Unexpected pathways to an MBA

Beyond big corporations, leaders in all fields are increasingly required to hone sharp commercial acumen. These days, issues of effective management, financial accountability, and careful planning and analysis are critical to success in not-for-profits, health, education and government sectors.

With this shift comes a change in the breakdown of students realising the value of an MBA, explains Associate Dr Andrea North-Samardzic, Course Director of the Deakin Master of Business Administration (MBA).

'Doing a Deakin MBA prepares you to be an effective manager and leader in today's unpredictable world. Our industry focus means that you are working on real-life case studies and tackling current and important issues. You will stretch your thinking and abilities, and build your knowledge, skills and capabilities to address critical concerns in all sectors including not-for-profits, health, education and government.'

Hear from three students who arrived in the Deakin MBA via three very different paths.

Completing a hat-trick

Shawn Flegler has been a professional cricketer, worked in the IT industry and is now progressing his career up the ranks at Cricket Australia. Over the past decade at Cricket Australia, he’s worked as a coach, a player welfare manager and in his current role, as Female High Performance Manager.

Shawn’s goal with studying the Deakin MBA is to develop business and management skills to build on his successes leading the professionalisation of women’s sport.

'I am very proud of what we have achieved at Cricket Australia with the growth in women’s cricket over the past five years. I love the impact it has had on young girls and boys and how it changes attitudes in the broader community,' he reflects.

'Being involved in elite sport gives you some transferrable skills that are attractive to the business world but I would be classed as a “technical specialist” in that I have good knowledge of cricket. I wanted to broaden my knowledge so that I become a better manager and leader within Australian Cricket.'

Studying the MBA has so far given him a much greater understanding of the overall business – and with that comes increased confidence.

-Time management, self-discipline, persistence, working in teams are all part of studying an MBA and I believe are all attributes that potential employers look for, and are things that I look for as a manager,' he says.

'I am looking forward to learning more as my MBA progresses.'

Taking the artistic route

Before undertaking the Deakin MBA, Andrea Makris worked for not-for-profit organisation Multicultural Arts Victoria, co-owned a performing arts business called Underbelly Dance, and was a freelance consultant and tour and project manager.

Over time working in small businesses and NGOs, Andrea found herself landing 'organically' in leadership roles and felt she needed to ‘learn how to lead better’.

'I found that my business development and management skills were constantly being challenged and stretched beyond what I was equipped for,' she explains. 'There is a dearth of business literacy in the arts sector, particularly for those outside of the mainstream arts that are often excluded from government funding or philanthropic support.'

Since completing her MBA in 2016, Andrea’s career has flourished beyond simply improving her leadership style. Her current position is as Commercial Partnerships Specialist with Destination NSW.

'Before I started my MBA I was working with impactful yet small, community-based organisations. The MBA has launched my career into internationally-recognised events that contribute billions to the state economy and attract significant commercial sponsorship. I believe the core MBA subjects helped me to secure my two recent contracts, (with Destination NSW and with the Sydney Festival) and opened up a pathway to executive and leadership roles.'

For anyone in non-profit industries thinking of venturing into an MBA, Andrea points out that it’s 'huge investment in personal resources that demonstrates your commitment and discipline in an instant'.

'Understanding how the economy works, learning how individuals are motivated and how teams can work together toward common goals, mastering budgeting and accounting, etc. are all valuable life skills, irrespective of your industry or profession,' she adds.

Managing doctors’ orders

Dr Olivia D’Souza started her career on a relatively traditional healthcare path, but soon found herself absorbed by the business side of medicine.

'When I started my internship, I was all excited and fresh eyed. But then reality hit,' she recalls. 'As an intern, I had to do all the grunt work. I had to learn about the different managerial staff; who to contact if the lab work got held up; what to do when a parent tells you she couldn’t get medication for her child as it was unavailable in the pharmacy.'

She found herself creating systems and solving logistical problems in order to help her patients.

'‘Then working in the emergency department I realised I loved the managing and operating of the department more than the medical aspect,' she explains. 'Whether be it triaging, counselling, consoling, time management or resolving conflicts between patients and staff, I was great at it. During rush hour, I found I had the patience and mind for utilising space and staff available to me.'

She is grateful to the department head, and great mentor, who advised her to harness these talents and pursue the path to management. After five years working in medicine, she started studying Deakin’s MBA (Healthcare Management), which is jointly run by the Deakin Business School and the School of Medicine.

The course has so far given Olivia the chance to meet like-minded peers and lecturers from various industries, complete a Health Practicum, and learn a wealth of information.


Belonging to two faculties and having a range of units from business and health industry is what I was looking for. It’s the best of both worlds.

Dr Olivia D’Souza

Deakin MBA (Healthcare Management) student


Discover the Deakin MBA

Whether your background is in large corporations, small business, NGOs or other industries such as health, sports or arts, an MBA can give you the skills you need to take the next step in your career.

Deakin’s MBA is ranked #1 in Victoria and in the top 30 globally*. The course offers flexible online delivery and strong industry connections.

Find out whether the Deakin MBA is the right next step for you

*QS Online MBA Rankings 2021