Skip to main content
Gustavson School of Business logo

Q&A with Shah Mostakima (MGB ’23)

Shah Mostakima

Shah Mostakima, Master of Global Business (MGB) graduate, carved an unlikely path for herself as a Bangladeshi woman in a male-dominated field and a world explorer who was first in her family to travel abroad. She shares lessons learned during her studies in Canada, Scotland and Thailand, and talks about getting comfortable being uncomfortable. 

Gustavson: Tell me about your experience before joining the MGB program. 

Shah Mostakima: I'm from Bangladesh. For my whole life, I lived in Bangladesh with my family. I did my undergraduate degree in business administration there too. After graduating, I started working as a management trainee at Grameenphone Limited, a telecommunication company. I worked there for two years, moving up to Cluster Manager in sales.

That phase completely changed my life. It's not common for girls to work in sales in Bangladesh. It's a very male-dominated industry. And, on top of that, I was living away from my family for the first time.

I am from a little, conservative family. I had to break the boundaries a bit because I was (and still am) the only one in my family to go abroad. To convince them I should go abroad and live alone was a huge challenge. But my parents saw me succeed at work, so they believed in me.

G: What attracted you to the MGB program?

SM: I wanted to do a master’s to enter the next stage in my career; and I was always interested in travelling and exploring. That's why I was looking into international business.

Secondly, I always wanted to have my own business. And that’s true for many other people in my program. So, learning about different environments—international exchanges, supply chains, marketing strategies—was important to me.

And that’s what is so unique about the MGB program: when you’re there [studying and working abroad], it’s different from learning it from books. It's more meaningful.

G: Tell me about learning to travel while studying.

SM: I discovered that when I go to a new place or a new city, for the first two weeks I'm scared. I'm like “I can’t do this anymore. I don't want to see the world.” But really, it just takes me two weeks to get used to it.

Overall, I'm just really proud of how I put myself out there. In the United Kingdom and in Thailand, I travelled a lot. It was so normalized. Everyone was always looking to the next four or five days off and planning their adventure to Singapore, China, Malaysia, Japan, Korea, China and so on! Sometimes I couldn't get other friends to go with me, so I travelled there alone. I'm so proud that I didn't stop myself.

G: Did you have a favorite place you visited?

SM: Thailand is in my heart. It was the best—I didn’t want to leave. Everything about it: all the places, the food, the people, travelling. Yeah, everything. I went skydiving there too.

G: Tell me about learning to work effectively with your cohort. How did you problem solve together?

SM: That’s a big part of the program: gathering a group of very different people.

Our final consultation project in Thailand was tricky because of a communication gap with the client. We had seven members in our team and we were all understanding the project differently. We were not getting what to the clients wanted from us. We couldn't decide what to do, so we reached out to our professor saying, “We are not understanding what is required of us and it's creating conflict. What would you suggest?” He coached us through that as a mentor, careful not to interfere in the client relationship.

Other than that, we talked a lot. We tried to spend time with our team. We went out to eat and just have quality time together. That’s really important.

G: Did you have the same team throughout the program?

SM: No, we were designated to new teams each semester. [Although the cohort remains the same throughout the program, the teams within the cohort are re-assigned.] It's just like the real world: you get assigned to people who are there based on merit. It has nothing necessarily to do with whether they are a good fit for you. It’s especially important to remember not everyone's priority is the same. Someone may want to excel academically; someone else is there for the experience; and someone else is there to make connections.

For me personally, this was a really big life lesson to learn: everyone's priorities are different and it doesn't make it wrong or right. Because it's easy to have this resentment of “why aren't you more like me?”

I love working in teams because it feels so fulfilling when we complete the task. Regardless of any misunderstandings or disagreements, in the end we came together and we delivered. That feeling is very special to me.

G: Did you have any favorite subjects, classes or instructors in the program?

SM: I love the Canadian study style because it’s very discussion based. There's no right or wrong; it’s about sharing perspectives. I didn't experience that in Bangladesh really. My courses were very lecture-based.

My favorite teacher was Mathew Boyd, at Gustavson. He taught us our North American business context class in Canada. It was an evening class and he would bring us Timbits, knowing we were all tired at the end of the day. He was also coming from his day job at BC Transit. You can tell how special he is!

For subjects, I love marketing. I always was a huge fan of storytelling and learning to understand your client. But I hadn’t learned about high- and low-context communication until this program. High-context cultures have less-direct verbal and nonverbal communication and low-context cultures do the opposite; using direct verbal communication to communicate. It's a huge lesson that I'm taking with me.

Q: Do you have recommendations for others interested in the MGB program?

SM: If anyone is thinking of doing their master’s, I would suggest that they have some work experience. I was able to draw on personal experience when we studied topics like teamwork, communication and working with diverse groups of people. I also learned other essential skills while working in sales, which was nonstop 24/7: how to manage my time and how to take the stress and the pressure. I applied those skills in this program.

The other thing to consider is that vacationing is not the same thing as travelling for work (or in this case, school). It’s definitely worth it, though. This program will make you adaptive, flexible and open-minded, for sure. After completing this program, I know I can survive anywhere. I have that confidence in myself now.

Photo submitted by Shah Mostakima.