Online To Outer Space: The MBA Honing Strategy At The South African National Space Agency

Paida Mhangara served as interim managing director at the South African National Space Agency after gaining his MBA from Edinburgh Business School

As the cost of accessing space plummets, business, scientific, and economic opportunities are flourishing. Space is still the final frontier, and while the laws of physics may change between terra firm and outer space, the skills behind business success are the same.

The space industry, like any other, needs business-savvy managers to make the right decisions, plan the financing of major projects, and motivate staff.

Paida Mhangara, who’s worked at the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) since 2011, pursued an online MBA with a specialism in strategic planning from Edinburgh Business School, the Graduate School of Business of Heriot-Watt University—named International University of the Year by the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018.

Immediate and tangible success has come his way as his studies, combined with his work experience, meant he was promoted to the role of interim managing director for the Earth Observation Division.

He’s since used his skills as Research and Applications Development Manager to secure new funding, re-engineer the strategic plans of the Earth Observation Division, and motivate his team to help the organization grow—his MBA, he says, was the integral cog.

How relevant are MBA skills in today’s space industry?

The skills gained through an MBA are critical for the success, sustainability and competitiveness of the space industry. Considering that most of the government shareholders that fund the space sector now demand to see the socio-economic impact of space science and technology to assess their return on investment, the need for business and management skills has never been greater.

My specialism has helped me contribute effectively to my organization’s new strategic and operational plans. I can categorically say my MBA skills helped me to positively contribute to the strategic growth of my organization and to support our CEO in the strategic planning process in a measurable manner. It made an immediate impact on my day-to-day work.

How did the MBA help you land the interim managing director role at SANSA?

I landed the role because my managerial experience was anchored in an MBA from Edinburgh Business School. This meant I had the technical and soft skills needed for the role—it was a no brainer.

I led the process of developing the strategic plan. It was an exciting and valuable opportunity which gave me the chance to exercise the range of skills learned on my MBA. I had just finished my specialism and this was the icing on the cake—a chance to practice my new trade that gave me a broad spectrum view of the whole organization.

How did you benefit from the flexibility of Edinburgh Business School’s online MBA program?

Although the courses are challenging and rigorous, the flexibility of the MBA program allows you to register for the exams when you feel ready. The school also provides you with a number of assessment tools to help you evaluate your readiness for examination.

This means you can study this MBA in your own time, from anywhere in the world. The flexibility of this distance learning meant I was excited to use MBA concepts at work and see their positive effects during my MBA study.

Why did you decide to pursue an online MBA from Edinburgh Business School?

Edinburgh Business School was an easy choice because of the program’s reputation and the direct impact it could have in my working environment. I wanted an MBA that I could apply immediately from day one.

The course structure meant I could practice whatever I learned from organizational behavior, strategic planning, marketing, project management, finance, and corporate governance into my work.

The online forums and tutorials were also appealing as they provide a platform for engagement with faculty and other students globally.

What advice do you have for anyone considering an MBA?

An MBA qualification empowers you, but requires a lot of commitment in terms of time. It’s important to select an MBA that has an impact from the onset and at the same time allows you the flexibility to customize your lifestyle and professional demands.

Take time to check the reputation of the business school. MBA workshops, newspapers, magazines and the internet provide valuable information regarding business schools and their focus. The profiles of MBA graduates from specific business schools of interest can easily be assessed online—this gives some guide on their professional progression.

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