You're a middle manager in a great job. It's taken a few years, but you've worked your way up: you now have a decent salary and the respect of others. But something's missing – and you can't quite put your finger on it.
That was the position in which Nathan Capper found himself in 2019. Having left school with "zero education", he'd worked for years as a truck salesperson (he was top seller in the firm), before completing a diploma and a degree focusing on marine studies.
He decided to work for himself – and was contracted by Bay of Plenty Regional Council, working with "all sorts of cultural and technical issues around the Resource Management Act".
"I also worked with council around new fresh water legislation; I'd made it to the top of what I could do." However, even with that level of success, he felt he needed a change.
"I'd always had a desire to work in business," he says. "I remember asking my wife if she would support me if I did a business degree. She said, wholeheartedly, yes."
So in 2020, Capper enrolled in the University of Waikato's Master of Business Administration. "I had no clue how powerful this [masters degree] would be," he says. "It led me on an incredibly personal journey. It taught me I was a leader, and that I was good enough."
Even though Capper's intake coincided with Covid, and he missed out on an international study tour that would have been part of the course, he saw the bright side: "It [Covid lockdown] was a blessing in disguise. There was a lot less distraction and it gave our cohort something else to focus on."
Waikato's Master of Business Administration is aimed at those in middle management wanting to take a leap into a bright, new future. The programme is shaped around tackling challenges within organisations from a holistic, cross-disciplinary viewpoint. This ensures the learning is not only well-rounded, but directly relevant to the changing world of work.
Capper says this approach, heavily weighted to group work and effective collaboration, is "gold standard" in the current changeable environment.
"We are living in an extremely complex world," he says. "We are being exposed to the fastest technological changes in history, the world is in economic turmoil, the environment is in crisis. To navigate these challenges, we need diversity of thought, collaboration, and a commitment to listening to each other and working together. That's what the Waikato MBA teaches you."
The first year of the MBA focuses on all the critical components of business: economics, supply chains, governance and more. The second year deepens and broadens this knowledge, developing students' leadership styles, encouraging self-reflection, giving opportunities for deep collaboration, and complex problem-solving.
One of the opportunities students can access is the New Zealand MBA Case Competition, where students go head to head working on solving complex business cases, presenting their findings to a panel of experts. This allows them to put into practice skills learned during the course, in front of industry heads.
"You are given a business problem, need to establish what's wrong, and work out strategies for fixing it. We [the Waikato team] ended up winning!"
The Waikato MBA is ideal for those who feel as though they have hit a glass ceiling in their career. Rather than just giving students information that comes in and goes out at assessment time, it allows them to develop their own thinking processes.
"You have to think, bringing your own thoughts into the decision-making. You get to engage in 'blue sky thinking' [thinking with no judgement or limits]. It really shows that you are good enough, that you can be a leader."
The Waikato MBA is a 180-point programme which can be completed in two years part-time every second Saturday, or over 3-4 years part-time for a better work/life balance.
Waikato Management School, which is celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, is ranked first in New Zealand for business and economics in the Times Higher Education World University Subject Rankings. The school also holds a Triple Crown Accreditation from EQUIS, AMBA and AACSB since 2005; an international benchmark of excellence in teaching and research, achieved by less than one per cent of the world's business schools.
Since the completion of his MBA, Capper has gone on to become Kaitohutohu Matua Māori (Senior Advisor) at WSP NZ, a global environmental and engineering consulting company. The MBA has given him the skills and experience needed to operate in an international market.
"The Waikato MBA taught me how to work with others on complex issues and collaboratively achieve things. I bring this into my current job, working with people around the world.
"For anyone considering an MBA, I encourage you to take the step; you are good enough. I believe in the Waikato MBA so much that I recommended it to both a close friend and my son-in-law, and they will be starting next year."
To enter the MBA you must have: A bachelors' degree, or an equivalent professional qualification, and at least three years' relevant management experience, or if the candidate can demonstrate substantial management experience seven-plus years. For more information visit: www.waikato.ac.nz/go/mba