Jeff Xiong, a University of Liverpool online MBA graduate from China, is an IT professional turned manager. Having worked hands-on to develop software systems at the start of his career, he made the transition to a leadership role and found he needed specialist management knowledge to add to his technical expertise.
The idea of studying for an MBA came to him during a hike up Mount Kilimanjaro. “The lack of oxygen – because of the altitude – makes strange thoughts come into your mind,” he recalls. One of those strange thoughts led to him researching MBA degrees that could fit his busy lifestyle, which involved frequent travel. Liverpool’s fully online MBA was a good match.
Watch the video of Jeff’s journey to Liverpool for his graduation.
Jeff was based in Uganda at the time, working to implement software systems to support community healthcare in rural health facilities served by poor roads and an unreliable power supply. With the Liverpool online MBA, he was able to continue travelling to different parts of the world for work, while also gaining the additional management skills he needed to perform better in his job.
“There is an opinion in the international development area that professionals providing high-end services like IT have to have a global vision – like an eagle flying high seeing the big picture, not like frogs living in the mud and eating bugs” Jeff says. But he disagrees. “You have to be both,” he says.
The Liverpool online MBA did give him an eagle’s eye view of global issues affecting organisations, the environment, politics and policy. Meeting classmates from around the world online gave him the opportunity to explore topics from different perspectives. “It really helped me build a point of view that emphasized diversity,” says Jeff.
However, he explains that in order to achieve systemic change, it’s important to complement the overarching global vision with a more detailed understanding of people’s needs. Seeing how they are suffering is the key to identifying ways of helping them. Like a frog, sometimes you have to dive into the mud.
The company Jeff works for, Thoughtworks, develops IT solutions for banks, insurance firms, and telecommunications companies, but also advocates for social justice, supporting underprivileged communities. Working to improve the lives of the poor, the oppressed, and the invisible is something Jeff believes in passionately. “The free market won’t take care of these people,” he says, “and from an economic point of view, it doesn’t make sense.”
Making business decisions in an environment where profit is not the only motivating factor requires a holistic vision and knowledge of management techniques. And those skills are what distinguish perceptive business leaders from rule-following managers, says Jeff.
One of the highlights of the Liverpool online MBA for Jeff was the interaction he had with other students. “It was an opportunity to challenge our own point of view, our own status quo, and grow new ideas, new thoughts.”
Find out more about the Liverpool online MBA programme.