MBA Profile - Jeff burns, group manager human resources, Alex Fraser Group

by 13 Oct 2009

When and where did you do your postgraduate course?

AIM provides John Swire & Sons (the parent com pany of Alex Fraser Group) with a Swire Man agement Program and an Advanced Swire Management Program that between them satisfy the requirements of a Graduate Certificate in Busi ness (Professional Management).

Part-time or full-time?

Both programs are about two weeks residential and we get to do them with other managers from the different Swire businesses in Australia. The course material is delivered by AIM and there is an assessment component that is done in your own time. Most of the assessment is relevant to work you are doing in the office.

Why an executive education course?

For me it was about getting immersed in the latest management thinking and networking with other managers from the Swire Group. We have a really interesting group that contains businesses as diverse as agriculture, road transport, cold storage, ship ping and industrial services so the exposure to how other managers address their unique challenges is really stimulating. I did an MBA 10 years ago and I find I don’t get the time to keep up to date with the latest management thinking. Because it’s resi dential it’s also nice to have a forced “time out”.

How did the executive education course help your career as a HR professional?

I think the great HR professionals are not only passionate about the possibilities with people, but also deeply interested in the business and what makes it tick. Unless you can talk meaningfully about what drives the P&L of your business you’ll just be regarded as “that guy who bangs on about people stuff”. So I think executive education in general management is essential for HR profes sionals to get sufficient credibility necessary to make a difference.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about pursuing a masters/MBA/exec edu cation course?

My best friend is asking me this very question at the moment. He didn’t go to uni and has done OK for himself after starting out as a bank Johnny. I think he’s got the perfect oppor tunity as a mature age student to claim his work experience and get started on a post graduate qualification. I’ve said to him he does n’t want to get to 45 and lose out on a promotion to some graduate. Besides, his com pany is prepared to help out with the fees. It’s a no-brainer.

What was the greatest challenge for you while completing the course?

Time is the hardest thing to find these days, so get ting sufficient time to do the assessment was the greatest challenge. But isn’t it always the case that when you set aside the time you actually get a lot out of it? Well worth the effort.

Any other comments?

One of the great things about the course is that the material is pretty relevant to the challenges we have – getting the best out of our people, getting clear about our strategy and managing operational improvement – so I’ve brought back a lot of the butcher’s paper from the course and have it on my wall at the moment.