A wealth of experience as the regional IT manager of the Europe, India, Middle East and Africa operations of consumer goods giant Henkel has not blighted Mina Ishak’s ambitious personality. A desire to learn and improve drove the self-professed engineer at heart to pursue an MBA at the AUC School of Business in 2016. During his studies, Ishak decided to add to his knowledge by becoming the first AUC student to participate in the new exchange program between the School and EADA Business School in Barcelona. Enrolling in an intensive 12-course, four-month program in Spain, in his eyes, further provided a noticeable boost to his business acumen.
The AUC School of Business caught up with Ishak upon his return to find out more about what his MBA experience has been like.
What made you choose the AUC School of Business?
I scanned Egypt for the best business school. All the feedback that I received directed me towards AUC. I even sat with some AUC alumni who told me that the MBA is a good certificate. That’s what gave me further motivation: the things that I heard from the graduates plus the fact that it is the only School in the Middle East with the Triple Crown [accreditation]. Even the university that I went to in Spain [EADA] is not Triple Crown [accredited].
What makes an accreditation like the Triple Crown important to you?
The recognition. Wherever I am – England, the United States, Europe – I’m recognized without having to do anything.
What skills do you feel you have gained thus far at the AUC School of Business?
I took nine courses before I travelled [to Spain]. I used to have the knowledge, the technical ideas, but I couldn’t present them and didn’t understand how to really motivate my team for example. When I took HR topics within the MBA, I started to find methods to deal with my team in a better way, so the team started to perform better.
I [also] didn’t have any financial background [in the beginning], but when I started learning, the perspective changed completely. From an engineering perspective, you look [at something] with the view that we have to do it because it’s right from a technical point of view, but you don’t see the full picture. Theoretical knowledge is good, but it’s not enough – it’s never enough. There are things that used to happen in the past that I didn’t fully understand until I studied the MBA.
How did your employer feel about you going abroad during your MBA studies?
Under normal circumstances, anyone that asks a company for a four-month break usually has the request rejected. Honestly, I have to give credit to Henkel because once I asked, I found support from the country and the cluster president as well as [company] management in Germany. Generally, from the moment that I started my MBA, the feedback that I have been receiving from the company flipped 180 degrees.
The MBA has had a great impact on me because I am an engineer [at heart]. I was a very, very mathematical person. I didn’t do a lot of business talks, or couldn’t conduct my reasoning in business language well enough. But when I started my MBA, the situation changed drastically – even from the first year.
Was it a challenge for you to be the first AUCian to go to EADA?
It was a responsibility because if I did badly, then there was a chance for [people at] EADA to have a bad impression about AUC. I decided that I would do my best despite also working full time at the same time. My days were 12 hours: four hours of studying and eight hours at work, plus two hours every day preparing for the following one. I used to calculate everything by the minute.
What advice would you give younger students seeking to carve out a successful career for themselves?
A couple of years ago, I was travelling back to Egypt from France. I was supposed to be on the EGYPTAIR Flight 804, which tragically crashed. Luckily, I had switched flights at the last second and caught a different flight, one hour apart, back to Cairo.
That has given me a sense of gratitude [ever since] obviously, but also a tremendous sense of responsibility to do everything that I wanted to do now, not in the future. So I lost around 20 kilograms and turned my life 180 degrees to accomplish everything that I wanted to do. If I could give younger people any piece of advice, I would tell them to do anything that you want to do now because you don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.