Emergency Preparedness

What Can You Do with an MBA?

By Linda C. Ashar, JDAssociate Professor, Dr. Wallace E. Boston School of Business and
Dr. Bob Barrett, faculty member, Dr. Wallace E. Boston School of Business

What are the top industries for MBA graduates to consider? Is working abroad an option? How is AI transforming job interviews? APU School of Business professor and international speaker, Dr. Bob Barrett, shares his insight with Dr. Linda Ashar.

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Read the Transcript:

Linda Ashar: Hello everyone. This is Linda Ashar. Today I am pleased to welcome Dr. Bob Barrett. Dr. Barrett is a full professor at American Public University in the School of Business. He’s been teaching online for more than 24 years, which is built on a foundation of live class teaching prior to that. And important for today’s discussion, Bob lectures nationally and internationally on the topics of artificial intelligence, crisis management, knowledge management, strategic management, and intellectual and human capital.

Now, all of those are areas that are very pertinent to the MBA program and our MBA graduates. He’s also a prolific writer on these areas. His speaking regularly at international conferences in Europe, and Asia, gives his international involvement a unique perspective on today’s trends for American MBA graduates in the international job market. And that’s what we’re talking about today, in today’s conversation.

What are the leading areas of employment opportunities for MBA graduates in the global market, especially with the fast-moving perspective of artificial intelligence? Bob, welcome and thank you for joining this podcast.

Bob Barrett: Thank you, Linda. I’m glad to be here and be part of this discussion.

Linda Ashar: Bob, if an MBA graduate in 2024 has a dream to work internationally, where are the likely places to start to leverage that MBA for that dream job?

Bob Barrett: Okay, let me put myself into the position of an MBA graduate, getting ready to leave the program, get that diploma, and ready to make a start in my career.

One of the things I would do is look at some of the international companies that go abroad, like Citicorp, Accenture, Pricewaterhouse, Boston Group, McKinsey & Company. They have consulting companies that link with them overseas and they have consulting contracts, short-term, long-term, and sometimes people make it a career of it. That’s how I would start at first.

Linda Ashar: So, these are American-based companies that are internationally connected?

Bob Barrett: Yes. Other websites like Go Abroad, Indeed Worldwide, they have a special branch which specializes in jobs abroad where you can look right from your home here in the US to see what’s out there.

Linda Ashar: What would be an example of that?

Bob Barrett: Let’s say you went to look in finance or in IT. One of the hottest jobs right now is anybody that can work with software development, business development, supply chain, or healthcare. And one of the key linchpins for all of that today is artificial intelligence.

Most employers, both nationally and internationally, are looking for the MBA graduate that has some working knowledge, especially in prompt engineering, in order to help generate business and maintain business.

Linda Ashar: Okay. Well, let me explore that with you a little bit. What is prompt engineering?

Bob Barrett: Let me break it down to another way. When we work with Google, Bing we want information, we type in search words. Or if we can’t find what we want, we do advanced search words to find that particular information we want.

And artificial intelligence, you’re going into a large, vast database, and you have to be very specific as to what you want, how you want it, and give it parameters. And the person that can do that – and can do it efficiently – is going to save a lot of time. And possibly, which all employers want to see, the ROI, return on investment. So, if they have an MBA that’s been trained that can do prompt engineering and can prove themselves immediately or with some training to learn the way of the culture of the organization.

Linda Ashar: You mentioned finance. What are the types of jobs in finance specifically that you are aware of?

Bob Barrett: Well, that depends on what area, what region you’re going to look at. In Europe, finance is going to be involved with mergers, acquisitions, new startups. Sometimes, with business development. You may go into a new area and become a business development manager, like you would with one of the leading consulting companies itself. You may go in with banking, such as Deutsche Bank or maybe other different banking or financial arms. Hong Kong is a major place where a lot of banking and a lot of finance will be held, along with Singapore. Singapore is like the hub for all business incorporation, and business development will usually happen in Singapore City, in Singapore itself, so that’s a big hub to look at.

Linda Ashar: And those areas, are they heavily invested with American businesses?

