We recently connected with Shaikha Al Naqbi, an Emirati national who has completed MIT Sloan Executive Certificates in all three tracks, as well as the Advanced Certificate for Executives (ACE).
What was your role at the time you enrolled in your first program at MIT? What prompted you to enroll?
I am currently working in Mashreq Bank, one of the leading private financial institutions in the United Arabs Emirates. Initially, before I enrolled in my first program at MIT, I was promoted to Vice President of Origination and Business Development Unit within the Corporate and Investment Banking Group. This was five months before beginning my journey at MIT Sloan Executive Education, after working in construction/contracting finance for several years. My team and I are responsible for go-to-market strategy and developing the bank’s profile in the local and broader community by originating and delivering the bank products and services for corporate banking customers.
What prompted me to enroll at MIT was the desire to get into an executive education program that would fit my life and enhance my leadership style. I also wanted to diversify my skills and knowledge, as well as know how to use the technological innovations as they apply to business management, strategy, and leadership in the age of digital transformation. In 2018, I decided to take a one-year educational leave from my work and moved to the U.S. to pursue my master’s degree in finance at Hult International Business School as well as complete financial accounting courses at Harvard Business School. As someone who always savors professional development from leading schools, I felt that MIT was the best choice for executive certification due to its global reputation in technology, innovations, artificial intelligence, leadership, strategy, and management. I always aim to be one of the best leaders, and all the above topics are crucial for the leaders and decision-makers. Positive feedback from previous participants further bolstered my decision to enroll.
Did you always intend to earn the ACE certificate?
Initially, I had not planned to earn the ACE because of the time commitment. (The ACE requires the completion of 25 program days. My 2019 plan was to earn an MIT Sloan Executive Certificate in Strategy and Innovation and an MIT Sloan Executive Certificate in Technology, Operations, and Value Chain Management. I had planned to complete the requirements for the Executive Certificate in Management and Leadership and the ACE in the future, as I was pursuing my master’s degree and found it difficult and challenging to take both programs simultaneously. However, after some time, I sat down and started designing a plan to earn certificates in the three tracks.
I was so excited to be a part of the MIT community. I enjoyed each program, and I loved every minute I spent on campus and especially class meetings, discussions, and sharing the experience with experts and business leaders from all over the world. I interacted with people from a wide range of industries— technology, energy, healthcare, communications, financial services, manufacturing, and government and non-government organizations. All these encounters on campus encouraged my professional development, and I decided to go for the ACE.
What are some of the specific challenges that you came to MIT to solve, or the skills you were hoping to acquire?
I was seeking top-tier education. When I approached the MIT executive team to ask about the courses offered, they told me that MIT not only provides a diverse portfolio of programs but also a remarkable chance to share experiences with high-level executives from different countries, industries, business, and cultures. I liked the idea as this would enable me to interact with top minds and benchmark my challenges with theirs. I also saw the value in opening up my mind by adopting new ways of thinking about business and boosting innovation in the work.
Do you have favorite courses or professors, and why?
Courses and professors are all phenomenal. When selecting the courses, I wanted to be sure they were in line with my needs. Some of the most exciting courses included Managing Technical Professionals and Organizations; this course focuses on issues critical to the effective management of technical professionals and cross-functional teams. The course also provides in-depth information on how to improve team collaboration. I liked the examples provided by Professor Ralf Katz on how to manage people in stressful situations and how to motivate them.
The other course I favored is the online program Artificial Intelligence: Implications for Business Strategy. This course was terrific; it challenged me on topics of strategic planning for digital transformation and the implications of AI on employees, jobs, and associated ethical concerns as well as economic and societal issues raised. The weekly individual assignment helped me to know how to apply ai in different sectors and how to benefit from it from the organization and customers’ side. In the sixth week of this course, I structured a roadmap for the strategic implementation of an artificial intelligence technology in the banking sector, focusing on machine learning, natural language processing, and robotics. I’m looking forward to implementing my planned strategy and what I learned soon.
My other favorite course is Leading Change in Complex Organizations. This course presented innovative perspectives on organizational challenges, offering proven tools and frameworks. It was also instrumental in understanding the processes required to make changes. The simulation we did in the class equipped us with the best approach to lead changes in the current organizations’ complexities.
And the other course I found interesting is Innovator's DNA: Mastering Five Skills for Innovative Disruption. This was one of the best innovation courses I've attended at MIT; lecturers Professor Hal Gregersen and Professor Phil Budden were amazing. The live discussions provided some unique insights into innovation. I will use this class knowledge in many facets of life. Generally, the faculty was amazing … the professors’ knowledge and their style of teaching were engaging, educational, impactful, and empowering.
What are some of the program takeaways that have most impacted your work?
The MIT mind and hand philosophy—supported by professors, business cases, workshops, operational frameworks, technology innovations, and concepts of how build and improve strategies—can inspire the success of any organization. How to make an organization more agile, responsive, and creative—these are all some of the significant takeaways I gained and aim to apply it in my work once I return next month.
What does it mean to you to be the first Emirati woman holding these certificates?
I am incredibly proud and honored to be the first woman from the United Arab Emirates to hold these MIT Sloan Executive Certificates. This achievement would not have been possible without the inspiration and support I received from my family. I would also like to say that I’m so lucky that I’m from a country where the leadership empowers and encourages women to have high level of education. They have great confidence in our capabilities as women to take up significant challenges, succeed in our organizations, and hold leadership positions. Earning these Executive Certificates is a great accomplishment for me as an Emirati woman and an executive.