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Having grown up in South Africa, Beth Bremner initially chose to study at the University of Stellenbosch where she graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce. She then lived in London and Dubai, gaining experience in sales, marketing and account management. In 2009, she headed for Hong Kong to pursue an MBA at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, where she blogged about her business school experiences for the Financial Times. She now works in the insurance industry and enjoys travelling, reading and eating exotic food.
1. When did you know you wanted to be study for an MBA?
It was something I considered since studying for my undergraduate degree. I felt that we were always engrossed in one subject or another, but that we were very rarely given the ‘big picture.’ After working for many years I thought that I would like to get out of my finance niche and see what else was out there and an MBA seemed a good way to transition.
2. What is the best piece of advice ever given to you?
“Don’t be ridiculous;” advice from my lovely and honest Swiss friend who advised that some things can be blown out of proportion before you have time to consider what is actually important.
3. What would be your plan B? (alternative career)
Wow, there are so many plan Bs. My favourite ‘dream’ is to open a carpet / jewellery / interior store in Cape Town, South Africa and then stock it by travelling to India and south east Asia on buying trips. There are a few others, but that is the most whimsical and most tempting.
4. What would you do if you were dean for the day?
Arrange a barbecue on our school terrace. Our dean is really busy. I think that our school would benefit most from leveraging the network we have. Since we are still very young, our alumni and other classes like EMBA and part time have not developed the ability to ‘cross pollinate’. I would work on developing deeper relationships to ensure a broader recruitment base for future classes.
5. What is your biggest lesson learnt?
I am not a real ‘lessons learnt’ fan, but I realise that what you put in you will always get out. Life is not a serious affliction, it is something that we are meant to enjoy and actively participate in and so I have learnt to not take myself too seriously. It is also important to listen to good advice when it is given.
6. What it the worst job you have ever had?
There have been a few. I spent one summer auditing. I was obscenely bored and stuck in an office with a great view of Cape Town. It was like being in my own private hell. I decided then and there never to be an auditor.
7. What advice would you give to women in business?
Don’t make a fuss about being ‘the only woman in the room’. One gains respect from doing a good job and delivering what one is asked to deliver not from ones gender.
Some women have said that they need to fight harder to get the same roles / promotions as men in their companies. If that is the case, then it is either time to work smarter, broaden your work network or change companies. I find it hard to believe that in this day and age companies would not treat everyone fairly and equally without being sued!
8. Who is your perfect/ideal professor?
Nelson Mandela. He is also my hero. I would love to be able to have him as a lecturer because I think he has the most wonderful view of the world and would be able to teach so many people so much.
9. Do you have a studying routine?
No, but I have, however, found that when I need to study my house is always spotlessly clean, the dishes are done and I have the most incredibly elaborate meals. My correspondence is also up to date and I get my nine hours of sleep in the evening.
10. Where is/would be your favourite place to study?
That list is pretty long. I studied in Stellenbosch University which has to be the most beautiful place to spend four years. It helps that it is surrounded by vineyards. Hong Kong is everything I hoped it would be and more. It is a dynamic mix of east and west and the city never sleeps. Cape Town or New York would also be pretty exciting places to immerse oneself with very little money and lots of friends to share the experience with.