Bob Barrett: There’s a courtship that goes on every decade. Everybody’s vying for these jobs. A lot of the American companies will actually go into other schools such as the London Business School and other European schools to recruit when they can’t find people in America that may want to travel. They’re looking for the person who would like to travel, who would like to maybe stay abroad one month, two months, maybe one to two, maybe five years. They want somebody that has a commitment that will do the overseas travel and perhaps residency for quite some time. There’s a variety of jobs out there. It depends on the drive of the person, what they want to do with their career.

One of the advantages of working overseas: when you come back to the US, you bring back that wealth of knowledge that a lot of people want. Somebody to work, then, in the United States that can communicate and speak the jargon or the language of the person abroad and maybe coordinate the duties, because, sometimes, when companies are preparing people to work overseas, they send people over with advice from people that have never traveled. So, if they can get a seasoned professional who’s worked abroad to come back and lead a division in the United States, that’s of great value to the American company.

Linda Ashar: And that leads me to another question that I wanted to ask you about job hunting and especially for overseas positions. And you may not know this, but I’m just curious, because you have a lot of connections, and you just maybe by osmosis, have a feel for this. What is the profile, for want of a better word, and the international level that they might be looking for in a candidate? Other than having the MBA?

Bob Barrett: Let me give you an example. Some companies, American and European, if you go into Worldwide Indeed, they will give you the parameters of what they’re looking for. Sometimes they do have age limitations. Sometimes they will only deal with people that are single. There could be an issue when you have more than one person going over, let’s say a male employee or a female employee with their spouse and with their children. You’ve got to remember, there could be more housing expenses, food, expenses of schools, and things like that. So, that’s another parameter that some employers may not want to deal with.

However, they will if that employee is valuable to them. Now, if they’re a beginning MBA, most likely, they’re going to look for the single MBA that’s anywhere between 20 to 35 years of age. They will say English can be conducted, but if they have a second or third or fourth… We’ve got to remember in the European way of education, you usually learn two to three languages automatically when you’re in school. It’s a requirement.

In Asia, it’s a growing change right now to have more and more English as a second language than ever before. So a lot of Chinese families and Japanese families will hire outside tutors or send their children for the days off from regular school to go to English-only school. So there’s a big drive right there.

They also want somebody that’s internationally oriented that will be able to adapt to the local culture and customs. Worst thing that you can do is send over somebody who cannot adapt, let’s say, going into a different religious background, a different political system, different cultural way of handling things. If you go into Europe, there’s certain countries in Europe where everything is shut down on Sunday. Some Americans can’t deal with that. They’re used to seven days a week and it takes them a while to adjust. Some do not adjust; they do have to come back.

So, it’s one of those things where you really want somebody that can do the job. I met a couple that were going over to be stationed with the Department of State, going over to the consulate. And what they did, they arranged for the family and their two young kids to go over two weeks in advance to find a school and to get a feel for the lay of the land, as they would say, to see how they adjusted.

And that’s a good thing. A good company who wants to have overseas expatriates, they will let them go over a week, two weeks, sometimes a month ahead of time to see how it works out. So, for some people it’s a job of a lifetime. I’ve had relatives that went to Department of State, and even after retirement, they still want to go back and travel overseas. That’s how much they fell in love with it.

Linda Ashar: What about people that have a military background? Do they have any kind of an edge for international jobs?

Bob Barrett: Oh, definitely. Anybody that’s had any type of work in the Pacific, Asian Pacific Theater or the European Theater, even African and even with South America. South America is busting with business right now. Most people don’t realize that a lot of the universities down there in Colombia, in Bogota, I’ve spoken at several times, their undergrad courses are now taught solely in English in order to get them prepared for more international business itself. There’s a large increase.

Now, let me add this. Asia has been doing a big explosion of business in Africa right now. China has factories in Africa where they actually offer Chinese language courses for them to learn. South Korea is another one. And anybody that’s working in one of the other big demand areas, like, let’s say an MBA with supply chain management or business development, you could become very valuable with that group over there in Africa itself. Also in South Africa, it’s very big. A lot of things have changed like overnight.

The Mideast is a separate thing. I would say anybody that’s worked in the Mideast, especially if they have any type of language, Arabic, Farsi, or any other language of the region, they would become very valuable for the contractors, for the Department of Defense, or even the private contractors that are working over there.

