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From B-School to Government: How Two EMBA Graduates Became Political Leaders

From B-School to Government: How Two EMBA Graduates Became Political Leaders main image

People embark on their b-school journey for a myriad of reasons. Some hope to land jobs at top-tier business firms; others might dream of starting their own business to become full-fledged entrepreneurs.

Nevertheless, MBA and EMBA degrees can open many doors – some more unusual than others.

TopMBA caught up with two graduates of Nazarbayev University’s Graduate School of Business EMBA program who landed top governmental positions to find out how going to b-school helped them become better leaders.

Maxat Ibagarov, Mayor of Zhanaozen City

Maxat is the Mayor of Zhanaozen City, one of Kazakhstan’s biggest oil producers. Before going to b-school, he worked his way up the oil industry from a field worker to head of a large company – OzenMunayGas JSC.

However, despite his impressive achievements, Maxat felt like he needed to accomplish more.

He said: “In 2018, I realized I needed new knowledge in the field of management, finance and business management. [Representatives from] the EMBA program at Nazarbayev University suggested that it would help me learn modern business knowledge in this direction, so I decided to embark on this wonderful journey.”

When Maxat joined the 2018 EMBA cohort, he had just landed the top position at his company, as well as the Deputy General Director for Transport and Social Issues role within the management board.

In 2019, at the end of his EMBA degree, he was appointed Mayor of Zhanaozen – a goal he says he was able to achieve thanks to his newly acquired executive skills.

Maxat said: “In my work, I like to solve assigned tasks and situational problems on a daily basis. I also enjoy planning work on a short-term, medium-term and long-term basis, as well as achieve targeted performance goals.

“My knowledge and the methodology of tools acquired on my EMBA help me in my decision-making and provide me with an integrated approach in planning and correcting weak and wrong decisions.”

Maxat believes a b-school degree is an ideal starting point to land a job role in government and policy, despite this route not being an obvious one at first.

He said: “For people who want to work in government but are not sure whether they should develop their skills in a business school, I’d advise to go to b-school – without a doubt.

“An EMBA course will provide you with all the necessary knowledge and experience for career growth and development and how to properly manage and develop business processes.”

Kamalzhan Nadyrov, Head of the Department of Health of Almaty City

Kamalzhan is currently the Head of Health Department in Almaty City, the largest city in Kazakhstan.

After completing a master’s degree in Public Health, he followed his passion for medicine and economics and landed a position as Head of the city’s Public Health Department – a role that “involved a lot of responsibility” and required his full dedication.

He said: “At the time, it seemed that I didn’t have any deficit in diplomas, knowledge or titles. However, I was motivated by the former Minister of Health of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Kairbekova Salidad Zekenovna, to pursue an EMBA from Nazarbayev University.

“I wondered why she, given her workload at the time, had made such a serious decision to immerse herself in her studies. And that’s when I intuitively made the decision for myself that I would also enroll in an EMBA someday. It’s a decision I don’t regret.”

During his EMBA, Kamalzhan was appointed Vice Minister of Health, a responsibility he was able to fulfill thanks to the flexibility of the degree.

He said: “The work involved many business trips and finding solutions to a number of tasks on a national scale. Self-discipline, time management and the support of my fellow students allowed me to go all the way to the end. The format of the EMBA, with weekend studying, allowed me to fully immerse myself in the learning process and be more productive.”

Kamalzhan says every aspect of his EMBA experience was “important and exciting”.

He said: “It’s difficult to single out one acquired skill over another.

“The knowledge acquired while studying helps me in my work. Areas such as the development of leadership qualities are very important for leaders, as well as the issues of introducing resource conservation, strategic thinking, marketing and the art of negotiation.”

Over the course of the past year, Kamalzhan has worked tirelessly to ensure the health system adapted during the COVID-19 pandemic. He says the leadership abilities he acquired during his EMBA helped him overcome times of uncertainty and make important decisions to help the population.

He said: “Times are changing and the role of a leader in a crisis is growing. The fate of a civil servant is sometimes unpredictable. We’re like soldiers. It so happens that we’re sent to solve certain tasks in various regions.

“It’s important to understand a politician is simply a professional who knows the basics and has high-quality higher education. This is especially important when working in an ever-changing environment.”

Written by Linda Mohamed

Linda is Content Writer at TopMBA, creating content about students, courses, universities and businesses. She recently graduated in Journalism & Creative Writing with Politics and International Relations, and now enjoys writing for a student audience. 

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