Written by: Coen Welsh, Class of 2020, Namibia
Whether you are just about to begin your Jack Welch MBA journey or are partially through it, as an international MBA student, you might have additional challenges to deal with apart from keeping up with the reading, posting discussion questions, and submitting assignments on time.
As a recent graduate, I would like to share some advice on what helped me succeed and graduate with high honors as a Jack Welch MBA Welch Scholar.
Tips for New International MBA Students
1.) Engage early with your professors
It took me a while to figure this out, but this is the most important tip. Many of the JWMI professors are passionate executives from some of the top companies globally, and the faculty has practical experience from some of the world’s leading brands. As a result, they are uniquely qualified to provide guidance on the real-world issues you are experiencing in the workplace in addition to the theoretical and academic exercises.
And while all the professors are very supportive, they may not realize that you are in another time zone or facing unique challenges in your location. So my advice is to engage with them early and introduce yourself as an international student.
Check the ‘My Professor’ tab in BlackBoard and send them a personal email. Let them know where you are from, where you are based, and highlight some challenges you may experience, such as, load shedding in South Africa, power cuts in Zambia, or unreliable mobile networks.
2.) Start early with assignments
Any list of tips to be successful in your MBA will include this tip. Don’t wait until the Saturday evening or Sunday morning before an assignment is due to start the work. Look ahead to upcoming assignments and try to get your head around them before the ‘Success Session.’ I could not attend these sessions live in my time zone as it was in the dead of night, but preparing in advance will help you identify any issues you may experience and get your questions in early. If your questions are not answered in the success session recording, you should schedule a call with your professor to ensure you get the correct instructions to earn honors grades on your assignments.
3.) Get the mobile app(s)
This tip is another best practice that took me a while to figure out. There are two apps available, and the most important one is the BlackBoard app (android/iOS). The second is the Strayer University app (android/iOS). Apps tend to use less data and allow you to reply to DQs on the go. It also serves as a helpful reminder to see what’s coming up and what action items you need to submit or respond to. The Strayer University app has less functionality; however, there is a reminder of ‘tasks’ you need to complete for the week, which is a valuable motivator and a visible reminder of your progress. The app shows your enrolled class(es) and your average score for the course to date. We don’t use a GPA score in Namibia, and the calculated percentage score helped motivate me. In addition, the app shows a class average, which allows you to benchmark your performance against your classmates. If your average drops below the class average, it may be a sign that you should reach out to your professor to get help.
4.) Connect with the JWMI Network
Join JWMI Connect and find your classmates and professors on LinkedIn to expand your network and, more importantly, help you feel less isolated. Some of my most meaningful interactions with the JWMI program happened outside the JWMI ecosystem. While the DQs are great places to connect with classmates and share thoughts and ideas, the conversations are focused on the week’s topic. Connecting with classmates on JWMI Connect or LinkedIn allows for broader conversations and engagement with the rest of the JWMI community. You will be surprised at how resourceful and helpful the JWMI family is.
5.) When in Rome…
…do as the Romans do. This tip is probably more related to the finance classes and perhaps the final capstone class. But, when you have an opportunity to analyze financials, strategies, and other aspects of a business, my advice is to select an American company. Firstly, it tends to be easier to find details about these companies online. But the main reason is the varying rules related to financial reporting. Choosing a local company may be more relevant, but remember, the idea is to learn the skill, not to do the actual analysis. The JWMI mantra states: “Learn on Monday, apply on Tuesday.” Take the time to learn the “how-to” skills before applying them. Using a U.S.-listed company allows the professors to teach you the skill rather than spending their time figuring out rules and regulations specific to your location. Once you have mastered the skill, you can always send a message to the professor later if you get stuck while trying to apply the skills.
6.) Accept your accent
Starting with JWI505 (Business Communications & Executive Presence) through the final Capstone course, you present your learnings via recorded Zoom presentations. Many international students are not native English speakers and can be self-conscious about their accents. Jack said:
“If there’s one thing that’s in short supply in almost every organization, at every level, it’s straight talk–candor.”
In this spirit, we had a great conversation on the various accents in my JWI575 class (New Business Ventures & Entrepreneurship). From a drawling Dutch accent to the quick rat-tat-tat Spanish accent, the main takeaway was to stay true to yourself and just deliver the message without worry. At most, try to slow down a little and carefully articulate words, but apart from that, don’t worry about different pronunciations. Your confidence will shine through and help to relay the message.
7.) Local is lekker
We have a saying in Namibia that says, “Local is lekker.” Lekker is an Afrikaans word that means sweet, tasty, fun, and enjoyable. I live and work in a developing economy. This can be a challenging work environment because business functions are not as sophisticated and well thought out as in developed economies. However, you shouldn’t see this as a disadvantage. Share these issues with your professor and your class. It creates interesting conversations and learning opportunities. In addition, you could gain some insight to help you turn these issues to your advantage or overcome a challenge to move your business forward.
Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn.
About Coen Welsh: Coen Welsh is a 2020 JWMI Graduate from Namibia. He is a qualified Industrial and Organizational Psychologist, and as a co-founder of Capacity Trust, he provides Psychometric Assessment services and Leadership Development training for new and emerging leaders.