Ajay is currently working at Japan Petroleum Exploration Company (JAPEX) in Tokyo as the advisor to the chairman and president, a company owned substantially by the government of Japan. This was a radical move for Ajay but is equally as radical for JAPEX, since it was unheard of for a non-Japanese person to join the management of a Japanese energy company.
Has it been challenging to adjust to a Japanese work environment?
"The first year was tough for both sides. I have been fortunate to have been able to shape the role as necessary, within the constraints of the organisation's circumstances. My job has two broad parts, to assist the chairman and president of the company in delivering major projects and deals, this involves participating in decision making, making sure all aspects are properly covered when looking at new investment decisions or major transactions. Following the turbulence in the oil & gas industry over the past few years, there is an increasing focus on strategic decisions, such as financial restructuring and portfolio management. In Japan, especially in the energy industry, owing to its traditional role and orientation, the perception of risk and opportunity varies greatly from elsewhere. Strategic actions sometimes need to be instigated and can take considerably more effort and time than they might in a Western organisation. Part two of my role is to help enhance the company's international business competencies. At times, this entails driving the creation of new capabilities and work practices, for example, organisational changes to make sure legal and commercial input is taken into account as part of all project decisions going forward. I assist in improving overall management performance, part of the effort at changing management culture and strengthening governance. I am part of the company’s effort at strategic transformation.”
What sector specific or transferable skills did you gain on the MBA and are you still using them today?
"I found the structured introduction to marketing theory and marketing in practice extremely beneficial, as this was something I had never been exposed to before. I also did a module on industrial marketing which directly helped my first job at Shell. I still use academic elements of the course in my day-to-day job: strategic management, which taught me the ability to think strategically, and a finance module which included financial analysis, financial management, value chain cost analysis, reading balance sheets and cash flow accounts.
The overall mental training and discipline that comes from studying the MBA definitely echo in my job twenty-five years later. Above all, it is the ability to see the big picture and think strategically. You don’t realise when studying how you will directly use the skills, but I do see on reflection how the MBA transfers daily to my job. The MBA trains you to think in a different way and you recognise certain things in a business situation that you otherwise might not.
What is your favourite memory of Manchester?
The Manchester MBA programme has a truly international student body that you interact and work in groups with on various projects, which has really aided my global career. The collaboration with other cultures and emphasis on teamwork helped with what came next in the world of work. We had over thirty nationalities on the course, for me it was the first time I had been exposed to such diversity. Influencing people being key to success in any organisation, this collaboration with other cultures and emphasis on teamwork during the MBA helped with what came next in the world of work."
Alliance Manchester Business School sits on the doorstep of a vibrant city. We asked Ajay other than studying the MBA what were his favourite memories of living in Manchester? Ajay mentioned how he enjoyed the social scene of the MBA, going to the pubs with his classmates to unwind after a full day of studying. Surrounding Manchester there are also many picturesque towns that are easily accessible from the city centre. Ajay enjoyed travelling in the summer months to National Parks like the Peak District and Lake District, to escape the bustling city life for the green countryside.
What advice would you give anyone considering an MBA?
Ajay believes the MBA is a great qualification for those with the ambition to grow to management type roles, “Be clear in your mind as to why you want to study the MBA. If you are thinking about studying as a way of accessing a new career then I would definitely encourage going for it. Studying the MBA is a massive commitment, in terms of the time it takes, the break from your career and also financially. I do believe that clarity is crucial and having everything in place, both financially and mentally, before studying is so important. For me, having my family on board with the idea of studying an MBA also provided motivation and encouragement in the decision process. Overall, studying the MBA and choosing to work in the business sector were my best life decisions.”