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Lancaster School MBA Gives African Banker Career Credit

Ellah Makuba is banking on an MBA in the UK to move into front office finance.

Fri Jul 31 2015

Ellah Makuba left a career in Ghana’s banking industry to begin an MBA in the UK at Lancaster University Management School, last year. The former relationship manager has no regrets on leaving the west African nation.

The MBA has given him the skill-set, confidence and network to move into middle-management finance. Ellah aspires to work in investment banking or financial consulting in the UK, the Middle East or Africa when he graduates this year.

He is currently working on a consultancy project, part of the Lancaster MBA, for Bolton at Home, a UK provider of social housing.

The accounting graduate previously spent five years leading business development at Guaranty Trust Bank in Ghana, one of Africa’s biggest banks.

He also worked as an accounting and finance officer at IC Securities, an Africa-focused investment banking and securities firm.

Why did you decide to begin an MBA?

The decision to pursue an MBA was a cautious one made with input from my immediate boss. Having worked as a corporate and retail banker for five years in various roles — the last of which as a branch manager — I had gained enough experience to take up greater roles and responsibilities in the banking sector.

However, I lacked the requisite managerial skill-set to vie for middle-management positions. That was the first time I considered doing an MBA. I sought counsel from my boss, who recommended an MBA to acquire managerial expertise.

What has been the highlight of your experience at Lancaster University Management School so far?

Three key experiential blocks on the MBA program stand out as the highlight for me: the Mindful Manager Module, Strategy Week, and the career events in London.

The reflective and reflexive way in which the Mindful Manager Module immerses one is incredibly powerful and unforgettable. Each session gets you to think about self-awareness. At the same time, it teaches you how to be sensitive to your environment, although it is a constant struggle to stay aware of one’s own prejudices.

The Strategy Week is a memorable, intensive and super-charged team and lecturers’ engagement week. This is the real deal when it comes to working in multi-cultural teams and managing cross-cultural engagement. Agreeing to disagree is an understatement. You emerge with a mix of political, negotiation and coalition building skills.

We have a dedicated and truly caring careers team at Lancaster University who go all out to present networking opportunities to us. Careers events in London have been truly beneficial. Even if it doesn’t directly lead to securing a job, you remain confident that you are better placed for future opportunities in terms of referrals.

What’s it like living and working in Ghana, and how does the business culture differ to that of the UK?

The working environment is very competitive here in the UK. People have a drive to self-improve and stay ahead of the pack to get noticed by employers. Comparatively, life in Ghana is much slower and this reflects the business culture.

However, the inflow of foreign businesses in Ghana within the last decade has impacted the working environment — it has become much more aggressive, with fierce competition.

Undoubtedly it took a while for me to adjust to the pacey environment in the UK, but I can comfortably say that I am well placed to fit into the UK business culture should the opportunity arise to work for a company here.

What has been the most valuable aspect of your MBA consultancy project with Bolton at Home?

Under the flagship Lancaster MBA Corporate Challenge Module, it is a real learning experience, reinforcing a previous consultancy project and a strategy module.

The client engagement, where we interact with key staff and management to understand the strategic issues facing the business, is particularly insightful, as we bring our strategic questioning skills to provoke the right responses.

It’s also an opportunity to deploy the strategy formulation skills that we acquired on the MBA program, and to make diligent use of the consultancy toolkit.

What advice do you have for people who are about to apply to business school?

My candid advice is to first conduct self-diagnoses on what you really want out of the program. This should be done in careful consideration of career ambition, which should then inform the choice of business school.

It will be useful to discuss this with a superior at your intended workplace, or business school alumni.

What are your future career plans?

I now feel ready to pursue higher roles in the banking sector. I am currently looking for suitable opportunities in the industry and have been closely monitoring activities of leading banks both in the UK, Middle East and Africa.

Interesting roles in investment banking and financial services consulting are part of my job search.