Why This Oliver Hume Property Executive Swapped Golfing in Doha For An MBA in Queensland

Brennan McNeill hopes his University of Queensland MBA will accelerate his career in property.

For an industry that generates more than $25 billion a year, Australia’s real estate sector is vastly underserved when it comes to gaining formal management qualifications that can support rapid career progression.

This lack of options led Gold Coast-based property executive Brennan McNeill to consider a Master of Business Administration (MBA).

After completing an undergraduate degree in business at Griffith University, Brennan found himself in Doha, Qatar, as the marketing manager of a major golf course.

“I always wanted to broaden my horizons and work overseas, so a couple of years after finishing university, I headed to the Middle East,” he said.

“It was a place where a lot of the executive team had MBAs, and I saw how it opened doors to a lot of new opportunities, particularly in competitive job markets like Doha. A lot of companies wouldn’t even look at you unless you had an MBA.”

“For me, it’s like a gold star on your resume that says to people that you are willing to learn and grow.”

“I had some good mentors as well who were very honest in saying that if I wanted to progress my career, I needed a broader understanding of business, and I think that is exactly what an MBA is designed to do.”

Living and working in Doha opened Brennan’s eyes to the opportunities available to MBA graduates, so, with COVID causing major disruptions, he returned to Australia and his old job at property service group Oliver Hume and started an MBA at the University of Queensland.

He first joined Oliver Hume just after graduating to explore his passion for the property sector, which he discovered while doing his undergraduate degree.

“Straight out of university, I worked in the sector and then made my way to Oliver Hume, where I worked in a few different roles before heading overseas,” he said.

“I still love the property industry; it is where my passion lies. If working overseas taught me anything, it is that while I was passionate about golf, I wasn’t passionate about the industry.

“When it was time to come home and do the MBA, I wanted to return to Oliver Hume because of the diversity of roles and opportunities available.”

“An MBA is a pretty intensive experience, and a supportive employer is critical, so I am fortunate to have gone on the journey with Oliver Hume in my corner.”

He said the MBA was a much different experience than he had expected, with a diverse range of subject options to choose from.

“I had a good idea of my pre-MBA skillset and what I needed to work on,” he said.

“Operations was something I really enjoyed and tied in with learnings from other subjects. It provided quite a few of those aha moments where things just clicked, and you understood how and why things work the way they do.”

“Overwhelmingly, the biggest advantage of an MBA is learning to look at business through different lenses and understanding how everything works together to create successful outcomes.”

Brennan completed his University of Queensland MBA in three years, initially studying full-time and then part-time. He rates the experience of working as part of a diverse cohort as one of the most surprising benefits of his studies.

“There is a really strong emphasis on group activities, so you are not just learning from your lecturers, you are learning from other students. We had people from all walks of life, all willing to share their knowledge.”

Brennan’s MBA experience all came together in a real-world capstone project working for a well-known charity to develop a post-COVID brand positioning and strategy.

“The project was done during a time when the organisation was facing many changes and challenges, so it was quite cool to be able to take a deep dive into their business and provide some insights on how they could move forward.”

As for the future, Brennan is looking forward to a long and successful career in his beloved property sector and, one day, finding his way to senior management.

“I still have a lot to learn about the industry, myself and business in general, but the MBA has been invaluable in shooting me along that path. I would definitely recommend it for anyone in the property sector.”

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 (rgcmm.com.au).