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Using An MBA To Advance Your Career In Banking

Susan Beharrell used her MBA to gain more international exposure, taking a module in Dubai while working in banking at BNY Mellon. The result was promotion to a global management role


Mon Nov 25 2019


Why should you consider an MBA? In banking, or whatever industry you’re in, an MBA is a chance to meet a fresh network of people, explore international opportunities, and develop your management knowledge. 

For many, an MBA is a chance to advance a career within the same industry; to get a promotion and take on a leadership role. This is particularly true of professional MBA degrees, such as online and part-time MBA programs, which you can study while you work. 

Native Mancunian, Susan Beharrell, chose to pursue the Global Part-Time MBA at Alliance Manchester Business School (AMBS) alongside her job at BNY Mellon. She wanted to increase her international exposure through the MBA program, which is delivered across six global study locations: Manchester, Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and São Paolo. AMBS also held its first ever elective in Tokyo last month. 

70% of AMBS MBA students typically take at least one class outside of their home campus––something the school encourages by paying for six nights of accommodation for each student. 

“We’re no longer living on an island,” Susan says. “We’re a global community and, therefore, it’s imperative to understand how the global community works.” 

Part-time learning in Dubai 

Susan decided to study the MBA’s strategic project management module at the Dubai Middle East Center, part of AMBS’ overseas network. The Center’s director, Randa Bessiso, was named one of the Middle East’s most influential women by Forbes Magazine in 2018.  

Susan’s current company, BNY Mellon, expanded into Dubai in 2008, so understanding the different banking processes there was particularly useful. “It was interesting understanding the regulations in countries I hadn’t dealt with before,” she says.  

Susan was able to have face-to-face conversations with her local counterparts around risk management in banking, which she says gave her a broader outlook of the company she works for. 

“I now appreciate my colleagues who work overseas,” she adds. “I am better able to connect with them and understand their culture and where they come from.” 

It wasn’t the easiest process, and Susan admits she found working in teams with varying cultures challenging. She says working across cultures was a steep learning curve that every successful businessperson should experience—and it’s changed her approach in teamwork scenarios. Instead of forcing others to adapt to her, she says she’s learned how to adapt to the people she is working with. 

This is something she learned at AMBS’s home campus in Manchester, too, which hosts international students from Europe, Central Asia, Africa, and North America. 90 countries are currently represented by participants of the part-time MBA program and 176 countries across AMBS' network of 60,000 alumni. 

“To get the best out of people you need to understand how they work, and what their culture is, and you need to adapt to them to be able to do that.” 

Advancing your banking career with international experience 

Since Susan left a catering job in Manchester to start a new life in London 25 years ago, she’s enjoyed a successful banking career at big-name market-leaders such as Bank of America Merrill Lynch, The Co-operative Bank, and now BNY Mellon. 

Yet even experienced professionals, she says, can benefit from the kind of international experience on offer on an MBA program. After completing the MBA, Susan was promoted to a more senior role at BNY Mellon, where she manages projects across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA). 

“The MBA has given me the ability to do this because it’s given me the knowledge to have an end-to-end understanding of business,” she says. 

Working for a global company like BNY Mellon, it’s important to be aware of the diversity within the workforce. How do they contribute to the global brand? What do they do differently to you? What can you learn from them? Adjusting her mindset to accommodate this international perspective was one of the key takeaways Susan gained from her experience in Dubai. 

“For anybody doing an MBA and wanting to progress their career, they need this knowledge,” she emphasizes. “There’s usually a rationale behind why people work the way they do, and the Global Part-Time MBA at AMBS shows you that.”

This article was written by Jasmine Lee-Zogbessou and Emanuela Hawker

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