Transition Your Career To Leadership With A QUT MBA

With a decade of experience in the start-up ecosystem across the United States and South America, Jonathan Lai is looking forward to how his QUT MBA will equip him for future leadership roles.

Transitioning from being a technical expert in a specialist field to a well-rounded leader overseeing large organisational structures is one of the most challenging things any professional will undertake during their career.

Making the transition is not just about getting a new title; it involves developing a whole new set of skills, not all of which can be learned ‘on the job’.

For more than 100 years, leadership aspirants have been using the Master of Business Administration (MBA) to learn those skills. The QUT Business School has built their MBA program specifically to help people transition from specialist to generalist roles.

QUT MBA Director Associate Professor John Bensley said that whilst technical expertise in a chosen field can be important when embarking on a career in leadership, many other skills were required to sustain success.

“Our MBA is all about equipping students with learnings that build on their expertise and experience to create well-rounded leaders with a range of critical skills,” he said.

“With a QUT MBA, students can either accelerate from technical roles into leadership or pair their technical expertise with broad management expertise. Either way, students learn skills to accelerate their careers as a whole.

The QUT MBA, offered through the triple-accredited (AACSB, EQUIS and AMBA) QUT Business School, is made up of four components that build on each other to provide students with an integrated and multi-disciplinary curriculum that allows them to take on the challenges and opportunities of complex business environments.

Each MBA unit of 6 credit points is delivered in a six-week teaching period. These units have a strong focus on allowing students to apply concepts, models and techniques learned in class directly to their workplace.

From Accountant To Consultant – Di Su’s QUT MBA Journey

QUT MBA Di Su used her MBA to transition her career from accountant to consultant.

After arriving in Australia more than a decade ago to complete a Bachelor of Commerce (and subsequently become a CPA), Di Su knew that an MBA would help her transition to a new career. She didn’t expect it would help her become a new person.

“After my degree and working for a few years, I found I wanted something more than technical, in-house accounting and finance roles. While it is a great job, I wanted something a bit more challenging and broad-based and started thinking about how I could transition,” Di said.

“The most significant part for me was having the confidence to know I had the skills and knowledge to step up to a new role, and that is precisely what the MBA at QUT gave me.

“Stepping out of a highly technical role and becoming more of a generalist is a big step, and I didn’t want to do it unless I knew I had the toolkit to succeed.”

After finishing her MBA in 2016 it wasn’t long before her desire to change careers became a reality, and she secured a role with big four consulting group Deloitte. Nearly five years later, she is a Director of the business and works closely with a range of different clients to help solve their complex challenges.

And it wasn’t just her career that benefitted from the MBA.

“Being female and coming from a different cultural background, I didn’t really have the confidence to put myself out of my comfort zone across all areas of my life,” she said.

“But since my MBA, I have found myself challenging myself in various ways, including volunteering in the not-for-profit sector. They have been incredibly rewarding and wouldn’t have happened without my MBA.”

From Start-Up Hustle To Big Company Bustle – Jonathan Lai’s MBA Story

With a decade of experience in the start-up ecosystem across the United States and South America, Jonathan Lai is looking forward to how his QUT MBA will equip him for future leadership roles.

After graduating with his Bachelor of Business from QUT in 2009, Jonathan moved abroad and fully immersed himself in building and collaborating with early-stage start-ups. In 2020, he returned to Australia, driven by a new ambition – to transition from the fast-paced and unpredictable start-up scene to forge a leadership pathway within larger organisations.

“Working with early-stage companies, both my own and others’, gave me with a well-rounded skill set,” Jonathan explains. “However, I grew weary of the relentless nature of start-ups. I sought a role that would offer more stability without stifling my entrepreneurial spirit.”

Jonathan’s quest led him to a realisation – the skills he had developed in the start-up space were not easily translatable to many larger organisations. It wasn’t until he secured his current role at Shopify that he found a fitting place. “Shopify has a true entrepreneurial ethos yet offers the scale I needed to grow my career,” he notes.

In early 2021, Jonathan landed a position in Partnerships Strategy and Operations at Shopify. Soon after, he recognised the need for an MBA to augment his existing skills. By the time he was accepted into the March 2022 intake at QUT, he was fully cognizant of his career goals.

“As you progress in your career, your focus naturally shifts to the skills you lack rather than those you possess,” he reflects. “To elevate my career to the next level, I realised that I needed to fill in some gaps. My experience so far has confirmed that belief.”

Jonathan concludes, “For me, this journey is about refining my extensive generalist toolkit. I’m preparing for senior leadership opportunities, whether with large organisations or in pursuing my entrepreneurial ventures in the future.”

Visit QUT MBA for more information about the program and the next intake.

Ben Ready
Ben Ready founded MBA News in 2014 and is the Managing Editor. He is a former business and finance journalist with Australian Associated Press (AAP) and Dow Jones Newswires in London. Ben completed his MBA in 2012 and was awarded the QUT GMAA Entrepreneurship Prize. He is also the founder and Managing Director of RGC Media & Mktng (