‘An MBA is an eye-opening experience which teaches you how our society and economy is changing,’ says Dea Qatipi, a current student at MIP Politecnico di Milano in Italy.
With an academic background in urban and regional planning, Dea’s work experience encompasses time spent at the UN and World Bank as well as coordinating infrastructure projects in her home country of Albania. In this interview, she explains her reasons for pursuing an MBA and where she hopes the degree will take her. She also offers her opinion on the realities of the opportunities available to young professionals in Albania and the challenges currently facing its education sector.
After graduating with an MSc in the US, why did you wish to take an MBA?
I consider myself an ambitious girl, and the career I was pursuing in urban planning was not going in the direction I wanted. My focus area during my master’s studies was economic development. I wanted to work in projects related to that field, but unfortunately not many things were going on in Albania [Dea’s home country] – urban development is still focused mostly on land use management.
I thought an MBA would allow me to develop a career in the private sector. Companies today are becoming more concerned with topics like sustainability and responsibility, and I thought that my background paired with an MBA can be appealing to many organisations.
Why did you choose to study in Italy, at MIP Politecnico di Milano?
I chose MIP Politecnico di Milan because I liked the programme and its structure. It is created in collaboration with major companies in Italy and through it I thought I would have more exposure and opportunities.
I chose Italy because I know Italian very well and generally I fit very well with the Italian culture. Furthermore, it is close to my home and flights are frequent so I can go and visit family and friends even for a weekend.
Can you tell us a little bit about the work you were doing leading up to the MBA?
I was working for a consulting company, IDRA Research and Consulting, on three main projects: general local plans for three municipalities, a feasibility study for an airport in the south of Albania and an economic assessment of the country’s Water Irrigation Project.
These projects were funded by international donors like Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the World Bank. My role involved coordinating and leading teams of experts in different fields as well as stakeholder engagement for each project. I was reporting directly to the CEO, and although the company was big and I liked the projects I was involved in, I didn’t feel there was room for me to grow in terms of responsibilities.
Did your earlier experiences with the UN and World Bank influence the direction in which you wanted your career to go?
Yes! At first, I was very hopeful about focusing my career on big NGOs, but my experience has led me to I understand that things there move very slowly and it was an environment that doesn’t fit my personality and ambitions.
What are your plans for after the MBA? Do you intend to return to your home country of Albania?
I am committed to staying in Milan after my studies. I think Milan offers great opportunities, and is a great city to live in. Unfortunately, Albania does not offer the same opportunities because it is a smaller reality and market.
I think in 2000, Tirana – the capital and centre of Albania’s economy, and my hometown – was thriving economically and there were many opportunities: big companies and banks were coming and there was a great need for new resources and building capacities. Today, I feel that growth has stopped and advancing your career is harder.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing Albania right now?
In my opinion, Albania is facing many different challenges in different sectors. Having an education system that keeps up with job market demands and having a regulated job market would, in my opinion, open up more opportunities, creating a more meritocratic system.
Young people are demoralised not only because of a lack of opportunities in what they want to do, but also because the benefits from their job are minimal. In many companies, it is still mandatory to work six days per week, compensation is not always matched to the market and evaluation is not always truly performance based. Helping to create a more meritocratic system, starting with education, would, I believe, strengthen inhabitants’ desire to work hard in Albania rather than look for opportunities abroad.
A 2018 report suggests that many more people in Albania would like to study abroad than are currently able to. Do you feel fortunate to have been able to study abroad? What have you enjoyed the most from your time as a student in the US, and now in Italy?
Albanian universities and education in general are very outdated and those who are eager for more knowledge often leave the country.
I feel very fortunate to have had such great opportunities to study and work abroad in the US and Italy – studying in foreign languages, looking for jobs, interacting with a new culture, is completely different to a tourist trip. I had to work really hard for such experiences, because the only way to afford them was to win scholarships like the Fulbright Program (for my master’s in the US) and Gianluca Spina Association (for my MBA in Italy). I was also lucky to have the full support and encouragement of my family without which I would not have been able to make it.
How do you think your MBA will help you achieve your career aims?
I think the MBA will offer me greater exposure with many companies. I notice that today’s companies really appreciate a diverse background. Jobs have changed and an MBA is an eye-opening experience which teaches you how our society and economy is changing. I strongly recommend it, not only for anyone who wants a career change and or is looking for a new job, but also for current managers or employees who would like to aim higher or who want to become entrepreneurs.
I am still in the process of applying for jobs, but I am positive that this MBA will offer me a career jump in the private sector.