Over the course of your career, you may find that the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve your goals often change. After all, different goals require different abilities. Mateu Batle, a software engineer based in Lima, Peru, discovered as much when he launched the fintech start-up Rextie.
Batle had a wealth of experience in software engineering—25 years to be exact—and a bachelor’s degree in the field. But as he launched Rextie and began to scale his company, he quickly realized that serving as its co-founder and CEO required something more. “You need those business skills,” he said.
Initially, Batle set about learning the business side of things by doing. Eventually, however, he realized that earning a more formal education would be better in the long run. “Sometimes, as you scale, you need something more to take it to the next level,” he said.
Batle decided to pursue an online Master of Business Administration (iMBA) with the well-regarded University of Illinois’ Gies College of Business. He was less concerned about the degree as a credential, and more interested in the practical ways it would impact his business. “My goal was not to get the degree to have the paper on the wall,” he explained. “It was more about getting the knowledge and experience to have the tools to scale my business.”
For years, Batle had thought about earning his MBA, but between work, marriage, and his other responsibilities, it felt hard to find the time. “I had wanted to do this, but I didn’t have time to do it or it wasn’t a priority,” he said. Once he was ready to get going, though, he didn’t want anything to hold him back. “I wanted to get the learnings I needed as soon as possible,” he said.
It helped that Gies’ application process cut out a lot of bureaucracy. “It didn’t require the GMAT,” he said, referencing the standard graduate business entrance exam, which can often take significant time to prepare for and take. However, since Batle is not a native English speaker, he did have to provide a certification that he could comprehend the language. “It was very easy to do through Duolingo. It made it easier to check that box.”
Then there was the program itself, which offered greater flexibility for working professionals and the opportunity to build a program that works best for each student’s unique needs. “That’s something they have done very well,” Batle said. “You can choose to do one or two courses in a term, and the curriculum is possible to customize. I could adapt it to the things I consider more helpful for my business. I chose business analytics and digital marketing.”
As an online program, the iMBA also offers immersion opportunities to round out students’ education. “Being an online degree, sometimes you need to do more face-to-face interaction with people,” Batle said. “A group of about 40 iMBA students met in Brazil last August to do a real case on a real company. It was an amazing experience, especially the social part. The group was exceptional. I really enjoyed that.” That immersion opportunity also fulfilled one of the program’s two specialization capstone requirements.
If it sounds daunting to run your own business and go to graduate school, Batle has figured out how to balance those competing needs. For instance, it’s crucial to stay organized. He recommends setting aside at least ten hours a week for coursework. “Prioritize accordingly so you have that time,” he advised. “Plan a week in advance because sometimes you have different levels of work or assignments to do.”
Batle is set to graduate in June 2024, but he’s already seeing his education pay off. “It has so far contributed to the scaling and the growth of Rextie,” he said. “We recently got an investment from a very big bank in the US. Being a start-up in Peru, which is not a country normally known for investments. It has been worth the effort.”