Mahmood Jessa

Dubai Executive MBA 2015
Co-founder and Chief Story Teller, nGageU

When I originally signed up for the Executive MBA programme in Dubai, I had just finished a role as Operations Director in a government owned digital media business and had started a new role as Chief Intelligence Officer in the digital media business of Dubai Duty Free. This new role had afforded me the flexibility to work, study and most importantly implement the material being taught. My role as CIO involved me researching the global marketplace to design and implement the best digital media network for Dubai Duty Free thus ensuring it holds a premier position in the global advertising locations.

I co-founded nGageU during the EMBA programme and joined the business full-time just before graduating. As Chief Story Teller, my role is to transform our clients' ideas from concepts into working solutions through a process of design thinking. Most recently we just launched our third digital platform, Name Your Rent; a disruptive digital service which we believe is "A revolutionary way for renters to find their new home and a powerful platform for real estate agents to serve their clients, smarter." Currently based in Dubai, we're looking to take our services global.

Going back to university after such a long absence can be rather daunting, however, I felt that after such a long gap, it would be an exciting and a bold challenge. Primarily, my aspiration for undertaking the EMBA was to make a career change and join the league of management consultants, however, that notion soon evaporated as I become inspired by the EMBA programme material to pursue my desire to start my own company.

The approach undertaken by Cass in delivering the EMBA in Dubai is an unusual yet productive style which engages everyone in attendance. By having academic staff who are also practitioners, makes a huge difference in gaining insights on how to implement the programme into our working environments. Four day weekends make the Cass EMBA a very intensive learning environment and hence makes everyone very focussed.

I was in the fortunate position of being able to undertake three international electives; China, London and Chile. China and Chile were complete unknown territories to me and so there were many surprises around every corner. Learning to accept the challenges each country has and, more importantly, the opportunities presented was a real learning experience. In China, we met with a number of senior representatives from companies such as Baidu, St Regis, GE, VW and Amazon, who presented their operational reality and as a result demystified the preconceptions many of us held about working in China. The Consultancy Week I undertook in Chile was very rewarding especially given that the company we worked with were able to recognise the merits in our recommendations and appreciate our feedback.

The hunger to learn as much as possible brought me in contact with a diversity of people and ways of doing business. The international electives is something I recommend to anyone wanting to expand their horizon further, however gruelling it may seem today, taking the bold steps in life pays off handsomely in the future.

A highlight of the programme which stands out for me the most was the London symposium week which I attended with a number of my Dubai cohort. Each day we were hosted in a historical part of London and addressed by notably acclaimed personalities from various industries. One particular morning we were able to hear the views of the Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. During the coffee break, I had the opportunity to speak with the DC and was invited to present my solution for solving a parking problem, in my opinion a real coup!

I never look at my cohort as a network but rather as friends; they are my extended family, many of whom I meet on a regular basis and I’m continually doing business with. During the launch of my company's most recent platform, Name Your Rent, many of my cohort attended and were my most ardent cheerleaders, a deeply emotionally charged feeling, which I will always cherish.

After having worked in a myriad of industries, I started the programme believing that it would enable me to fill some of the gaps in my business knowledge, however, the Executive MBA ended up impacting me in three significant ways:

  • Firstly: when you're self-funded you may doubt your ability, however, after being awarded the Entrepreneur scholarship, that thought was squashed instantly.
  • Secondly: Being given the opportunity to adopt and implement what you have been taught during lecture the very next day was an extremely motivating experience. The satisfaction of knowing that you were instantly benefiting from the programme gave me the drive to work harder and see the practical side of this educational programme. Learning before was just about passing the exam, whilst the EMBA really helped to shape me.
  • Thirdly: After all the hard work over the last two years, attaining a distinction gave me the gusto to believe I can achieve anything if I set my mind to it.