What are you made for? – the question that transformed Kaveh Fanian’s career

Tuesday, 1 October 2019  In the Media

The AGSM @ UNSW Business School MBA (Executive) is a flexible, part-time national program designed for experienced executives, managers and professionals looking to enhance their career opportunities, change sectors, or start their own business.

Kaveh Fanian is the newly appointed Enterprise Sales Specialist in the IBM Storage Division and current AGSM MBA (Executive) student. He has over two decades of experience in the Energy & Utilities, Oil & Gas, Process Automation, and IT sectors. He is the Chairman of the School of Electrical Engineering & Telecommunications Alumni Advisory Committee at UNSW, and a Business Advisor to the UNSW Future Vehicles Business Unit.

Now in his final year, AGSM spoke to Kaveh about his experience and the opportunities present to him during his MBA journey.

Q: You completed a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the Budapest University of Technology and Economics in 2006 and a Master by Research in Electrical Engineering from UNSW in 2008. How did you find entering the business world prior to your MBA?

A: As a naturally curious businessperson at heart, I am always looking to understand the problem to be solved. I was a teen entrepreneur and set up my own company in the mid 90’s. I knew business in Australia today would be very different to the one I had experienced 20 years ago. Some of my technical skills helped me to grow rapidly through the ranks, however, I realised that I was lacking some critical skills that I had not learnt throughout my engineering education. This was essentially the reason I decided to complete my MBA.

Q: Since starting your MBA program, how have you combined your Engineering degree with business acumen? How has this helped you to make an impact?

A: My engineering degree has given me the analytical skills and ability to understanding complex technical solutions. However, to lead and manage, a completely different set of skills are required that I was not taught in my engineering degree. This is where my MBA has helped me the most – I’ve gained an enterprise mindset rather than thinking like a specialist.

There are many engineers and there are many businesspeople, but it is still relatively rare to see a business leader with the technical knowledge and understanding of an engineer. I can now approach problems from a different angle and see new perspective, one that is yet to be explored.

Q: Why did you choose to study your MBA at AGSM?

A: An MBA degree is not only about the theoretical content. The alumni network, career support, and the networking opportunities that the school offers are equally important in an MBA degree. Therefore, choosing AGSM over the other schools in Australia was an easy choice.

Q: What has been a key component of your MBA so far?

A: One element has been my personal development due to my newly gained “growth mindset”. This change enabled me to implement my learnings in real-world situations and re-engineer my life and my career to the extent that my view on business transactions has completely changed.

Another aspect I learnt is the power of networking, realising how valuable a global network of likeminded people could be. I have been able to make lifelong friends and connections with my AGSM MBA classmates but also with the Chicago Booth community when I completed my International Exchange Program.

Q: Completing an International Exchange is an option for all AGSM MBA students. What made you decide to complete yours at Chicago Booth?

A: I have always liked the possibility of going on exchange to one of the elite universities and management school’s AGSM partners with globally but given I couldn’t be absent from my job for an extended period of time, I didn’t think it was possible.

However, as I progressed through my MBA, I realised the opportunities I was denying myself if I didn’t go on exchange. So, I decided to apply for it, even though it meant resigning from my role. It also meant I had to be away from my wife and children for three months, but it has been a once in a lifetime opportunity to attend two global world-class business schools.

Q: What were some of the opportunities you experienced whilst on international exchange?

A: Due to the large of number of students, Chicago Booth provides a wide range of subjects that are very specialised. As a result, I was able to maximise my learning by enrolling into six core subjects, each providing a fantastic learning opportunity from some of the world’s authorities at the forefront of their fields. As an example, the subject “Managerial Decision Making”, focused solely on Daniel Kahneman’s System 1 and System 2 thinking, helping me to make more rational decisions, not only in a business context, but as a person in general.

Another great subject was the “Strategic Leadership in Management Networks” taught by Professor Ronald Burt, one of the leading authorities in Social Capital in the world. Professor Burt taught me the importance of brokerage and closure in enterprise networks, which I am currently implementing in my networking activities.

The most surprising outcome of my Booth experience was the realisation of how well my AGSM courses had set me up to succeed in a specialised environment. At Booth, most courses were very specialised and highly analytical. However, at AGSM, we learn about a boarder number of concepts across fewer subjects and how they are all interlinked.

As a result, I realised I was already familiar with many of the concepts in management, leadership, strategy and marketing that my classmates at Booth were only just learning. This gave me an immense sense of pride that as an AGSM student, I have been taught a great deal of frameworks and principles in core topics of business and management that will contribute to my success long after I have completed my MBA.

Kaveh is now completing the Stage Two of his MBA (Executive) program: The Executive Agenda Year (EAY) where he will complete four intensive residentials, applying his integrated frameworks to real-world problem-solving tasks and providing a truly transformational learning experience.

If you want to learn more about the AGSM MBA (Executive), click here: https://www.business.unsw.edu.au/agsm/programs/mba/mba-executive

If you wean to learn more about AGSM’s international exchange programs, click here: https://www.business.unsw.edu.au/agsm/about/international-study-options