Prior to business school, many successful MBA graduates have a clear plan on what they want to achieve from their management degree. U.S.-born Chad Dixon is no exception, as he explains to that core MBA specializations in finance and leadership were important to him.

“Going into my MBA, I had a pretty clear idea in my head about what I wanted to do after, in order to continue my development. I had two goals: to take on a 360° role in finance; and to foster the professional abilities to lead an organization.”

Fifteen months after graduating from his MBA program at IE Business School in Madrid, Spain and Dixon is happily employed at Calderys, a refractory solutions company offering services to a broad range of industrial sectors. As the financial head of the company’s Eastern and Central Europe/Russia business unit, the MBA alum has secured a position infusing both of his core interests; finance and leadership.

“My role requires me to cover an array of topics across markets,” Dixon explains. “Local legislations and practices are always different; commercial issues are always on your plate; and getting financial information communicated correctly and the business to react may both seem like easy tasks, but in my area it is as much a challenge as it is critical. I have a team spread across several countries, and so coordination and timing skills are paramount.”

Career diversity

In a company that spans several industrial areas, Dixon relishes the opportunity to experience some of the differing working environments that make up the industrial sector.
“One of the most interesting parts of my day is by far the exposure to several industrial segments, particularly energy, chemical, and iron/steel. Understanding each takes time, and consequently it is difficult to prepare for these things without working ‘on the ground’.”

Clearly, Dixon has found a management career that he can excel at. But how did his MBA degree help him to get to where he is? As he explains, an important skill he developed during his program was the ability to form coherent arguments on unfamiliar issues.

“As an MBA student I was forced to develop positions on topics, under a wide range of scenarios, and quickly. An intense 15-month MBA helped me to develop a certain tact, or even confidence, to move through any unknown territory I encounter.”

When considering the topics and courses that his MBA program at IE covered, Dixon is keen to highlight three that have contributed to his success.

“International business development, which was a course led by a former General Counsel at a Fortune 100 company. Each session was full of useful insights and examples to take with me wherever.

“Organizational design has come in particularly handy too, when trying to decide how to shape where people are and the functions they will perform. Getting such points right can make all the difference in people effectiveness. Then there’s negotiations, which is kind of my universal, catch-all course – I can’t leave this out! Every day I am trying to develop more and more such skills; they provide me with a strong path of support under many scenarios.”

MBA applicant intentions

For those interested in pursuing a similar career path to Dixon, he explains that in order to make the most out of an MBA program, and recover the initial educational investment, an applicant needs to be sure of what they want to get out of their degree.

“The MBA qualification certainly portrays a degree of validity on the individual’s part; however, this alone is not really so valuable. I think the question more depends on each person and his or her intentions.

“In brief, you must know a few things about yourself before starting: where you want to take your career, who you would like to make contact with during your studies, and most importantly where the gaps are in your profile and how the school can help you develop in these areas. Failing a convincing argument for these points, I think any top MBA is not going to propel you or give the return on investment you are looking for.”

The European leg of the QS World MBA Tour is running throughout March before continuing in Africa and Asia during April. Find out where the tour visits, and register on the QS World MBA Tour homepage.