Nizar Al Schekhli wants to drive companies’ social and environmental sustainability practices. But as a former manager at Dell, the multinational US IT corporation, the career switch has been a challenge.
An MBA program at Italy’s Bologna Business School has been a guiding star. Nizar enrolled in 2013. In addition to specializing in green energy and sustainable business, he has valued the diverse cohort.
Prior to the MBA, Nizar was a senior advisor at Dell and was based in Casablanca, in his home nation, Morocco. He rose through the ranks at the recently privatized tech company after joining as a process engineer in 2006.
One of a growing number of MBAs hoping to have a social impact on business, he landed last year a job at the Institute for Development, Environment and Energy, a non-profit which is driving the development of an energy efficiency dashboard for the Moroccan city of Agadir.
He believes companies cannot rely on finite resources and highlights the sharing economy, a collection of platforms that help people share access to property, resources, time and skills, as an example of business models warming to sustainability. He points to Uber, the taxi hailing app reportedly set to be valued at $50 billion, which is at the vanguard of the sharing economy.
When did you decide to begin an MBA?
The thought of continuing my education and obtaining a master’s degree had been with me for about three years before I applied for an MBA. I was waiting for the right time to take a break from my professional career so that I could be a full-time student again.
How would you describe your experience at Bologna Business School?
BBS was a great experience, with a lot of cultural diversity present in the program. I always find cultural diversity to be so enriching. It was an intense year and [there was] a lot of learning. I especially appreciated being introduced to the world of green energy and sustainable business.
You specialized in green energy and sustainable business. How has this been of benefit to you in your career so far?
It has so far allowed me to undertake a professional opportunity with a non-profit which works with local governments to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy. This has been a very enriching experience.
But after 10 years of work experience in operations and in IT, it’s not always simple to make a career switch. I am therefore still on the journey of combining my past career within the field of sustainability and green business.
What are the key challenges companies face in aligning social/environmental goals with profit?
Companies in most industries or fields can begin the journey of becoming more environmentally and socially sustainable. Companies that are able to make this switch at the cost of losing some short-term profit will be able to stay in business in the long-term because they become more independent and resilient to potential changes in global energy markets.
If we look at the big picture, overall our global economic model and what the global business community values will need to change. We cannot base our global economic system on the short-term in a world that is using finite resources. We see this happening already with some of the largest global companies having made it to the top by doing more with less or doing more with existing resources. Uber and Facebook are a couple examples.
What has been your greatest challenge at the Institute for Development, Environment and Energy?
My greatest development opportunity, and challenge, was to adapt to the world of international development and NGOs. This was quite different from what I was used to in a multinational, US based company. There was more bureaucracy to deal with and large reports needed to be written about on-going projects. I was used to PowerPoint slides and conference calls in a pretty fast moving environment.
What's it like living and working in Morocco?
The weather is great almost all year round and the economy is moving forward, which creates job opportunities. I just wish there were more English speaking opportunities, as opposed to business being conducted mainly in French. I think this would allow Morocco to attract a wider variety of talent.
What advice do you have for MBA students who are about to graduate?
First of all, for the MBA students that are at BBS for a career change, I think it’s important to set expectations in terms of the complexity of the task to switch careers successfully. I’ve experienced this and seen other classmates experience it.
On a more positive note, it is possible [to switch career paths] if one targets the right jobs, where you can sell your transferrable skills from previous experiences, along with your MBA.