AGSM MBA Flies Flag For Women In Business At Nestlé

AGSM MBA Ayesha Shahed juggles family with career

After a successful career in engineering, Ayesha Shahed took advantage of the time spent out of work looking after her family to pursue an MBA at the Australian Graduate School of Management.

Throughout her career, Ayesha has flown the flag for women in business. At undergraduate level, she was chairperson of the IEEE Women in Engineering chapter at her university.

At AGSM she was vice president of the Women in Leadership Club, arranging events which would benefit the school's female community in terms of personal and professional empowerment, improvement and engagement. The club collaborated with the Boston Consulting Group; holding a discussion forum and networking event at their office.

After completing her undergraduate engineering degree, Ayesha was recruited by Motorola and became the first ever female cellular field engineer in Pakistan. It was at Motorola that she met her husband. She was goalkeeper on the company football team, and he was the striker!

They then moved together to Australia where Ayesha joined Nokia Siemens Networks as a project support engineer before leaving to concentrate on her family. Since graduating from AGSM earlier this year, Ayesha has transitioned her career to become an assistant brand manager for Nestle's healthy snacks team.

Why did you decide to study for an MBA at that stage in your career?

I never wanted to be stuck in a technical role, behind a laptop screen forever.  I’ve always wanted to know about the business side of things, and move into areas where I could see the impact of my activities on the customer.

The timing to pursue an MBA was perfect as I was already away from work for 18 months looking after my new-born son. In that time my husband had started an EMBA at AGSM and I noticed the positive impact it had on his personal and professional life.

His progressive transitions, and my curiosity to learn more about business and commerce inspired me to do an MBA before hitting the workforce again.

What was the hardest thing about the MBA application process?

At that stage in my life, all my conversations revolved around my baby and his development. It was very hard to put my professional hat back on and prepare for the GMAT while my son constantly interrupted me!

The essay questions were hard to conquer for the same reason. I had been away from work and adult conversations for so long, I had not really reflected on myself and my achievements!

Why did you choose to study at AGSM in particular?

AGSM was my top and only choice because of its ranking and reputation. I was impressed by the faculty and the case study based learning.

Why do you think we are seeing increasing numbers of female MBA students and graduates?

I think this is because of the ‘shrinking global village”. Candidates are more exposed to and aware of the changing needs of business. This helps them recognise gaps in their career earlier on and they are able to make informed decisions to work towards filling them.

I also feel that there might be an increase in female students, because they think they need to ‘qualify’ before asking for or seeking higher management roles, as compared to their male counterparts.

The MBA provides a safe controlled environment to test your strengths and hone your skills, it is a huge confidence booster and the best tool for someone who is looking to transition between functions and roles.

What do you see as the future for women in business? When will top-level CEO job roles be occupied with as many women as men?

It is a long way ahead, but we are getting there. The future of women in business does not lie in their hands alone, it is a community effort. There needs to be a change in the mindset of both genders and more work should be done around overcoming biases.

How have you profited from your experience studying for an MBA?

Studying for an MBA was everything I had hoped for and more. It exposed me to so many opportunities and broadened my horizons. The people I met, the friends I made and the experiences we shared are going to have a lifelong impact on me.

It has changed the way I look at things. It’s has given me a strategic mindset and opened up so many doors. It’s given me the confidence and options so that I can live life by desire not by default.

What is it like working for a big company like Nestle?

It is amazing here at Nestle. It’s a huge company and there is so much history but at the same time it is contemporary in its approach and doing a lot in terms of innovation and keeping up with changing times.

The people are very friendly and approachable. In the short 4 weeks that I’ve been here, I have already visited the factory and attended 4 office parties!

It has a fairly flat structure and I have easy access to leaders and colleagues across various functions. There is a lot of collaboration and everyone talks to everyone else before something gets done.

At NSN or Motorola, I was used to working on individual projects on longer timelines, but here the work is so fast paced and ever-changing that you are better off having a chat about it rather than email or writing a report!

What are your plans for the future?

With enough business experience behind me, I want to become an executive coach. I am very interested in Organisation Behaviour and Organisation Development and I aim to use every opportunity to learn from my experiences.

I am a teacher at heart and developing others is one of my strengths. I want to settle down doing something I love and having the time to invest in my family.

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