Student Profile: Hichem Ben Ali, Master of Business Administration
Hichem Ben Ali’s Master of Business Administration from City University of Seattle helped him land a job at IBM, and he began working at the company shortly after graduating in 2010. Originally from Tunisia, Hichem appreciated CityU’s international student body and the opportunity to participate in entrepreneurial projects through SIFE, now known as Enactus. As a CityU alumnus, he wanted to share his experience with current MBA students or those considering the program. Here’s our full conversation with Hichem.
City University of Seattle (CU): Can you tell us a little more about yourself?
Hichem Ben Ali (HBA): My name is Hichem Ben Ali and I’m from Tunis, Tunisia. Prior to enrolling in CityU’s MBA program I worked at a Tunisian consulting firm for two years, and before that I got my bachelor’s degree in finance from ISG Tunisia.
CU: Why did you decide to apply to CityU?
HBA: One of the key reasons I decided to apply to the MBA program was because of the challenging workplace environment throughout in my country. It was very tough – and it is still almost impossible – to find a good job here, so I knew I had to differentiate myself as a candidate. I also wanted to learn key concepts and different approaches to managing business.
CU: As an international student, what was your experience like at CityU?
HBA: It was an exciting experience and one that was easy for me to adapt to. The setup of the program is well defined and matches the workplace needs and wants. Also diversity in Seattle was one of the things that made an international student like me comfortable and enjoy life at a university and outside.
CU: Did anything about the MBA program stand out to you?
HBA: I definitely appreciated the instructors’ high level of competency that stemmed from their mix of education and company experience. I enjoyed the classes because the program is designed in a way for students to take advantage of instructors’ real world cases, presentations to high level executives, etc. In addition, I enjoyed my experience in SIFE (now called Enactus) as activity leader. For me it was a complementary education to the MBA program, through which I was able to apply concepts learned in the classroom to entrepreneurial projects in SIFE.
CU: Have you been able to apply what you’ve learned at CityU?
HBA: Yes, right after the commencement ceremony I joined IBM – one of the top companies that cares about people, skills, and education. So for me it was an easy transition from being a student at CityU to a professional at IBM.
CU: After you graduated, how did your professional goals change?
HBA: Well, joining a large company was a goal in itself. Once that objective was realized, what I learned during my journey at Cityu and SIFE allowed me to be nominated as a top talent in the company and grow my career very fast. In parallel, soon after graduating I was hired by SIFE as a program manager in Tunisia, and four-and-a-half years later I was offered an ex-pat position in Africa at one of the top 10 companies in the world. Those are the kind of jobs that are offered after 30 years of experience. I am only 34 and I got this position thanks to my journey at CityU and my experience at IBM. For me, the CityU MBA program was kind of an accelerator to my career, as all these changes happened only four-and-a-half years after I graduated.
CU: Why did you want to share your story with other CityU students?
HBA: Feedback is key to consistently delivering good results. I had a wonderful experience at CityU, in which professional people contributed to. This success therefore needs to be recognized and valued. When I was student I was interested to hear alumni stories and experiences, because at the end of the day students would like to see what’s next after the program and they might get answers from past experiences of alumni.