Biotech Entrepreneur Relishes Challenge of an Online MBA

Online MBA student interview with Khilona Radia

Khilona Radia is a mother of three who runs a biotech company in South Africa, following a career in banking and investment in London. Her company, Antrum Biotech is now at the forefront of research into enabling faster diagnosis of tuberculosis - one of South Africa’s biggest health challenges. In between managing a high-profile organization, a family and enjoying life in Cape Town, she is also hard at work studying for an online MBA with Imperial College Business School. In this interview, she explains why.

Khilona RadiaWhat led you to pursue an MBA?

While working in London, one of my ambitions was to study for an MBA. I felt it was a qualification that challenges your knowledge and expertise and refines your thinking and leadership. I had been accepted onto the Sloan Fellows program at London Business School, but with the advent of my babies this had to be shelved and eventually, living back in South Africa, it was an opportunity I had to forget about.

I still had the burgeoning desire to do an MBA when I moved into my current role. Some said why do an MBA when what you’re doing is a real-life MBA in itself? I had attended a short course at Imperial on biotech entrepreneurship that was invaluable and gave me a head start on this journey. I remained on the school's mailing list and when I saw the opportunity for its Global Online MBA, I felt I had to seize the moment.

Why an online program?

Running a business and a family meant it was impossible to dedicate time away to attend an MBA on campus. An online blended program enables me to combine studying from my current location with face-to-face contact through on-campus sessions in London.

While this does mean I have to be strict with time management to work around all my other commitments, by downloading the lectures I can pick up on these whenever I can. What’s wonderful here in Cape Town is that I can sit outside in the sunshine, overlooking Table Mountain and attend the lectures on my PC. Another advantage with being online is that if I don’t understand anything or need to revisit a lecture, it’s all there for me to view.

In the Imperial program, we have a number of compulsory sessions to attend in London when we all meet up, so we all get to know each other and this creates a strong sense of community. Then, we are in regular communication through social media, WhatsApp and Skype, exchanging ideas and challenging thinking. Our group [within the program] is regionalized with others from East Africa, Botswana, Iraq, London and Nigeria, so we’re all in the same time zone and meet up for assignments and tutorials. It’s exactly how I worked with a global team in my previous job, so it’s second nature to me. 

What has been the biggest benefit to your decision to study online?

What I probably didn’t truly appreciate beforehand was the huge benefit of immediately being able to take the teaching from my online MBA into the workplace. So, for example, if I am doing valuations in corporate finance, I am able to immediately apply it to my work environment. The same goes for innovative approaches in strategy and organizational behavior.

I can put some teaching into use immediately or I can share what I’m learning with my team and that’s motivating. Within our study group, we all share our experiences and this further increases the benefit of the program.

Is doing an online MBA challenging?

Yes, in some ways it is and in others it’s a benefit. Interacting with the cohort in lectures and socially when on campus has the advantage of creating strong networks and communities, but for me both Imperial’s online learning platform (known as the Hub) and mobile technology has enabled this to a certain extent - and it works.

Where I have to be disciplined is with time management, and the added organization to ensure the lectures are downloaded so I can study anywhere and not worry about electricity downtimes in South Africa! Most of all, I have to be disciplined to cast work, family and social time aside for my studies. That isn’t always easy, but the Hub allows me to be flexible as life happens. 

Why did you choose the online MBA at Imperial College Business School?

Key elements that drew me to Imperial College Business School were its pioneering research, and focus on translation. The business school is renowned for its ‘Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Design’ course, as well as biotechnology through its links into the wider university, which made it a perfect match for my work here in Cape Town.

Written by Mike Grill

Mike's remit covers content, SEO and blogger outreach. Outside of his work for TopMBA.com, he is an assistant coach for MLU outfit, the Portland Stags.

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