Mfundo Nkosi is currently studying towards a London School of Business and Finance MBA from Johannesburg, South Africa.
Here Mfundo speaks to the InterActive student liaison team about his online study experience.
Mfundo, can you firstly tell us something about your background, where you are from, and what profession you are working in right now?
I’m from South Africa and I’m currently residing in Johannesburg, although I grew up in KwaZulu-Natal, which is one of the South African provinces. Right now I’m working as the Head of Design and Engineering for a company called TÜV Rheinland RSA. We are a global organisation which provides technical and operational services for power stations and the petrochemical industry. Previous to this I worked in the mining sector, so I have around seven years’ experience in this industry overall.
And what was driving you to take on an MBA programme?
Before starting my MBA I had studied Mechanical Engineering to B. TECH level, and I think I have developed strong technical knowledge in this area. I decided I wanted to try and expand that knowledge in terms of business management and my general understanding of the corporate world, specifically looking at financial analysis, marketing, strategy, development and administration – which are the key pillars in any business environment.
What advantages are you hoping your MBA qualification will give you in your present career, or even in the longer term?
My MBA has come at a time when my company is looking into new strategies for expansion. I’m currently strategizing how to grow our design and engineering office to tap into new areas, so it has come at a very good time for me professionally.
The programme has heightened my awareness of strategic decision making, my knowledge of how to expand the business, and my ability to move the company into new markets. And of course, it has also given me new strategies for interacting with people who have the relevant knowledge and skills in those markets my company are looking towards.
And what does achieving your MBA qualification mean to you personally?
Well, I should probably tell you that my name, Mfundo, means ‘education’ in my mother tongue! So as an individual I feel compelled to acquire new knowledge and to become a prominent business practitioner. I’m also looking into opening my own company at some point in the future, which my MBA will undoubtedly help me with.
As well as these things, I’m currently involved with a non-profit organisation that deals with supporting rural projects here in South Africa, which gives me the opportunity to give something back to the community that I came from.
And I’d like to add that studying this MBA programme doesn’t just give you a theoretical background, it also betters you as an individual in my opinion. You learn how to properly manage your time and control many different activities at once.
Could you tell us something about the decision making process you went through when deciding to study online? Why did you opt for this route rather than attending a campus programme in Johannesburg?
The first reason was, having previously done all of my studies locally, I wanted to experience how programmes are run internationally, so as not to limit myself to only studying from a South African perspective. Another important reason is that [online programmes] mean you can study while working full time, and of course, traditional universities don’t usually give you that luxury. I was also very impressed with the online forums which allow you to interact with the other students, this let me expand my network of contacts with individuals working all over the world.
And over the duration of your MBA studies have you noticed a significant improvement in your skills and knowledge?
Yes, I’ve noticed a real improvement in my business skills in many areas. I think part of the reason for this is the way the assignments are structured. You are taken out of your comfort zone and asked to analyse important aspects of business that, perhaps, you were previously unaware of.
For example, when we studied operations and information management we looked closely at the online advertising and entertainment industries, which were completely new to me. So that was a wonderful experience, because if you learn how to set up an operations management strategy for a business sector which is completely new to you, then it becomes much easier to do the same in an area which you are familiar with.
What have you found most enjoyable about your study experience so far? Has anything surprised you?
I would start by saying something about the availability of the tutors and student liaison officers. This has been excellent, as to be honest I was a bit skeptical about how effectively we would be able to interact. But I have to say the level of contact has been exceptional, it’s one of the things about the programme that would make me recommend it.
I was also very impressed by my original educational consultant, who gave me extremely detailed and helpful information whenever I asked any questions about the course. I have found these things to be outstanding.
Could you tell us about some of the challenges you have faced during the programme? And how have you overcome them?
Of course, there is a lot of work to cover in a relatively short period. So from time to time, being a family man and also working full-time, it’s been difficult to squeeze in my studies. Usually I do most of my studying during the evenings and weekends, when I have the chance to really absorb myself in the course material.
In any case, I see having a lot of work as a positive factor, because at the end of every module or assignment you come out with a lot of new information and knowledge.
There are a range of distance learning providers these days, why did you choose to study with LSBF and InterActive in particular?
I did a lot of searching on the internet and after narrowing down the possibilities I decided to find out more about LSBF’s MBA programmes. I also managed to speak to a number of people working for companies here in South Africa who have previously studied with you, so this helped me decide to go ahead with LSBF and InterActive.
Another thing is, when it comes to IT related aspects and computer technology, I wouldn’t exactly call myself an expert! But when I saw how InterActive’s learning platform is structured, it seemed very straightforward and easy to follow.
And have you found the online learning platform to be geared towards students? What are your general feelings about the online structure?
I have to say that I’m usually quite a critical person, but when I think about the online platform and the student forums, I only have positive things to say about them. The way the course is arranged, the way study notes are set up, the ease of watching the online lectures, everything is very easy to follow. The platform is very user friendly and this saves much needed time.
But I should say that the part I enjoy most is the ability to interact with other students and the tutors. This feature is very well set up, because it doesn’t just stay within the confines of the platform. You are notified by email when new discussions are taking place so you can immediately go online to follow up on that discussion.
Before studying online with LSBF and InterActive you had only taken on-campus programmes. How do these two different methods compare?
I would say that at a traditional university there is a need to build face to face relationships with people before you can start sharing information with them. This is of course one of the highlights of studying on campus, but I was very surprised by how easy it was to build relationships with other students and tutors in the online environment, and I was able to start sharing ideas with them from the very beginning of my programme.
A definite advantage [of online study] is the luxury of being able to maintain a healthy balance between work, family, study, and your social life. That flexibility compares quite favourably to my experience at a traditional university.
What advice do you have for people – either in South Africa or around the world – who are considering studying their postgraduate degree online using the InterActive platform?
Studying online requires dedication and proper time management. Although you do receive a great deal of tutor feedback, it is down to you to make sure you finish all the assignments and case studies on time, which requires a level of self-discipline.
Yes, it’s important for students to bear in mind that while online programmes provide a more flexible mode of study, this requires a bit more from them in terms of personal determination.
Yes it does. My advice for other people would be to stay focused on why you decided to begin the programme, and keep in mind specific priorities and objectives.
And finally Mfundo, how would you round up your overall study experience with LSBF and InterActive?
All in all I’m very impressed with the level of communication provided by the course tutors and student liaison officers, this is something which I’m sure future students will find beneficial.
The course syllabus is structured in a way that allows me to rapidly learn new skills in business communication, strategy, marketing, governance and operations management – it’s really been a fast track to new knowledge in these areas.
At a local level, here in South Africa we have many ongoing projects where we are expanding and developing the country’s energy infrastructure, and now I have a set of skills that I can put to work in my company to assist the management of these projects. Studying an MBA has really opened up my mind in these areas, which I must say is something exceptional.