Winning Voices:  Elnur Gurbanov, Chairman of the Board of Directors of AFB Bank, Gilan Holding

Winning Voices:  Elnur Gurbanov, Chairman of the Board of Directors of AFB Bank, Gilan Holding

Each week, JWMI profiles students and alumni in its new featured series “Winning Voices.” Learn about our diverse community and what sets our program apart from those who have experienced it. For more great “Winning Voices” content, click here.

Elnur Gurbanov
Chairman of the Board of Directors of AFB Bank
Gilan Holding
Program/Concentration: Jack Welch MBA with Human Resources Concentration

Please share what company you work for and what your job responsibilities are.

I am from Baku, Azerbaijan. I currently serve as Chairman of the Board of Directors of AFB Bank, an affiliate of Gilan Holding. As Chairman, my primary responsibility is to monitor and govern the Bank’s operations and continually improve its strategy. I am involved in the C-Suite level decision-making process of both the Bank and the Holding company.

Additionally, I have more than ten years of professional experience as an Audit Partner in the Big 4 company–Deloitte CIS countries. I have extensive expertise in the audit and review of financial statements prepared under international standards and the establishment of the reporting systems. Moreover, I lead several due diligence investigations, implemented large-scale consulting projects, and managed multiple international projects while working in Belarus and Russia. Furthermore, I am a fellow member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (FCCA), UK.

Why were you looking to get an MBA?

Having more than fifteen years of executive leadership experience and having a seat at the C-Suite table, promotions were not considered key factors for pursuing the MBA program.

The most important reasons for me to get my MBA were to learn how to improve my people management skills and reinforce my executive presence and emotional intelligence to further strengthen my position within the C-Suite and efficiently perform transformational initiatives.

Did you find the curriculum immediately applicable?

The program helped me to understand that people are the most important assets of any organization. I am now continually supporting our people’s interests through recognition, autonomy in execution, engagement, and coaching, as well as promoting the “role model” behavior.

Additionally, it was critical for me to recognize in today’s dynamic global and local environments, that attachment to the concept of building a “sustainable competitive advantage” is no longer a winning strategy. In today’s fast-moving world, any competitive advantage is transient. Knowing “what the playing field eats for breakfast” will significantly contribute to the strategic positioning of the business, its ability to be proactive and agile, as well as keep the differentiation in its core.

I have already been able to embed the Kotter’s change framework in the change management structure, improve C-level coaching, reimagine the performance management system through redefining the reward system, and developmental actions.

Personally, I started to use candor during the very tough discussions within the C-Suite and beyond, as well as significantly improved my emotional intelligence by becoming more self-aware, regulated, and motivated. This helped me effectively oversee major changes in the workplace and resolve any arising disputes fairly and promptly. Through candor and empathy, I understood people better and defined what factors motivate them to deliver the required results and exceed KPIs.

Additionally, I supported the digitalization process to optimize operations, and now promote the “continuous improvement” and “putting people first” environment.

What’s been your most rewarding experience in the program?

The curriculum of the MBA program was professionally structured and delivered. The selected materials were very relevant for my business and could be adapted to any industry and role.

One of the most important benefits of the Jack Welch MBA program is that it provides the ability to apply what you learned in your professional execution immediately. After each MBA lecture, students returned to their jobs, applied what they learned, added value, and shared this experience during the discussions. This allowed us to learn from each other.

Being a part of JWMI was like being a part of the world. I felt a sense of community right away, and that community was comprised of professors and classmates from all over the world with diverse backgrounds and visions. Additionally, I was exposed to global issues and ideas and learned from the examples of others. Business is an extremely extensive umbrella. Therefore, connecting with students of all different ages, career paths, and national origins enables you to consider new ideas and reimagine your old viewpoints. My experience at JWMI helped reinforce my ability to think critically and independently, as well as form my leadership belief and priority to serve and pursue candor in everything I do.

Now, I am equipped with real-life professional experience, effective and relevant business concepts, as well as case studies of other successful global leaders to sustain my successful leadership and execution effectively.

The quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. comes to mind: “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.” This is exactly what JWMI gave me.

How did you navigate school, family, and work? What strategies did you implement to get it done?

Pursuing an online MBA program is a great decision and investment to make, especially for an executive or any busy professional. Considering an online education with strong global credibility increases chances of balancing work and family responsibilities while keeping an eye on the future. Flexibility is a true differentiator here, as the program offers an asynchronous learning platform that is adaptable to complex, busy schedules. Another differentiator is accessibility; the ability to access online materials anywhere contributes significantly to student success.

I was able to work full-time in different places, travel locally and globally, keep contributing to my professional networking with the key stakeholders, and, most importantly, spent time with my loved ones. Time management is critical. Setting “to do” lists every day, prioritizing, working efficiently to quickly complete tasks rather than procrastinating, and regular yoga and recreational activities helped me manage all these things together with little stress or physical and emotional exhaustion.

Please share any advice for new students embarking on the MBA journey.

One of the best investments you do throughout your life is the investment in yourself. Education will indeed bring you the opportunity to make a difference, rethink standard approaches to complex business situations, and make you significantly self-aware and confident. After pursuing such a simultaneously challenging and exciting journey, the ROIs will not keep you waiting, and you will immediately see results.

Compete with your self—show yourself that you can and become better than you were. Good luck!

Connect with Elnur Gurbanov on Linkedin

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