Linda Ashar: And as to the types of industries, we’ve kind of been talking in generalities, other than finance. What are some of the industries that are, if there are any, that spike an interest for MBAs?

Bob Barrett: Well, according to the World Economic Forum, as we’ve left the pandemic or what they deemed as the “Remote-topia,” working remote, now we’re going back to the old way. However, a lot of people did not go back to the old way. They like it. There’s a growth in healthcare as a result of the pandemic. There’s more interest over there, especially in the upper part of Europe and the Scandinavian area. Let’s say people with diabetes, with weight loss, those type of medicines itself, those companies are very big. We’ve got to remember with the cell phones, that all started up towards Scandinavia in Finland with Nokia, and that spread across into Northern Germany, into Siemens company itself. And it’s just spreading the whole way across, but there’s a big infusion in healthcare and business development and in IT like we’ve never seen before.

At this point, finally, China is starting to catch up with India, because India has had the edge on IT for the longest period because they’ve had the largest amount of English speakers and interest in the IT industry, and now there’s a growth.

I actually met with the head of IT, the department chair for information technology in Peking University when I was speaking there. And he said that there was a big infusion of money being put into their educational system, because, for a while there, it was limited to certain groups. And now, they’re trying to educate their citizens as fast as they can to become more competitive.

So, we’re seeing the change daily now. And now, with the big fight for the computer chips and President Biden signing another authorization where we’re going to be doing a lot of the production in the United States, there’s going to be probably a big need for business development, IT, and finance to cooperate with other countries, maybe to negotiate some business deals, so it’s a whole new world now.

Linda Ashar: Thank you. And we’re back with Dr. Bob Barrett. We’re talking about the international scene for employment for MBA graduates and exploration of the global world in business, where you can leverage an MBA degree for that dream job.

Before the break, Bob, we were talking about some of the industries that are particularly, I guess, fertile ground for MBA grads. And I’m wondering about what about education?

If I have an MBA, but I’m interested in teaching or in working on the business side of education, whether it’s in public education or in higher education, is there any trend or a market for an MBA in that realm?

Bob Barrett: Well, there are several. You can do private or you can do public itself. There’s a group that sends out – I actually get the list – for teaching jobs throughout the world. Some of them require an MBA in business. That’s what they want firsthand. Some may want doctorates, but it depends. You have to look at the requirements.

You can also go into private industry. They need a lot of people to do English as a second language, in particular. Let me add this: Teaching Business English as a second language, because there is a difference between teaching English and teaching Business English in some of the countries. So, they need to know that.

Also, you can go into training. That’s why earlier I said about consulting companies, they actually need people to go in and teach with software, train with IT, train with business protocols. Or how to train people for, let’s say, overseas ventures for becoming an expatriate or even doing training for repatriating, coming back into the country itself. It’s not something that you can do overnight, but there are training opportunities that are out there.

The next level that I can see more than anything else is having people that can do artificial intelligence, design, writing assistance, or assistance chatbots, teaching prompt engineering to other groups. One of the key groups that are going to need some help are the managers and upper managers, upper-level, because they’re going to need to be able to talk the talk. They’re not going to always be able to rely on just their employees themselves, because there’s going to be a lot of high-level decision-making done with artificial intelligence, and it’s happening rather quickly.

The different types of technology that are coming out – I spend usually one to two hours a day just reading all the headlines. It’s very overwhelming at times, but if you can keep on top of it as an MBA graduate, or soon to be an MBA graduate, there’s going to be a place for you, as long as you’re willing to continue with your lifelong learning.

Linda Ashar: Hey, didn’t I just read that Lebanon has its first AI president?

Bob Barrett: Yes, they just did that because they can’t decide on who’s going to take over. This happens in the Middle East. I had a friend that worked in Oman. The Sultan had died, and they have a unique tradition. Upon the death or anticipated death of the Sultan, they will keep an envelope with the name of the person that they want to take over. One of the closest relatives, they have to agree upon the next Sultan within 48 hours. If they can’t, the next person in line will be inside the envelope. And, strange enough, they could not agree. The three cousins argued. So 48 hours later, the secretary to the Sultan, whose name was inside the envelope, became the new Sultan of Oman.

