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Robert O'Brien, Otago MBA graduate

Before Otago MBA

Robert O'Brien 2021 image 1x

After an amazing 20-year career working in tourism marketing, international sales and the hospitality industry, and a whirlwind nomadic lifestyle, I began to feel stagnant and was craving professional development. I explored study options and came across the MBA at the University of Otago.

Why Otago MBA?

The MBA made sense because it targets people with work experience, and has a broad focus geared towards general management. And it covers a wide range of topics that are relevant and directly applicable to my work. While I had experiences in many of the areas covered, the MBA offered the opportunity to deep dive into these areas and put labels on the actions and processes undertaken.

Otago appealed because of its ranking and the location, which is built around the students. In order to maximise the learning opportunity, I took time off work to fully immerse myself in the study experience. I moved to Dunedin to live in a residential college and study full-time on campus. The loss of income was a difficult decision but the opportunity to learn and grow outweighed the financial sacrifice.

I was born and raised in Samoa. My family immigrated to New Zealand when I was 10 seeking better opportunities and to learn English. While I left New Zealand almost 14 years ago, I remain very close to my family. My parents sacrificed so much when they made the decision to move to New Zealand, and were fiercely strict and protective of our well-being. They pushed us to pursue new opportunities, yet always kept us grounded in our family and cultural values and spiritual beliefs. My studies have been well supported and celebrated by my family, and I credit them for my success.

Life after graduation

I am due to leave New Zealand in the next few weeks to take up a contract in Papua New Guinea as the General Manager of a luxury property in Port Moresby. Despite being head-hunted for the position, to get a work permit I still had to demonstrate the value I would bring to the role. One of the best things about the process was being able to produce a transcript and confirmation of my MBA studies.

I will be heading in to my new role with the continued support of the mentors I met on the programme, and I am excited to apply a number of different frameworks and concepts gained from the MBA.

The Otago MBA experience has far exceeded my expectations. I felt supported throughout the duration of my studies (even with the challenges of COVID-19) from both the lecturers, mentors and the administration staff. The networking opportunities have been invaluable and I would highly recommend the experience to anyone.