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Interview with Alan Pham, MBA, London School of Business & Finance and InterActive

Alan Pham began his online MBA programme in 2011 while working for Vietnam International Bank in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Now a successful MBA graduate, Alan has since relocated to New Zealand and works as a Generalist Banker for ANZ Bank New Zealand.

Speaking to us from Auckland, Alan gave the InterActive team some valuable insights into his online study methodology, and how best to leverage your qualification when going through today’s highly competitive business recruitment processes.

ALAN PHAM

"Online study means it’s now possible for people to get a great MBA while still
earning a good salary."

Choosing the right programme

There were quite a few reasons why I chose to study my MBA course online, rather than going down the traditional route of attending a 2‐year campus programme. The first is that online study allowed me to maintain a balance between my day job and my time for studying. It meant I wouldn’t have to give up two years of my professional life to earn the MBA qualification. This was very important for me, as I wanted to focus on my career but also have a well‐recognised MBA qualification to support my professional development in the future.

Another important aspect I looked for during my research into various online education providers was that the degree I chose had to be accredited by a prestigious organisation in either the US or in Europe. The degree also had to supply me with a high level of new knowledge which would expand on my current experience and would be of use in my job at that time, which was in the banking sector.

So with these things in mind I researched as many different online providers as I could. Of course, there is an enormous choice of online MBA providers out there, particularly from North America, but I felt that in many cases the accreditation status of these schools was not strong enough, or that the awardingbodies were not well known outside that region. So I turned my focus to European providers, and quite soon afterwards InterActive and London School of Business and Finance became the clear choice.

Managing your course schedule

When you are pursuing an MBA you have to do quite a lot of research and produce a relatively large amount of coursework. This helps you gain a new perspective on the practical side of business. There were a selection of modules on my programme where the information was completely new to me, such as Operations Management. As I had previously studied an on campus BSc in Real Estate, this course provided me with very useful content in terms of management theory.

On top of this, the other areas of the course syllabus which I was familiar with served as a great ‘refresher’, letting me link up all of my past business experiences with new skills and knowledge.

Taking advantage of the global classroom

One of the things I loved about this course was the interactive forums where you can post your work online for discussion purposes. My classmates would regularly chip in their own ideas and share their business experience, which makes the learning experience feel like a global classroom. I’m pleased to say that this process of mutual encouragement and support continued even while we were all waiting for our final results

In fact, I have made some good friends out of this experience, and we still keep in touch with each other via social media sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook.

Online learning versus traditional campus study

Both approaches are obviously quite different, and there are pros and cons to each of them. With campus programmes there is a lot of face to face interaction, and networking opportunities etc.

However, I believe that studying via an online platform is perfect for people who are working professionally. For me, the combination of having worked for a management consulting firm and being in daily contact with colleagues who were already MBA holders, gave me the confidence to study my MBA via a non‐traditional route.

But I should add, even for those students not in a similar situation as me, a major advantage of the online study mode is the possibility to work full‐time in your day job and then come home in the evening full of ideas for your MBA assignments and projects.

Making the most of your qualification

When I was being interviewed for my current position, the interviewer saw on my CV that I was expecting my MBA results in one or two months’ time, and he was quite surprised that I had managed to complete an MBA while working. So, when I explained my online study process to him he was very impressed, he certainly didn’t view the online MBA as an inferior qualification in any way at all. He understood, as a working professional with more than 20 years’ experience himself, that the process must have involved a high level of commitment. I would even say that my online qualification gave me a slight edge in this respect.

New trends in online education

I think in the past the trend has been that you have to attend a top, top school as a campus student, an Ivy League school let’s say, but now I believe many business professionals are seeing a shift. There is a widespread belief nowadays that business schools all over the world have something valuable to offer, schools across Europe, in Hong Kong, India, etc. Therefore I think we will gradually see a shift in popularity from traditional MBAs to the online variety, because online gives a wider group of individuals instant access to these schools’ offerings.

In short, online study means it’s now possible for people to get a great MBA while still earning a good salary.

Tips and advice

One good piece of advice I can pass on, especially when attending interviews after graduation, is to make sure you explain the ‘how’ as well as the ‘why’. What really seems to impress interviewers is not just why did we study an MBA, but how did we do it, what processes are involved and how were we able to find the self‐discipline and spare time to do this. This is something that interviewers find critical, and I think it really helps them analyse your potential as one of their future employees.