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Human Resources talks exclusively to Sachin Tipnis, senior executive director of Postgraduate Programmes at HKU Business School, for his take on what HR professionals should expect when undertaking an MBA and how to maximise its benefit to their career.

HRO: Would you consider there is sometimes a gap between the perception of what someone undertaking an MBA is going to get out of it and the actual outcome?
ST:
 It absolutely happens. When some of the people come in they are often looking to enhance the skills connected to their own industry. But this is an issue because with an MBA, the idea is not to get into a box – you need to un-box yourself.

If someone comes to undertake the course and they want to specialise in HR but they already have 12 years’ experience connected to HR, I would ask them, ‘Why do you want to do that?’ You should come in with the mindset of totally enhancing your mind in something else.

The second thing is, a lot of people focus too much on their first job. An MBA isn’t about just sitting down and having a cup of coffee and getting instant gratification. But an MBA is like a good stock – you benefit over a period of time.

Your stock goes up – and your personal stock too.

A good MBA programme fundamentally changes the way you look at issues. It changes the way you find solutions and the way you are able to approach a business problem. You fundamentally change your thought process.

Online programmes or in-person for an MBA? Could you elaborate a little on the pros and cons of each?
Part of the basics of the course, the basic premise, can be moved online. So when you (physically) come into the class, you’re there for the discussion. Then we straight into real-life case study discussions. We talk about specific companies, and specific sectors, so it’s a genuine discussion.

That’s the blended form of learning that will be the future. But I still overwhelmingly believe that most of an MBA has to be face to face. 

What is the main reason that MBAs are usually undertaken: Personal development, management skills, leadership or salary or something else?
People take MBAs for different reasons. But the common motivation is to enhance their abilities. To enhance their knowledge. To enhance their soft skills. To get more leadership qualities. And to understand the overall business proposition, to get that helicopter view of the business.

A number of people have told me that they do something different to what they have always done. A banker has told me that he wants to get away from the banker mindset.

One common factor I have heard so many times is, ‘I want to work, learn and share with people who are very different to me.’

On the career boost: Going to a good business school gives a very strong signal to the market. And by the market, I mean your company, your clients, possibly your future employer, even your friends and family. And by going to a business school, you are giving the signal that you are very serious about your career.

When should a HR pro consider an MBA?
“People often come in to do an MBA and they often ask, ‘What is the average age of your class? What is the average level of experience?”

My advice is that if you start following the averages, you become an average. I always recommend to people that is a good fit for them – and explore and learn. And forget about the averages.         

There is no perfect time to take on an MBA. Everybody is doing an MBA for a different reason. The perfect time is when you see a need to learn, you see a need to have more exposure, a larger network, a better way of thinking – that’s the right time for you.