Executive MBA Dubai
British / Zimbabwe
Job Post Program:
Senior Corporate Strategy Advisor, Qatar Development Bank
With a life and career spanning three continents, Alither Rutendo Mutsago-Makanya has a truly global perspective. She spent her early life in Zimbabwe and later in Cape Town, has lived and worked in London ever since, and now lives in Doha, Qatar. Today she shares her passion for learning, her early experiences in development and entrepreneurship and why she chose the Executive MBA Dubai (EMBA) program.
I was born and raised in Harare, Zimbabwe. I left Zimbabwe right after high school to join my brother at one of the best universities in Africa, the University of Cape Town (UCT). It became my haven for the next five and a half years as I studied undergraduate and graduate economics specializing in development and health economics.
The UK Economic Service hired me when I was doing my Masters. I spent the next 12 years of my career in different departments. I started as a graduate economist at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in London, where I worked on UK pensions and international labor markets. I was later seconded to the Department for International Development, where I applied my passion for development and business to a variety of programs including Aid for Trade, Private Sector Development, Global Funds and Budget Support in Africa. I then returned to DWP, where I worked on the Enabling Retirement Savings program, the Universal Credit Welfare Reform Guideline, and Housing Aid in Qatar with my husband and family.
When I arrived in Qatar, I took a short break from government policy and economic advisory services and joined science, First and second year professor of economics at Georgetown University. I then took a career break during my maternity leave, but didn’t stop completely – I co-founded Yibuntu Growers, an agro-based export sales start-up, with two friends. We imported and exported fruits and vegetables from different parts of Africa to Qatar, connecting large and small farmers with global supply chains and markets. At that point I started my EMBA.
After extensive research at renowned and elite business schools, I was drawn to the London Business School. The depth and balance in areas such as finance and strategy as well as entrepreneurship courses tailored to my future career aspirations, so i was sold. At this point in my life I longed for a career change, from specializing in economics to strategy and entrepreneurship. I exchanged ideas with students, alumni and professors before I made my decision.
Every course at the EMBA has pushed me beyond my comfort zone and triggered a change in thinking on the trip. But to highlight a few in particular – I have to say Managerial Economics, which was taught by David Myatt, Professor of Economics. Of course, I’m biased because of my background as an economist, but the way he taught economics was phenomenal. I’ve never seen anyone bring the economy to life like him. People think it’s about numbers and that it’s dry, but Professor Myatt was simply unprecedented in the way he delivered the course. Corporate Finance was a course that really pushed me to my limits. At first it was like a different language, but what I learned from this course I use every day in my professional and private life. Finally, I’d say strategy taught by Kathleen O’Connor, Clinical Professor of Organizational Behavior and Decision, and Risk Analysis taught by Professor Nitish Jain, Assistant Professor of Management Science and Operations – their passion for their areas of expertise was incredibly contagious.
One of the main advantages of an EMBA at LBS is diversity. It gives you the opportunity to gain different insights and to make connections between the different topics and areas. I think this was pretty life changing in terms of how I think and approach life challenges. I made the best use of this diversity to build up my network and develop lifelong friendships – I am still in contact with my entire class and we will visit each other even after the EMBA. I also look beyond the alumni events of my immediate cohort here in Doha. I appreciate the power to build solid, social capital – both in terms of career development and on a personal level. I learned a lot from my fellow students, the wide range of courses and the varied forms of teaching.
My experience with the EMBA has also taught me to appreciate the power of a positive growth mindset with no conscious intention; I have a “can do” attitude and nothing bothers me. I think it also has a profound impact on my performance, both socially and in the workplace. Most of my performance reviews say I have this type of infectious and positive thinking that inspires confidence in others. In addition, I attach great importance to continuous learning. It helped me think about Yibuntu, the import / export business I started before EMBA.
When we started Yibuntu, I had no background in entrepreneurship. I was able to revisit and apply some of the lessons, including how not to run a business – because the three of us were armed with excitement and willpower and passionate about giving back and doing something for Africa. We wanted to make sure that smallholders were connected to the world market, but we had no experience. The ability to apply frameworks from different courses was phenomenal. Reflecting on yourself and learning how not to do certain things was really beneficial. Shortly after I finished EMBA, Yibuntu got into financial trouble and we had to wind it up, but I don’t see it as a failure; I think it was one of my greatest achievements.
The EMBA has affected my current role at Qatar Development Bank in more ways than I could have imagined. It never gets boring in my role, but I’ve learned to approach all challenges I face strategically. The bank is resourceful and has top-class professionals, so we’re all on the same wavelength when it comes to respectfully tapping into each other’s knowledge. I also take the opportunity to learn and give back to the bank community. As an LBS alumni, I have unrestricted access to a wide variety of resources, including career coaches, exclusive conferences, and continuing education courses that enrich my lifelong learning. The LBS EMBA is an investment for life – it gives way even after the program ends.
My EMBA cohort graduated in 2019, six months before the Covid 19 pandemic, so we were initially unable to network personally. I really used the EMBA network here in Doha. We meet every month and I got my first job after graduation through a referral from someone on the network. I think that shows how rich the EMBA network is – and I would encourage LBS alumni to get involved because it’s worth keeping in touch with fellow students.
Find out more about our EMBA Dubai program.