Executive MBA Dubai
British / Zimbabwean
Senior Business Strategy Advisor, Qatar Development Bank
With a life and career spanning three continents, Alither Rutendo Mutsago-Makanya has a truly global outlook. After spending her youth in Zimbabwe and later in Cape Town, she has since lived and worked in London and is now based in Doha, Qatar. Today, she talks about her passion for learning, her early experiences in development and entrepreneurship, and why she decided to pursue the Executive MBA Dubai (EMBA) program.
I was born and raised in Harare, Zimbabwe. I left Zimbabwe right after high school to join my brother at one of Africa’s top ranked universities, the University of Cape Town (UCT). It became my sanctuary for the next five and a half years as I read economics courses at the undergraduate and masters level, specializing in development and health economics.
The British government’s economic services recruited me when I was finishing my master’s degree. I spent the next 12 years of my career working in different departments. I started as a graduate economist at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in London, where I worked on UK pensions and international labor markets. Later, I was seconded to the Department for International Development, where I applied my passion for development and economics to various programs including Aid for Trade, Private Sector Development, Global Funds and budget support in Africa. I then returned to DWP where I worked on the Enabling Retirement Savings program, the flagship policy for universal credit reform and housing allowances, then joined the Child Poverty Unit, where I co-wrote the UK Child Poverty Strategy in 2014, before moving to Qatar with my husband and family.
When I arrived in Qatar, I took a brief hiatus from government policy and economics consulting services and joined academia, teaching economics in first and second year at Georgetown University. I then took a career break for maternity leave, but didn’t quit entirely – I co-founded Yibuntu Growers, an export distribution startup based on the agriculture, with two friends. We have imported and exported fruits and vegetables from various parts of Africa to Qatar, thus connecting large and small farmers with supply chains and global markets. That’s when I started my EMBA.
I was drawn to London Business School after thoroughly researching renowned and elite business schools. Depth and balance in areas such as finance and strategy as well as entrepreneurship courses aligned with my future professional aspirations, therefore I was sold. At this point in my life, I aspired to a career transition from specializing in economics to strategy and entrepreneurship. I spoke with students, alumni and teachers before making my decision.
Each EMBA class pushed me beyond my comfort zone and triggered a shift in mindset throughout the trip. But to pick a few in particular – I should say managerial economics, which was taught by economics professor David Myatt. Obviously I’m biased because of my background as an economist, but the way he taught economics was phenomenal. I have never seen anyone bring the economy to life the way they did. People think it’s all about the numbers, and it’s dry, but Professor Myatt was just unprecedented in terms of the way he delivered the course. Corporate Finance was a course that really pushed me to my limits. At first it was like a different language, but I apply what I learned from this course every day in my career and my personal life as well. Finally, I would say the strategy taught by Kathleen O’Connor, clinical professor of organizational behavior and decision making, and risk analysis taught by Professor Nitish Jain, assistant professor of management and operations sciences – their passion for their fields of study was incredibly contagious.
One of the main benefits of doing an EMBA at LBS is diversity. It gives you the possibility to get different information and allows you to make connections between different topics and areas. I think it changed my life in terms of thinking about and approaching life challenges. I made the most of this diversity to build my network and develop lasting friendships – I’m still in touch with my whole class and we visit each other after the EMBA. I am also looking beyond the events of former students of my immediate cohort here in Doha. I appreciate the power of building strong social capital – both in terms of career growth, but also on a very personal level. I learned a lot from my peers, from the wide spectrum of courses and the varied teaching methods.
My experience doing the EMBA has also taught me to appreciate the power of a mindset of positive growth without conscious intention; I have a ‘can do’ attitude and nothing bothers me. I think it also had a profound impact on my performance, both socially and at work. In most of my performance reviews it has been said that I have this kind of contagious, positive thinking that inspires confidence in others. Beyond that, I really appreciate lifelong learning. It helped me think about Yibuntu, the import / export company I started before the EMBA.
When we started Yibuntu, I didn’t have any training in entrepreneurship. I was able to revisit it and apply a few lessons, including how not to run a business – because there were three of us, armed with enthusiasm and willpower, passionate about giving back and doing something for it. Africa. We wanted to make sure small farmers were connected to the global market, but we had no experience. Having this opportunity to apply the frameworks from various courses was phenomenal. Self-reflection and learning how not to do certain things has been really beneficial. Shortly after finishing the EMBA Yibuntu ran into financial difficulties and we had to quit, but I don’t see it as a failure; I think that was one of my biggest accomplishments.
The EMBA impacted my current role at the Qatar Development Bank in more ways than I could have imagined. There is never a dull day in my role, but I have learned to take a strategic approach to whatever challenges I face. The bank is full of resources, with high caliber professionals, so we are all on the same wavelength in terms of operating respectful of each other’s knowledge. I also take this opportunity to learn and give back to the banking community. As a former LBS, I have unlimited access to a multitude of resources including career coaches, exclusive conferences and executive training courses that enrich my lifelong learning. The LBS EMBA is a lifetime investment – it continues to give way after the program ends.
My EMBA cohort graduated in 2019, six months before the Covid-19 pandemic, so we couldn’t network in person initially. I really tapped into the EMBA network here in Doha. We meet every month and I got my first post-graduation job thanks to a referral from someone in the network. I think this shows how rich the EMBA network is – and I would encourage LBS alumni to stay involved, as keeping in touch with classmates helps.
Learn more about our Dubai EMBA program.