So Lebanon’s now having a strange thing because they can’t get the parliament to elect the next president, so they may have to go through another system. So, to keep order, they’ve got like an avatar representing the president or the person in charge right now. So, that’s what’s happening. The first artificial intelligent president. And it might not be so bad.

Linda Ashar: So, if people need information, they get it from the avatar. The avatar can’t make decisions, can it?

Bob Barrett: The avatar’s going to have information that’s fed into them, just like a chatbot for right now. They may have a pre-recorded information. For example, how many let’s say heads of state do pre-recorded sessions ahead of time, even like podcasts? They have it done ahead of time. And here’s the big question that they’re doing now on many websites.

Can you tell the difference between who is the real person? The photo or an artificial intelligence replication: Who’s the real one? And the same way can be with the voice. We’ve known for years: People can take snippets, parts of recorded messages, refashion them together, make a whole new speech, a whole new thing, and either help or hurt a political figure or a business leader.

That’s a great way for me to lead into the next part. One of the next big, which currently it’s big, but now it’s more than anything else. We need cybersecurity people to deal with artificial intelligent hackers. IT will be getting very much involved with that along with another big field that they’ve already predicted in Indeed in a major article about the top professions for our MBAs in international business would be the risk management or cybersecurity risk analysis. They are going to be very big, and anybody that’s taken these courses – we actually offer courses in this area – and if you have that on your resume, that’s going to make you look very good towards a future employer.

Linda Ashar: So, if I have an MBA, a hypothetical me, MBA graduate, and I may have a really great degree lineup of courses, but I might be asked in an interview, “What do you know about AI?”

Bob Barrett: Well, what they’re doing now, I just got off of a podcast with the International Labor Organization that I’ve done work with, the ILO. It was Zürich, Switzerland, and they had a German journalist that was on there talking about her interviews with all the leading HR departments.

And what she found out was amazing. They talked about the use of artificial intelligence in the HR process. For example, you may be given a link. You’re thinking ahead of time, instead of flying you to the company, you’re going to do a one-on-one interview via Zoom or Teams. What it normally is is some pre-recorded questions that they’ll send you ahead of time, and they’ll turn on the link. You’re looking at a camera, they’re videotaping only you. You see nobody else. And then they’re going to take a look at what you do, in terms of body language, your tone, speed of your speech, how you react to certain questions.

And they’re taking all of those indicators, as you would say, and they’re using that for scoring. Just like when you send your resume in through an app, they have keywords. They may have 1,000 resumes, maybe only 20 out of 1,000 will be selected, because they have all the keywords.

Same way with this videotape that they’re going to be taking for the first part interview to decide who goes to the second level. So, artificial intelligence, you need to know what you’re doing, what it’s about, how it’s going to be used.

For example, one of the questions I would say, if I were a manager again, I would ask the person, “What do you know about artificial intelligence, and what type of skill sets do you have in artificial intelligence that you could bring to the workplace?” That’s going to help me screen out a lot of applicants right away.

If they don’t know the term, “prompt engineering,” they don’t know what a chatbot is. They don’t know how to contact people. For example, the old trend was: how many social accounts do you have? And some employers got very aggressive. They wanted to know your log on, and that became a political nightmare and a legal nightmare for some employers.

So, now we’ve got these AI applications. And you’ve got to figure out the other key thing that I warn all my MBA students, be very careful with what you do. If you’re going to use AI, especially with a resume, be truthful, because your sins will find you out. They will find out if you’re fluffing and stuffing your resume. So, be very careful. So, you need to know how to use AI ethically.

Linda Ashar: Bob, that’s excellent advice. That’s always been good advice, but I think in today’s digital environment, we have to be especially cognizant of what is no longer private. Thank you so much for your time. This has been a really good conversation for those with desires to spread their wings with an MBA. But I would say it’s been a really good conversation for more than that. It gives us an insight into what’s going on with international companies and how our companies here in the United States are exploring internationally. It’s truly a global world, and it’s exciting. So, thank you, Dr. Barrett, for sharing your knowledge and experience. We really appreciate it.

Bob Barrett: Thank you for the opportunity.

Linda Ashar: Everyone, this is Linda Ashar. I’ve been talking today with APU professor, Dr. Bob Barrett, about international job trends for MBA graduates. Thank you all for listening.

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