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Library bookshelfFriday 11 March 2016 2:54pmThe Otago Post issue 8

Photo of Melanie Lemke
Melanie Lemke, Master of Business Administration candidate
School of Business

“A very serious year off” is how Ian Lafferty, University of Otago Director of Executive Programmes describes the Otago MBA (Master of Business Administration).

This was just what Melanie Lemke was looking for after six years working in Hamburg, Germany for the Otto Group, a multinational active in retail (e-commerce, catalogues and stores) and financial services.

“My intention was to stay with the Otto Group for many more years,” she says, “but I needed a break to broaden my horizons, gain more maturity, and to discover a new country and culture as well as another side of myself.”

“My first decision was to do an MBA in New Zealand. The excellent value for money spoke in favour of New Zealand, then the more I learned about the country the more fascinated I was. Plus, if you're looking for personal development what can be better than searching for it at the other end of the world?”

“I liked the idea of Dunedin as a student town, but what convinced me most were the small class sizes at Otago's MBA and how they recruit students from all continents.”

According to Ian, this kind of decision-making helped mark Melanie out as a perfect fit for the Otago MBA.

“You should look back on this course and feel you have had an adventure,” he says. “People spend a lot of money to do an MBA for professional development and learning, but we feel we need to make it a big experience on many levels.”

“We deliberately offer a multicultural experience to give candidates exposure to what they can expect from their next job. There are 36 students in this year's course, 20 full-time and 16 part-time, with 15 countries represented including the UK, US, Canada, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Russia, India, China, Romania, Brazil, South Africa and New Zealand.”

“Friendship is part of it too. The smaller class sizes mean you get to know lecturers and classmates personally. We get a lot of good feedback about the number of MBA graduates who keep in touch.”

In February 2011 Melanie returned to Hamburg and to the Otto Group to complete her MBA business project, “The E-Creative Wave: Challenge and Response”, examining what impact the e-commerce shift may have on the Otto Group's strategic management. At the time of writing she had received a promotion too.

“I am now a Senior Controller in the Strategic Controlling Division. This supports senior management in steering the Otto Group portfolio, and provides a link between the Group's worldwide subsidiaries and its executive board.

“I wouldn't necessarily attribute the promotion to the MBA. However, the MBA made me feel ready for it. I learned more about myself and what makes other people tick. I also learned what it takes to be a leader and improved my ability to see the 'big picture'. The MBA neatly brings together everything that is needed to manage a business. The strategy classes particularly helped me gain more foresight, an attribute my career will surely benefit from.”

Ian says, “When people come for the course they have left behind family, friends and more. They have grasped the nettle and they invest a lot of emotional and intellectual energy into their year.”

Melanie says it helped tremendously having a good course group atmosphere and cohesion.

“In our group we always lived by the motto “work hard, play hard”. We had many great parties, hiking and skiing trips, and a Fiji holiday. These are memories to last a lifetime. I hope to stay in touch with many fellow students who became good friends. Professionally this network can only be to our advantage.”

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