Strong MBA advocate says it helped him "choose my own adventure". 

 An MBA is a well-known professional boost – but now the University of Auckland Business School programme is moving online, opening it to more people around the country.  

Learning more about how business works and gaining practical management skills were not the only benefits former pilot Jacob Snelgrove gained from completing his MBA — it’s a newfound confidence in his own abilities which has seen him reap big career rewards. 

Snelgrove has now successfully transitioned from a flying role to senior sustainability manager at Air New Zealand, but he says it wasn’t just the business know-how gained from a University of Auckland MBA  which made the ultimate difference.  

Instead, he says, what he learned about himself over the 18-month course of study is what set him on this new and exciting pathway: “While there’s no doubt the business management topics were very important to understand and get a grip on, for me that wasn’t the most significant aspect. 

The University of Auckland's MBA programme is now being delivered online from 2024, ensuring greater flexibility for students.

“The big thing for me was the confidence I gained by doing things which I had considered to be outside my usual swim lane – and having the opportunity to work with people from different backgrounds who I otherwise wouldn’t have had the chance to collaborate with.” 

After learning to fly as a school-leaver and then working as a commercial pilot, Snelgrove felt his career path was becoming limited by the speciality of his job as a pilot. He looked to the University of Auckland MBA to help enlarge his skill set and open new doors. 

“I’ve always been interested in the business side of the airline industry so, for me, the idea of doing an MBA was as a way to broaden my perspective, learn some business basics and gain confidence,” he says. “Before doing the MBA, I didn’t feel I could engage in conversations about financial performance or strategic decisions, even though I was interested in those sorts of topics.” 

After a shift back to New Zealand after working overseas, an offer of professional development support from Air New Zealand gave him the final push to start his MBA studies in 2019. After graduating, he’s moved into a non-flying role, leading Air New Zealand’s ‘Next Gen Aircraft’ programme – part of the airline’s decarbonisation strategy to meet its net zero 2050 goal.

The University of Auckland Business School offers New Zealand's premier accredited MBA programme.

“Doing the MBA gave me the confidence to put my hand up for roles I wouldn’t otherwise have contemplated or felt I had the skills or ability to do,” he says. “It broadened my perspective and taught me I can apply myself to a whole bunch of roles. It’s not just about technical knowledge — it’s how you work and how you apply yourself. 

“I felt my options were so much wider and that I could use what I’d learned to ‘choose my own adventure’. It’s not something I anticipated getting out of the course — I thought I would advance my technical understanding of the business realm, but the increased confidence and new perspective are what were the real benefits.” 

From quarter three 2024, starting in July, the University of Auckland’s MBA programme will be solely delivered online, in a collaborative digital-learning environment. Weekly online classes will be supported by online learning materials and activities, including discussions, simulations and active learning projects, enabling students to complete the qualification around other career and family commitments. 

While Snelgrove was able to attend university sessions around his flying schedule, he says the shift to online learning will be a boost to students with less flexibility: “It will solve some of the practical problems for people who are in more structured work environments, where it is harder to get to regular lectures on site.”  

Offering the programme online means students from around the country can study at New Zealand’s number-one research-led institution. The University of Auckland Business School has ‘triple crown’ accreditation from the Association of MBAs (AMBA), Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB) and EQUIS (accreditation from the European Foundation for Management Development). 

It is the first such school to offer a Te Ao Māori business course as part of its MBA programme, which will hold its new graduates in good stead as the Māori economy grows globally year on year. 

As well as moving the programme online, the university has also re-designed its business decision-making course to include big data, analytics, AI and digital transformation. It also offers the ‘Global Success: Scaling Up’ course, which addresses issues faced by many Kiwi businesses as they grow beyond the start-up phase. 

The MBA is aimed at professionals with at least three years’ management experience whose goal is to move up to C-suite level, or those already in senor positions who want to access knowledge of the latest trends and cutting-edge research impacting the way we do business in New Zealand and internationally.  

Snelgrove says the MBA is also ideal for people like him, “who have the kind of innate capability which you can only find by testing yourself.  

“There were a lot of people on the course in a similar position to me, who had quite technical or specific skills but wanted to do more strategic decision-making and thinking, rather than just staying on one career,” he says.  

“You might be approaching that point in your career where there’s quite a specific path forward, but you find yourself thinking what’s next, if I don’t want to continue being an expert in just that field? If you feel you’ve got more to give, that’s where the MBA can really provide you with a great opportunity.”

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