The Distance Learning MBA: From IT specialist to international project manager

By | May 4, 2012

Andrew-JohnsonAndrew Johnson is Operations Director, Worldwide IT at JWT in New York, one of the world’s largest advertising agencies. He graduated from Bradford University School of Management’s Distance Learning MBA in 2010.

I started out doing a Business Information Systems degree and went on to work as a software developer.  After eight years, I was in a management role and felt the need for a more rounded understanding of business in order to take the next step in my career.

Not a typical IT professional

Despite my ‘tech’ background, I had always been interested in different aspects of business and found that I was more confident talking outside of technology than some of my IT colleagues. Many IT professionals want to stay behind closed doors, whereas I liked being client-facing and engaging with others from various different areas of the business.

I decided to embark on an MBA to keep my career options open and ensure that I didn’t get boxed into a specific role in a specific industry.

Virtual MBA study for international travellers

After relocating to the US with a small UK company I was doing a lot of international travel.  I didn’t know where I was going to be based in the longer term and couldn’t commit to being in one place. I looked at a number of different options and came to the conclusion that distance learning was the best path for me, particularly because of its interface with technology. However, I still wanted the kudos of getting the qualification from a prestigious university – something that’s particularly important in the US market.

Working remotely with international MBA colleagues

I chose Bradford University School of Management because it offered incredibly good value for money for a globally recognised, highly rated programme. I was particularly attracted to the support system in place for distance learning students, which includes the opportunity to work remotely with people from around the world.

From IT specialist to international project manager

Half way through doing the MBA, I moved to a role at JWT in New York – one of the longest-running advertising agencies in the world – as Operations Director of Worldwide IT. I was attracted to the role because of the mix of technology, creative and business elements. Despite not having completed my MBA, I felt I was able to make this move because I’d been able to re-market myself as more of an all-rounder with a strategic overview, rather than an IT person.  I had to demonstrate that I could fit my technical skills into the business context of a global company.

What the MBA has given me is the confidence to sit in a room with people from across the business and understand how everything fits together and translate business problems into effective IT solutions. Every business needs people who understand the capabilities of technology and how to apply them in order to achieve business goals. Without that, it is impossible to innovate.

I also benefited from the international perspective that Bradford’s MBA gave me.  My current role is truly international and I work with people from around the world on a daily basis.

Choose your Distance Learning MBA Business School carefully

My advice to those thinking of embarking on a distance learning MBA is to get some experience and network before starting. It can be a lonely process and you need to know that you can be proactive and motivate yourself. Despite distance learning being a very independent study mode, your choice of business school and modules is really important. You need to ensure that the programme is designed for distance learning and it is not just an afterthought. The opportunity to listen to/watch lectures makes it much easier to engage with the subject matter. It is also really important that you keep up with modules so that you can take advantage of engaging in conversation with others about them.