A new breed of MBA growing in Auckland

Venkat Raman 

While traditional courses in management practices continue to attract young students and people on their career paths, a new breed of MBA is beginning to gain traction at the Unitec Campus in Auckland.

‘Master of Applied Practice-Technological Futures’ run by Tech Futures Lab provides opportunities for people to acquire knowledge and skills to re-engineer their careers, link business decisions with technology and remain at the cutting edge.

Accredited by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA), the 50-week Programme is administered by Tech Futures Lab in association with Unitec, the first batch of candidates are due for their graduation now.

Adapting to change

Frances Valintine, Tech Futures Lab Founder and education futurist, believes that there is a growing need for tertiary programmes to evolve and adapt to prepare students for the future of work.

A member on the Board of Directors of Callaghan Innovation, KEA New Zealand and the US Board of Talentnomics, an organisation committed to the empowerment of women in developing nations, Ms Valintine perceived the need for an alternative to the conventional MBA course to enable people to be innovative in an evolving world of businesses and vicissitudes.

“The Master of Applied Practice has achieved global recognition for its focus on challenging old thinking and enabling students to connect with the best in the business with expert mentoring and advice,” she said.

Diana Sharma: Prime Example

Unitec General Manager (Alliances and Partnerships) Diana Sharma is a prime example of people who love challenges and do something different even in their well- settled careers.

“Traditional business and administration MBA is not for me because it is based on an outdated way of looking at business. I wanted something more relevant and tangible for our tech-enabled world,” she said.

It was during a workshop conducted by Ms Valintine that Ms Sharma realised that she had not accounted for the impact that new technology has been exercising on business, and the world.

“That is what triggered me to think about what I was doing in my life. It was not about a job or money, it was about ‘What is my purpose, what is that I can do that actually makes a difference to the future of the world?”

In her various roles, Ms Sharma is “always doing something new, always testing and tweaking projects and ideas, and having an open dialogue with customers, seeing what is working, and fixing what needs to be fixed.”

Defining hours

She said this programme broadened her perspective and got her thinking differently and asking the important questions.

“This programme gave me the flexibility to think in a safe environment and explore new ideas, while also giving essential knowledge about future technologies,” she said.

Ms Sharma recently completed the first 12 weeks of the 50-week Programme during which she developed a unique project with the support of skilled technical experts and leading industry mentors.

While she is still refining and building her project, Ms Sharma is driven to create a digital platform for families to preserve and share their stories and memories.

Her project stems from her own memory of escaping Kuwait as a young child.

Digitalising memories

Her family left the oil-rich Gulf State in September 1990 following the Iraqi occupation a month earlier. The experience has now prompted her to explore modern ways of using technology to preserve precious family heritage.

“This Masters programme is curated for your personal journey, which is quite different from what other education environments are like, where you are expected to follow a certain rhythm. This is real, and you will end up with something real, not theoretical,” she said.

She used the Masters of Applied Practice – Technological Futures, to cultivate and implement her idea for a digital storytelling platform to help families preserve their memories and heritage for future generations. Her experience in Kuwait made her see an opportunity to create a means for families to protect their treasured stories digitally.

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