Athabasca University MBA opened doors for AHS executive
Mauro Chies wasn’t thinking about an MBA from Athabasca University (AU) when he began his career in healthcare three decades ago. But he couldn’t have risen as high within Alberta Health Services (AHS) as he has without one.
Now the Vice President, CancerControl Alberta & Clinical Support Services, he began his career as a medical laboratory technologist in 1988 after completing a two-year college program, advancing into supervisory and managerial roles over the course of his early career.
“I was doing well I would say, career-ladder-wise, but I was coming to a ceiling,” he said. “The opportunity to advance through that ceiling was one at the executive level with Capital Health at the time, was one where they told me I needed an MBA.”
But as with so many learners who choose AU, Chies was at a point in his life where his many other responsibilities precluded attending an in-person program at a bricks-and-mortar institution.
AU’s MBA program offered him the opportunity to enter the program without an undergraduate degree—based on his extensive management experience—and also the flexibility to arrange his schedule around his work, his family, and life’s other commitments.
“I needed the flexibility, as I had a young family at the time. I couldn’t quit my job, as I needed to continue working full time,” he said. “I decided that me and Athabasca University were a good fit.”
Chies said he initially felt like a “fish out of water,” as others in his cohort came from private-sector organizations rather than the public sector, but before long he was able to start relating the concepts in the courses to the work he was doing.
After he completed his MBA in 2008, the Government of Alberta restructured the local health authorities into a single authority, AHS. As that organization began to fill roles at the senior leadership level, the fact he had an MBA put him in the running for those positions while many of his colleagues didn’t have the minimum qualifications.
“The timing, to finish the MBA off in October 2008, then it was in May or June that I was offered an executive position in AHS and I’ve worked at that level ever since,” he said. “There was a bit of luck with the timing, no doubt about it, but had I not achieved that MBA the previous year I wouldn’t have even been considered.”
Chies credits his time spent at AU with giving him perspective on the importance of ongoing education and bringing advanced learning to the industry he works in—one that does not always change as quickly as private-sector counterparts.
And now, while having an MBA is not the be all and end all in the hiring decisions he makes, he does want to hire people that have applied learning they can bring to their role, rather than just experience. That’s something, as he knows from personal experience, that can come from AU’s MBA program.
“It gave me a different perspective from a systems-view that I never would have had if I had never gone into the program,” he said. “And the support that came from the university to help guarantee success, the support from other students, the whole means of community that AU brings, was just a great experience.”
Find out more about AU’s MBA on the Athabasca University Faculty of Business website, and read more about how the world’s first online MBA program helped learners to transform their lives at firstonlinemba.ca.