Presented by University of Cape Town

How I launched an international career with CEMS MiM

 ·11 Apr 2024

UCT Graduate School of Business alum Ntando Mdladla tells us about the School’s award-winning CEMS Master in Management specialising in International Management programme, which is designed to launch ambitious young graduates into international internships at blue-chip multinationals all over the world.

The UCT GSB is the only business school in Sub-Saharan Africa to offer this course.

Tell us about yourself and how you came to the CEMS Master in Management specialising in International Management programme (CEMS MiM) at the GSB.

I grew up in Durban where I went to a private school, where black people were the minority, which gave me a bit of an identity crisis for a while. But when I got to the age of 17 or 18 I knew that what I needed was a more culturally diverse environment.

So at UCT I joined the Korean Association of Students to learn more about Korean culture, and made friends with students from Korea and China, as well as Madagascar, Nigeria – all of which fueled me to want to know more about different cultures, because I understood from personal experience how enriching it was for me.

I also did my Honours at UCT, specialising in marketing, and wanting to progress my career.

When I heard about the CEMS MiM programme at the GSB I was like, this is literally what I am looking for. What really drew me in was the international aspect, and courses like Social Innovation, looking into Africa on a global scale, as well as marketing and negotiation as an international manager.

Also, the international exchange opportunity [CEMS students spend a semester at one of 33 top business schools worldwide] also drew me because I wanted to explore education and business both locally and internationally.

What was it like sharing a classroom with such an internationally diverse cohort of students?

It also taught me that everyone thinks differently for sure. You become more empathetic and understanding.

I think that’s the point of this international programme, that you’re going to meet a lot of people from different cultures, nationalities or religions, and you’re going to have different views, different ways of doing things, but you got to find a way to meet a middle ground.

What were some of the highlights of the CEMS MiM programme?

That I learnt as much as I did about my own country. This might sound strange but I didn’t expect the extent to which I would learn about my own country, or continent. Even though I am South African. I was surprised by how much I learned.

But in retrospect I think that was to be expected because we had people from all over the world – France, Switzerland – who had never encountered this type of environment or maybe only heard about it. They had a lot of questions about Africa and what it would mean to do business here.

We also did like a lot of research, we looked at best practices and at different companies and the policies they had. We spoke to them about ideas we had, and they would also give us a lot of information about the various policies they had and how they were implementing them. 

We spoke to them about ideas we had, and they would also give us a lot of information about the various policies they had and how they were implementing them.

How did your semester in an international university go?

In Barcelona, we really integrated with different corporate affiliates [CEMS boasts a network of 70 blue-chip corporate partners].

You had to know a little bit of Spanish, but people generally speak English. And it was a very international cohort with people from China, Korea, Maratha. Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Canada, South America… a real big mix. A cultural melting pot. And also I learned a lot from the social side, for sure.

And you are now interning at Beiersdorf in Germany?

Yes – they are the holding company behind big brands like Nivea. We had a choice of 20 companies and I chose it purely on the HR-focused nature of the project. But now here I am in Beiersdorf, in Germany! It was my number one choice. We did a presentation in Hamburg, they flew us to have it in-person from Barcelona.

I learned a lot about the company through the contact that we had. I really enjoyed their vibe and energy. And I felt like the work that we were doing would be impactful.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced?

I think being away from home. I mean, I lived in Durban and UCT to Durban was a two-hour flight. But this was different. This was six months!

You graduated in December. Do you still keep in touch with your classmates?

Yes! I actually just spoke to one last week, who is back in Chile, and one yesterday. Another friend is back in Brazil and one is in Vienna at the moment. There’re a lot of people who keep in contact. I’m going to also visit another when I go back to Barcelona next week.

There are also friends from Paris that I made on exchange who I message if I go there. And it’s very relaxing. But I don’t think people expect you to have 24/7 contact.

I think the friendships I’ve formed are very much understanding we live an international life. And sometimes there’s a seven-hour time difference. But I think the bonds I formed are really concrete. And I see them as lifelong friends.

Click here to find out more about the CEMS Master in Management specializing in International Management at the UCT Graduate School of Business.

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