Transforming the person – not just the career

Transforming the person – not just the career

Mohammed Roushdy, MBA
Fintech | Open Banking | Experienced CIO | IDC CIO50 | Proptech | 
Blockchain enthusiast | Digital Transformation | CXO Advisor | Speaker | Strategy and Innovation
Cohort of 2013

When I first thought about The University of Manchester and the MBA, I really wanted to achieve something. I had been Head of IT but I wanted to move more towards business technology or a C level role. I wanted to transform myself from a technologist but more than this, by joining a business school and through my MBA studies I really wanted to move to another level.  

So, I started researching business schools in the UAE and went through the rankings and the student feedback to learn more about the impact of the experience. I could see that Manchester had a good MBA ranking in the FT and was triple accredited, so the name was very recognized and I thought this could develop my knowledge and push my career.

From the very beginning and starting with the welcome from Randa and her team, I could see their commitment and the very personalised approach they were taking. They interacted with us personally and obviously cared for the relatively small group of students in the first cohort. 

So, I joined the programme, and met lots of very talented people from the UAE and GCC, as well as other countries. I quickly saw the big advantage of studying with great faculty.

The personal journey.

My career did not always move as I expected. I started work in banks and then several years later with a number of startups but these were only short term.

The MBA and management skills helped a lot and I had the ability to manoeuvre, adjust and flex  as I went from a CIO role to consulting with the demand for substantial consulting skills.

I started thinking more deeply about management and leadership and was able to survive and thrive, as I started to think differently and behave differently. I found that I was no longer tied to IT and engineering and had developed other abilities such as public speaking. Before this, I was quite shy and found it difficult to speak to an audience but in the MBA, we had to stand and present our case and this helped give me the courage to do it. This new-found confidence proved to be very valuable later on, when I started to present at major conferences about cloud computing.

Starting the MBA and studying with different students and faculty, spending three-day workshops working 15 hours a day, then presenting the findings – all of this experience helped me a lot later on in my career and had an impact on my future career. The confidence I gained through the MBA meant that I never feared to take a position and always believe I can do it. 

The workshop use case discussions about companies succeeding and failing directly helped me in my career. After the MBA, I became advisor on technology and innovation to the CEO of a major bank, and also worked with one of the Big 4 management consultancies, so I know I can do these kinds of roles and really enjoy them.

Before the MBA, I didn’t have the knowledge about business and management, strategy and leadership and my main aim was to move from being a technology leader to a business leader. Through this process of change, I moved from looking at a C-level role to focusing more on knowledge creation and transfer. I became less interested in the c-level status and wanted to concentrate on impact as a person – this included my colleagues, friends, family and community. My thinking changed and shifted from career development to the development of me as a person.

One of my recent great experiences was the collaboration with Smart Dubai in piloting and launching the UAE Pass – the National Digital Identity and Digital Signature solution for the UAE. I am proud of being the first CIO in the UAE to integrate operations with the UAE Pass and I was recognised in the IDC 50 CIO 2021 Awards for this transformational project. It is an initiative which encourages innovation for all – not just the company I worked for but the whole community. Smart Dubai is a champion of innovation and is closely aligned with the UAE leadership, which is one of the reasons I consider Dubai to be the Silicon Valley of the Middle East. 

This experience gave me some excellent experience and helped me build a good presence on social media platforms, and to speak at many conferences and to advise FinTechs and regional bodies.

The MBA gives you tools and these include the soft skills that are essential for leadership success and the chance to test them by working with different colleagues and students from different backgrounds on assignments to deadlines, during workshops. It was a very different learning experience to what I was used to. The leadership course was an especially important elective for me and covered the aspects I wanted – strategy and leadership – the two pillars needed to transition from my previous roles to new ones.
Keeping in contact 

One of the great things about the MBA is that you build a community and this continues after graduation with many colleagues who have succeeded and kept in touch – we still collaborate and discuss together to help open doors and share opportunities. The community is inspiring with a wide range of different people from different backgrounds, specialisations and experience, helping each other within a great community.

Looking back

I have brought with me a number of things from the MBA experience – the resilience and grit to get things done, to believe in yourself and make things happen. I have achieved things considered nearly impossible for companies I have worked with, and this has been great experience.

Some people want to follow a 25-year career track with a company but this is not for me. This is why I enjoyed the MBA workshops so much – they were very disruptive for me, coming from a highly structured engineering background. 

I have much broader roles now and the C-level is not my objective. Business is transforming rapidly thanks to disruptive technology and this is creating the opportunities that I welcome. My career is not very planned but a series of opportunities for interesting collaboration. I believe it’s important to be flexible and recognise that a journey from A to B is not always a straight line.

Above all, the MBA gave me the confidence and knowledge to change and it opened up my personality and broadened my attitudes. You have to learn how to learn and there is a need to keep learning and we must all find the time and opportunity - I am looking at the DBA now because we cannot stop. I wanted to move out of my comfort zone and have certainly achieved this. It’s fun but takes a lot of effort.

The best of times

I have some great memories of the people and faculty from the MBA days – the courses were very good and I am still in touch with one professor.  My advice to MBA candidates would be to widen your horizons and start the MBA. I was speaking to someone who was worried about their career – the company and the economy – and I said that the only time to start worrying is when you stop learning, so start the MBA. 

I am very proud to be part of The University of Manchester and will continue to collaborate with the University and encourage others to join the MBA.