Originally from South Africa, Mae Scholtz is VP & head of digital operations at First Abu Dhabi bank, the largest bank in the UAE (pictured above), where she lives with her husband. She shares why she decided to pursue an MBA and the impact business education has had on her career
- Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your career to date?
I have a strong background in various leadership roles in the banking and financial services industry at some of the leading banks in South Africa and the UAE. “Execution with high quality output” describes my work ethic and is the essence of my experience to date; I absolutely love delivering tangible value to customers and businesses. As a result, I have more than 10 years’ experience in driving delivery of customer-facing digital transformation initiatives in both the context of project/programme and portfolio management (business & IT).
- Please elaborate on your current role
My role as VP & head of digital operations at First Abu Dhabi (FAB) bank requires me to be passionate about “all things digital” for our consumer banking digitally active customers. This includes supporting the digital transformation agenda and driving delivery outputs from three support pillars across our consumer banking digital portfolio, namely: strategy & portfolio management; governance & agile delivery; and operational governance & digital kpi reporting.
- Where and when did you achieve your MBA?
I graduated in 2021 with distinction from the MBA distance learning programme at the University of Bradford School of Management.
- Why did you want to study for an MBA in the first instance and why did you choose to this particular school?
I experienced significant family loss after graduating high school, preventing me from having the means to study full-time at a university. I went straight into work as a call centre agent, climbing the ladder through experiential learning and exploiting various leadership positions, as well as studying for several professional certifications and participating in management programmes at different universities.
I knew an MBA would give me increased flexibility for future roles and areas, plus increased freedom and possibilities to choose where in the world I might wish to work. What attracted me to the MBA at Bradford is the university’s international triple accreditation status and that the programme was so highly rated in the Financial Times and by education industry experts.
- What is the most interesting thing you learnt from your MBA?
Besides gaining research skills and being exposed to materials from interesting modules, what I found most interesting was of a personal nature. I did not expect the personal learning in terms of how I can push myself beyond my limits and persevere.
- What were some of the challenges you faced when studying for an MBA?
Six months after starting, we ended up in the midst of the Covid pandemic, which was quite unsettling. Then around six months after completing my final module, I accepted an offer for an opportunity to work in the UAE. We had to do all the immigration admin and packing up our house while starting the new job offshore from South Africa.
- How has the MBA made a difference to your career path and leadership journey?
After joining a professional network in the UAE market, I am constantly surrounded by highly qualified and experienced experts. Without knowing at the time, my MBA was preparing me for a bigger role already. Several months after graduating, I was promoted to my current senior position.
- In what interesting ways have you taken what you have learnt in your MBA into the organisation for which you work?
My MBA not only gave me the general knowledge of foundational business practices, but also enhanced my ability to emphasise and be critical in my thinking across the spectrum of different business components. The latter has come in especially useful in the UAE market.
- What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about studying for an MBA?
Be clear as to why you would like to embark on an MBA. Define your own success criteria for choosing the right institution for your programme. Approach each module with a sense of curiosity and do not pre-empt what the content is all about.Lean on your classmates from all over the world to gain different perspectives and support each other.
- What are the next steps for you on your career journey?
Exposure to the intricate applications of the ‘circular economy’ during my studies awoke the ‘passion of sustainability’ within me. I would like to convert that passion into my mission, where my skills, knowledge and experience are all leveraged to make a difference to the environment and the various communities within it.