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Tackling those big, wicked challenges: An MBA student’s perspective

March 09, 2022

Weekend MBA student Dean Pogas

Dean Pogas, soon to graduate from UVic’s MBA in Sustainable Innovation (weekend stream) credits the program with opening the door to his dream job. In November 2021, it led him to a new role at the Canadian Red Cross as the communications director for BC and Yukon.

Five days later, the term “atmospheric river” became everyday speak and BC experienced a natural disaster from record heavy rains. Pogas, at his brand-new organization, was there to support in a communications role.

“I found myself working and leading, with our team, communications in the ‘flood of our century’ for the province,” says Pogas of the disaster that impacted communities and cut off Metro Vancouver from the rest of Canada. “I joined a very supportive organization that had a lot of support systems there with me. Very much a team-driven organization with a common goal to help people.”

Time to reflect on career

The start of the pandemic gave people a chance to rethink and reflect on where they wanted to go in their lives. For Pogas, the time felt right to challenge himself and get his MBA.

He encourages anyone thinking about the program to talk with alumni. In Dean’s case, a conversation he had with Brian Cant, MBA ’18, was very helpful in reaffirming his choice.

He wanted something that would complement his degree in political science, his background in communications and government relations and equip him to tackle the next challenges at work and in society. The UVic MBA in Sustainable Innovation spoke to him on all these points.

When he had applied for the program, he was working as the communications director for the BC Non-Profit Housing Association, the umbrella organization that represents public housing in the province.

“Affordable housing and homelessness is one of those really big, wicked challenges that our society faces,” says Pogas. “I had heard about the MBA program and its focus on sustainable innovation, and on tackling those big, wicked problems. So that was what initially piqued my interest.”

But Pogas was in a job that he loved. He didn’t want to leave it to pursue graduate studies. So it was perfect that, while doing the weekend MBA format, he could still continue to work at his job in Vancouver. This allowed him to bring in real-life challenges and projects he had at his job, and dissect them in an academic setting with other people.

Learning new skills and perspectives

It has been a two-year journey of learning and networking for Pogas. It challenged him to rethink how to tackle some of the challenges facing society and his sector, and to be open to new ideas.

“Learning new ways to look at problems. Reframing the problems you have in front of you. What is really the problem I’m trying to solve? Or is it something else that I’m missing? So it challenges you and strips down what you’ve learned and builds you back up in a totally different way in terms of critical analysis, and equips you with this other skillset that you might have, but needed to develop.”

Relationship building and teamwork were some of these skills, and were huge parts of the program.

“It really helps you learn how to work effectively with very diverse individuals and teams,” says Pogas, who feels this environment is a reflection of real life in the workplace. “When you work in a very dynamic organization, you have a diverse group of individuals with very different skill sets, all with very different experiences and backgrounds that you can learn from and grow with.”

There was an interdisciplinary approach to the courses and learning.

“You learn everything from reading a balance sheet to budgeting and making data-driven decisions through deep analysis. You learn how to use a variety of marketing strategies. One thing that was useful was a course on design thinking, where you learn to reframe the problem that you have in front of you, develop empathy mapping, develop a better understanding of your stakeholders and what they’re going through.”

MBA propels him to dream job

Pogas feels like the MBA was a key component of him getting the job with the Canadian Red Cross. He always had a deep connection with public service and humanitarian work. It was a thrill for him to join them in a leadership position.

“The MBA was very instrumental in equipping me with leadership skills, in really taking a critical analysis to the problems before me, understanding complex systems such as supply chains, and how those may affect organizations or making decisions based on analysis of that you have in front of you, developing complex budgets. So, it really did provide me the knowledge and the tools to tackle those things that sometimes you might not know.”

Pogas’s cohort of the weekend MBA is set to wrap up in August. For Pogas, it also means continuing his work with the Canadian Red Cross and tackling those next challenges.

“Many of our future challenges that we face require us to really look at them through that sustainability lens and innovate through new ways of thinking about these challenges.”

Jon Chabun. Photo submitted.