Ryan Marais: Proud Capetonian and up and coming marketeer
What could be better than spending every day of your waking life living near the shadow of Table Mountain in arguably one of the most picturesque cities in the world? Well, when you speak to Cape Town resident, Ryan Marais, current Nexford MBA leaner, it’s not all about winelands and breath-taking scenery, it’s about getting his MBA and using that as the launchpad to take his career through the stratosphere.
When asked if his Nexford journey to date has been one of the most enriching experiences in his young life, he answers with a resounding ‘yes’ as he believes that the skillsets being acquired during his MBA are helping to open more doors at the agricultural company ANB Investments he is currently working for. But of course, every journey must have a start point and Ryan’s journey with Nexford happened quite by mistake.
Ryan says, “I came across Nexford by accident. Sure, you may scoff at the notion that someone chooses a university to study their masters by chance when it is such a big investment, but hand on heart, it was. I was planning to do a masters or a postgraduate course, but I didn’t know what or where.”
He decided to go to good old Google. Ryan was googling places to do your MBA online and it was taking him to universities in America and the UK. Both were a no go as he did not have the visa or the funds to leave South Arica and sit in a lecture hall for years, plus he would have had to stop working and he could not afford that either.
He was about to give up hope and then quite like a gift from God, Nexford appeared in the search results, and he decided that this was the university for him. It just ticked all the boxes, so he decided to go for it.
Too good to be true?
What then were the boxes that Nexford University ticked? Ryan maintains that first and foremost it was the flexibility of being able to learn online and from home, which meant that he did not have to put his career on hold to chase his Nexford MBA dream. At first, he thought that the flexibility and affordability was all too good to be true, but after a week of research and careful consideration he came to realize that Nexford was legit, and he decided to apply. If he got in, he says that it was meant to be.
And it was clearly meant to be as a week later Ryan received the great news that his application had been accepted, and so the journey started. He grabbed the opportunity with both hands and has absolutely zero regrets.
Of course, before the Nexford journey there was an initial educational journey. Ryan remembers with fondness his schooling days in a small town in Somerset West in the Western Cape province, about 25 kilometres away from his hometown.
He did not have the luxury of having mom or dad drop him off at the front door, so he had to travel by bus or taxi just to get to the school. When he did get there, he made the most of his time and got the grades to go to Stellenbosch University where he procured his undergraduate degree in psychology. But, as what happens with many learners across the globe who change course in their studies, Ryan came to realize that psychology was not the only thing for him.
He says, “When I decided to pack it in at Stellenbosch University, I decided to do my honors in marketing, and took to it like a duck to water. That then opened the door to the company for which I am now working. They were looking for interns and I got the gig.”
The creaking noise of doors opening!
When pressed on just what kind of opportunities are being presented to him whilst learning his Nexford MBA, Ryan says, “So I stepped in as a marketing intern for about six months and then I switched over to customer relations management for the company. I used my marketing knowledge for that. Then once I started my MBA, I was able to use that knowledge to even greater effect. I learned about root cause analyses, and I was able to apply that to problems that I was encountering at work. It just all fell into place because one of the things that I was also able to apply was countering resistance to change assessments. This allowed me to figure out how I would be able to work through a problem or project. Thankfully, I am now able to think more strategically.”
Further to that, Ryan maintains that with this newfound Nexford knowledge and innovative approach to problem-solving, he can get projects done quicker. So, it’s just enhanced what he is doing at work and helping him to take things to the next level.
Nexford competency-based learning wins through
Skills don’t come from theory, and theory does not help anyone to get the job done effectively. It’s as simple as that. And Ryan wholeheartedly concurs when he talks about the uniqueness of Nexford’s competency-based learning that prioritizes teaching skills over the theory that traditional universities base most of their curriculum around.
He says, “The information gleaned whilst learning for my MBA is relevant. It’s stuff that is happening in the world right now. A few modules ago we were working on a Tesla case study. It was a real-life case study, and it opened my eyes to the challenges that global companies like this face every day, and what is required to turn those challenges into business successes. My project was about operational management. I was able to apply what I learned in a test project and then successfully take those learnings into the company that I’m now working for.”
