Looking back now after completing my Global Executive MBA, I ask myself, was it truly worth it? Did I get the value and the opportunities that I deserved? Will the information that I learned be able to be applied across the new opportunities that come my way? My answers are yes, yes, and yes.

My interest in starting the program was to broaden my leadership capabilities to position myself towards an expanded, client-facing role at IBM. I was in my second year as a first-line manager at IBM and I noticed that I did not have it all figured out. I was learning through experience from day-to-day activities and in a very fast-paced work environment that had a focus on getting projects completed for clients. This was a very interesting time, where I was stretched so thin, that I didn’t have the time for myself to help focus on improving my leadership skills.

When I first started with IBM it was in the role of a global development manager, supporting data center design and site reliability engineering at IBM. I was responsible for 25 direct reports.

My team supported the blockchain and mainframe as a service technology in the IBM cloud data centers on five continents around the world. My responsibilities were to lead the developers writing code that will create the applications for clients in the IBM public cloud. I was also assigned the responsibility of 24/7 support of the public cloud client applications.

It was during this time, in this first role at IBM, that I realized that I wanted to expand upon my leadership capabilities, so I pursued Fuqua’s Global Executive MBA program.

Jamal standing beside an IBM Z sign

I saw this training and experience as a vehicle for me to work on leadership development. I began to practice testing out what I was learning during the Global Executive MBA program in my IBM start-up organization, to help grow my skills.

One such challenge started with the lessons learned during our Managerial Effectiveness course, taught by Professor Rick Larrick. The class focused on reassessing the organizational structure that would make my team successful.

Next was utilizing the leadership development lessons of Professor Sim Sitkin, to build trust with my team. I would also need to be flexible with what leadership style to apply to have a high-performing team in the midst of the pandemic.

Last, I also leveraged the experience of many of my classmates that have had similar business challenges. Overall, this process of applying what I learned in the program, in real-time in my professional role at IBM, paid huge dividends for me and my career.

Upon completing the Global Executive MBA program, I accepted a role in a new area of IBM, as a second-line leader on the go-to-market team named IBM Client Engineering.

I have pre-sales responsibilities for nine managers and 115 direct reports in the Americas, supporting IBM’s top 250 accounts in the financial services, public, communications, and distribution sectors.

We have very similar business problems ahead of us that I have seen previously, and I feel confident in my abilities, as I have practiced using the muscle of trying out what I learned during my MBA program. I believe that is one of the most unique and empowering aspects of Fuqua’s Global Executive MBA program – that you have an incredible opportunity to apply what you learn directly on the job to quickly become a more impactful leader.