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Monday, April 6th, 2009 - 11:06 am

MBAE program transformed his way of thinking

Farrad Ali

For the past four years, Farrad Ali has been a technical manager for a firm that provides information technology (IT) services for its client companies. His team supports about 1,100 operating systems and their various computer applications.

Ali holds a master’s degree in computer science, but to move up the ranks to a director’s level or higher, he felt he needed to better understand the business side of his job.

So in 2006, he enrolled in Purdue University Calumet’s Master of Business Administration for Executives (MBAE) program. Over the next 18 months, Ali transformed his way of thinking.

“Before, IT was ‘it,’” he said, but now, he sees information technology as merely a vehicle, a tool to deliver business success.

“It kind of refocused what I think is important,” he said. “It used to be all technical stuff, a lot of nuances and things that may or may not have been valuable to the business. I think, now, I can foresee how a technical decision may make a difference and does matter and is relevant to business needs.”

He said the real benefit behind an MBAE is the education students get about how to approach problems and make decisions. He added that he has learned that well-rounded problem-solving involves many more factors than just one area of expertise. His field, for instance, must take into account such components as vendors, support, cost and more.

Purdue Calumet Professor Lori Feldman, head of the Department of Marketing, Human Resources and Management, said the MBAE program, which was introduced in 1998, has been overhauled based on feedback from alumni and current business trends. Some of the more significant changes include more of a focus on global issues as well as “soft” skills such as effectively dealing with people. The new program even includes two sessions of free executive coaching as part of the tuition.

Ali said soft skills are critical to an executive’s success.

Reflecting on the benefit of a communication class, he said, “It made me more focused on having empathy for the other person’s position and understanding their behaviors—why they are doing what they are doing and, basically, try to meet my objective.”

Overall, Ali said his MBA has helped him step outside of his technical expertise, see things from a more global perspective and better understand the major touch points of the business.

“At the end of the day, you are looking at the organization as an entity, as an organism,” he said. “You can see if something is sick over here, not quite optimal over there. . . You should be able to recognize it, understand perhaps what contributed to creating that situation and be able to do your part to neutralize it.”

— Erika Rose