Everything takes time
Of course, because Ryan is not a recent lottery winner and does not have the luxury of being able to put his career on hold whilst he learns at Nexford, he has had to find ways of fitting his degree into his busy work schedule.
He has had to make big sacrifices because like others in the world, he has a nine to five job. He exclaims that usually when he got home from a long day at the office, he was exhausted, but knew that to taste success he had to put in the hard yards and get his thinking cap on. He had to work weeknights and Sundays. That said, he could take solace in the fact that he was not going it alone.
Ryan says, “I’m incredibly lucky that I found a student at Nexford that lives in the town close to me. So, we’ve joined forces to be each other’s study buddy and support each other through the journey. We’ve taken it upon ourselves to have a five o’clock meeting on a Wednesday morning to catch up. We discuss the work that we’ve been through in the module, the assignments, and anywhere that we’re lacking or need support that we can help one another with.”
When pressed on whether he is married or has kids, Ryan smiles and says, “No I am happily single with no kids, which is a blessing as I can fully commit to my studies without any distraction. I have also had to turn down events with family and friends on a fairly regular basis. But the ends justify the means. This won’t be forever and with all good friends, they will still be there when I finish.”
Even though he has had to minimize his time spent with friends, Ryan says that they are also an amazing support structure and are constantly egging him on to do his best. He does say though that there are times when his friends have turned around and told him that it was time to pause his learning for a few hours to have a BBQ or go to dinner.
It pays to specialize
Never one to reast on his laurels, Ryan is always looking to expand his horizons and add more strings to his career bow. This is why he says that once he has completed his Nexford MBA in sustainability, he would like to possibly do a double major in sustainability and artificial intelligence.
That will be in the future, but in the here and now, Ryan says that the skills he has learned so far in his sustainability MBA will allow him to take the leap of faith to move into a strategic position within his current company.
He says, “I kind of want to put myself out there and kind of rebrand myself and move from customer relations manager to marketing strategist and take things forward from a marketing perspective. I don’t want to become a dinosaur.”
The future looks bright
So, the inevitable question asked of Ryan was, ‘where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?’ Ryan takes a moment to consider the question and says that he sees himself growing into a very marketing and organizational structured role. Basically a management position.
He is also considering spreading his wings one day and maybe working outside the borders of South Africa. He is eyeing a possible job in London, so that would be a big commitment and would certainly take him out of his current comfort zone.
He says, “I’m eager to spread my wings. But I also know where my roots are. And although my feet are grounded in South Africa, for now, they are still feet that are designed to move. So, you can move with your skills, because staying in one job for 30-40 years means that you are not really growing as a person. You don’t get to know yourself, or challenge yourself, and that’s what I like doing. I like challenging myself to grow and be the best version of myself.”
Inspiration and perspiration
Thomas Edison said, “Success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.”
When asked about his inspiration, Ryan took a moment to think and said, ‘people’. He really does draw inspiration from other people that he comes into contact with daily. He says that even though you might consider yourself to be an average man or woman on the street, you can still learn a lot from that person.
He goes on to say, “Even though I work in a large company with about 2,000 people and I’m seeing new faces all the time, I keep reminding myself that I can learn from all of them. That is where I get my inspiration from as they constantly teach me new things of how I can do things better, or where I can improve. And that for me is my inspiration. People need to be relatable, which is why I did not list Bill Gates or Elon Musk.”
No matter where he draws inspiration from, just by spending 30 minutes in his company, it is easy to see why we genuinely believe that Ryan is going to go places, and we look forward to him coming through our virtual doors again to learn more, update his CV, and then go out again to earn more.
Seeing is believing, so check out Ryan’s video.
About the Author
Mark is a college graduate with Honours in Copywriting. He is the Content Marketing Manager at Nexford, creating engaging, thought-provoking, and action-oriented content.