Wired for leadership: how an MBA can boost your career

Parthiban Devanathan is a lead principal electrical engineer at WorleyParsons, an Australian engineering firm with operations across the globe. Wanting to take on a leadership role at the company, he recently completed an online MBA with the University of Roehampton. The Student Engineer caught up with Parthiban to find out about the course, and how it has impacted his career.


(Credit: University of Roehampton)

Where did you study for your undergraduate degree?

I studied engineering at College of Engineering (Madras) in Chennai, India. I have always had a passion and willingness to face and overcome technical challenges.

What made you decide to get an MBA?

I was starting to work in different global markets and collaborate with different colleagues and mindsets – spanning from Central Asia to Europe and in between, to places such as Georgia and Turkey. I was also working on many engineering projects that required a certain level of knowledge to manage the budget and other financial aspects. I realised if I wanted to shift toward management, there was so much more to learn that could ultimately help my organisation’s bottom line, including better people collaboration and management skills as well as different business operations. So, I decided to pursue an MBA.

There are so many MBA programmes. How did you find the right one for you?

I did my research and found that I would need to do an online programme in order to balance between my existing work and family life. The University of Roehampton, London Online offered a strong syllabus, flexibility in my schedule, and the ability to interact with students from all over the world, which was an important aspect of being able to further my career.

How has earning your MBA impacted your work as an engineer and your leadership skills?

Studying for my MBA had an instant impact on my career. One module in particular that stood out was focused on HR, and how to manage people in your organisations. I was immediately able to recognise the difference it had made in my approach to work; it changed how I perceived my own interactions with my organisation and my colleagues, and their attitudes toward me.

I was also learning from other students’ experiences. I was seeing things from different perspectives which provided added value not only to my career, but to my own daily life. Through their own social media platform, Inspirenet, Roehampton students come together to discuss our studies and discuss issues that we could work together to solve. We’re still in contact today, and we all loved that we were able to see the immediate impact that we had on each other’s learning and careers.

I can also see how much my study has broadened my mindset, exposing me to new ideas (even in my own industry), and enhanced my knowledge and my approach to problem-solving. Studying for my MBA at Roehampton allowed me to face issues and address my professional challenges with such confidence. I would strongly recommend the experience to any engineers looking for the next exciting stage of their career.

Grove House at dusk, University of Roehampton, London

Grove House, University of Roehampton, London (Credit: Diliff via CC)

How did your employer view it?

I was managing a small team of about 15 engineers. As I progressed with my degree, the new skills I was developing were recognised by my managers. I was soon promoted to department manager and given greater responsibility. The promotion changed my career into a major contributor to the organisation as I became more involved in bidding, interacting with clients and representing the company in major events. As a department manager, I manage a team of 43 people and am in charge of recruitment, training and development activities of my team members. My MBA was an important stepping stone that helped me get there.

Any words of wisdom for other engineers considering an MBA?

While it can be challenging to fit your study around existing work and family life, the experience is invaluable. You develop tremendous discipline since the programme forces you to learn time-management skills quickly. I learned to use my spare time wisely to get the most out of my studies so I didn’t have to sacrifice spending time with my family to study. Family and friends are your most important support system at this time, as they can see how important it is that you have made this commitment, and how it is going to help you in your future career. They are fundamental in helping you realise your ambitions.

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