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Blake Holgate, Otago MBA graduate

Before Otago MBA

Blake Holgate"I grew up on a South Otago sheep and beef farm (which my parents still live on and operate). After graduating from Otago University in 2008 with an LLB and BA (majoring in Politics) I received a graduate position with a Dunedin-based law firm working in their Environmental and Public law team. Although I enjoyed my time at the firm, and learnt many value skills, I realised in late-2011 that I didn't have the passion for law that would be required for me to excel in the legal profession. I felt there would be a greater range of opportunities for me working in the business community. However, I knew I had neither the knowledge, nor qualifications, to work at the level I desired in the business world. That's when it became clear that doing an MBA would be a perfect fit my situation, providing me with both the knowledge and qualifications I was seeking."

Why Otago MBA?

"I had long been aware of the high esteem that Otago's MBA programme was held within New Zealand business circles, so deciding to undertake my MBA at Otago University was an easy choice."

Highlights at Otago MBA

"Completing my Otago MBA was hard work, and intense at times, but overall I found the whole experience thoroughly worthwhile and very rewarding. I thrive off challenging situations, and that is exactly what the Otago MBA provided me with. By consistently being forced to push myself outside my comfort zone, I developed a new level of confidence in my own knowledge, and abilities, which has proved invaluable in my post MBA career. However, the personal highlight for me was not what I learnt, but the people met. For someone who was born and raised in Otago, getting to work (and socialise!) with classmates and lecturers from every corner of the earth, and all walks of life, was an incredible opportunity that I feel very lucky to have experienced."

Life after graduation

"Prior to starting the programme I was unsure exactly what industry I wanted work in post my MBA. As I neared completion of phase one it became clear that the biggest opportunities for me would be in the agribusiness field. Given my farming background, and the fact that agriculture is one of the key drivers of the New Zealand economy, it made sense for me to work in an industry facing massive growth over the coming years as the world's demand for food rapidly increases to fed its growing population. I realised my MBA540 project provided me with the ideal opportunity to both develop my understanding of the industry, and to get my foot in the door with a potential employer."

The Otago MBA business project

"I wrote to all the rural banks in Dunedin explaining who I was, what the 540 project involved, and offering to undertake my 540 project on a topic of their choice. As they say, timing is everything, and as luck would have it Rabobank had just established an internal national Land and Water Strategy Group (LWSG) to develop a strategy for the bank in relation to land and water issues affecting farmers. Noting I had a background in environmental law, Rabobank asked me to prepare a paper for the bank explaining the economic impact that impending freshwater regulation would have on New Zealand's agricultural industry, including recommendations on what actions the bank should be taking to support its clients in addressing these impacts. With the support of the MBA administration, and my supervisor, I prepared my report from March to June of 2013. In July 2013, I presented my report to the LWSG and Rabobank's CEO. After the presentation the CEO called to his office and asked if I wanted to work full time for Rabobank advising it on land and water issues. So pretty much the next day I started as Rabobank's New Zealand Sustainable Farms System Manager, charged with positioning Rabobank as New Zealand's leading agricultural sustainability bank!"

Benefits from the Otago MBA

"Without doubt, it was the knowledge gained, and the skills learnt (particularly presentation skills), during my time onsite at the Otago MBA that gave me the ability, and confidence, to present a report to the head office of a large organisation like Rabobank. It was the MBA540 project which provided me with the opportunity to leverage what I had learnt, and turn it into a career that I could not have even imagined prior to undertaking my Otago MBA."