything, but I wouldn’t change one second of it. Push me to the limit and it turns out I will find a way through it, and that’s only one life lesson I have learned throughout this journey.

The next few months will certainly be less pressured now that all the core courses of the MBA (sessions in leadership, finance, marketing, operations and economics) are completed and  we can move on to the electives. I’ve chosen three, all with an emphasis on marketing, which for someone whose brain never seems to slow down (I usually have about 10 ideas all whirring round in my head at any given time) should certainly help to fine-tune my thought process!

It’s a good way to end the course – not that I will be resting anytime soon though, that’s apparently not in my DNA. I always knew I was driven, but by pushing myself to breaking point I found I was truly capable of amazing things, and I think this is true of everyone. Often, we stay in our comfort zone (even more so now given the events of last year) and don’t want to take on new challenges for fear of failing, yet when we do take that leap and give it everything, the rewards can be huge.

In the last two years I have gotten married, had a baby boy, moved home twice, managed a huge team remotely and expanded our business operations… all whilst juggling the demands of an Executive MBA that doesn’t keep UAE business hours. Exhausted isn’t a strong enough word! But even now looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. Doing all of these things in tandem actually helped, because each area of my life had something to offer the other.

It’s hard to know when you’re in the middle of something what the end product will turn out like. However, I did realize fairly early on that going back to the classroom would be a turning point in my career. It certainly gave me a different perspective on both my personal and professional life, working with people from outside of your industry, each with a different viewpoint and process, all sharing their knowledge with you. It’s life changing.

I saw first hand how other organizations were structured and how they functioned on a global scale. The exposure to those different industries – telco, banking, government, retail, F&B – offered me a rare opportunity to go behind the scenes and understand things at a more granular level. It also made me realize how much is still out there to discover; this course has opened my eyes in a way I hadn’t expected and I will be forever grateful for that.

For now, I have made friends and contacts for life. We’re all bonded by a shared experience of deadlines and endless cups of coffee. Professionally, I know we will work together in future, but until then, we still have work to do ahead of graduation in August. Beyond that we’ll be ready to put theory into practice, and speaking for myself, I can’t wait for the next chapter of my leadership journey to commence.

To be continued… 

Thinking of signing up for further education? Here’s my top tips on making it work with your lifestyle…

  1. Be organized – This one is obvious, but really I can’t stress this enough. Find a system that works for you and stick to it. Plan in meetings, plan in breaks, plan in sleep if you have to and remember this: “Fail to prepare. Prepare to fail”
  2. Don’t be afraid to delegate – You are going to find your time stretched and there will be things you need to offload – this is not a bad thing. Work with your team to ensure consistent workflow, reward people with more responsibility and streamline your communication to ensure no time is wasted. Even without juggling an MBA, this is business 101.
  3. Say YES to everything & figure out the details later – NO is not in your vocabulary, even if that means waking up at 3am to attend a lecture on economic policy. Boring it may be, but valuable when you need to understand the fundamentals of managing a business at a higher level.