The Ins And Outs Of Mbas

The ins and outs of MBAs

TMX's Head of People and Culture, Natasha Wooderson, talks to The Age about the irreplaceable value of industry experience.

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The Age


28 March 2024

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Employers value staff who have a Master of Business Administration for the way the course teaches students to think.

But to be really effective, employers say in addition to people with management training, great teams must also include members with long-term industry experience.

Melbourne-based Natasha Wooderson is head of people and culture at TMX Transform, a global supply chain consulting firm with 210 staff based around the world. The business employs a number of MBA graduates, including her.

“We value people who have MBAs because of their strategic way of thinking and long-term investment mindset,” she says.

“When we hire an MBA graduate, we’re not just hiring an expert in one field. We are hiring someone who has the ability to understand what the market is saying for our clients and apply that strategic thinking to solve a problem.”

As well as MBA graduates, Wooderson says the business has a focus on hiring people who have worked in the supply chain, including those with experience on manufacturing lines or who have been electricians.

"Different talent pools bring different advantages."

People with an MBA understand what the marketing and sales teams do and how HR works within a business connect - but that can’t replace experience working in an industry. An MBA gives people context, exposure and the ability to understand the business.

Natasha Wooderson, TMX Head of People and Culture
Natasha Wooderson

Masud Hossain Majumder is an MBA graduate of the University of Queensland and a director of MBA Australasia, the body that represents MBA students in Australia and New Zealand. A senior mine planning engineer at Alcoa, he says when companies employ people with an MBA, they know they are getting someone with substantial knowledge of the workings of business.

“My background is in mining engineering. The MBA allowed me to diversify my skill sets and understand what the community expects from mining activities and what other parts of the business need,” says Majumder.

“Companies value hiring generalists with broader horizons, who understand what HR and finance do. It can take people who are doctors or nurses and teach them about how to manage a whole company by understanding different parts of the business.”

Experts say employers value what doing an MBA says about a person. Peter Salt, chief executive of executive search firm Salt & Shein, says going to the effort, both in time and finances, of completing an MBA gives companies insights into someone’s drive, ambition and aspirations.

“From an organisational standpoint, it provides meaningful insight into someone’s commitment to their career,” he says.

Evidence indicates MBAs can boost someone’s salary, although that’s not always the case. Wooderson indicates an MBA doesn’t have a material impact on salary at TMX Transform.

We pay for performance and the value you can bring to a role, it’s not really about your credentials.

Natasha Wooderson

While an MBA may not have a significant bearing on salaries at TMX Transform, global data suggests the qualification does generally help to boost pay.

The 2024 UK Financial Times MBA rankings show graduates from the two Australian universities to have made the top 100 are likely to reap the financial rewards.

MBA graduates from Sydney University, ranked number 63 this year, earn $170,855 on average a year, a rise of more than 108 per cent compared to their annual earnings before the MBA.

Meanwhile, graduates of UNSW Business School’s AGSM MBA program earn $121,582 a year on average, a 47 per cent jump on their previous salary, on average.

Salaries aside, companies value an MBA graduate’s ability to connect with and seek counsel from the network they build during their time earning the qualification.

The degree gives you different perspectives. A lot of MBAs are people from Asia, the UK, the US, and the rest of the world. So it's a good source of potential new talent. And it's a good source of second opinions when you're working on a solution for a client.

Natasha Wooderson

As for who pays for the course, Salt says it’s usual for companies to at least make a contribution to the tuition being paid by their staff members, as part of their salary. “It’s often part of employee reward and recognition programs,” he says.

Nevertheless, an MBA isn’t necessarily a shortcut for career advancement.

“By all means consider an MBA, but do so for the right reasons,” says Salt.

“Don’t see it as your keys to the kingdom or think an MBA will magically open every door, because that will not happen.”

“Do it because you have intellectual curiosity and want to keep your brain fresh,” she says.

“But don’t do it believing it will help you to achieve things you might not otherwise achieve, because you will be very disappointed.”

This story was written by Alexandra Cain and was originally published in The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Brisbane Times, and WA Today on March 28, 2024.

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