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Speaking the language of business is fundamental to leadership

October 23, 2020
UBC MEL MHLP - Language of Business

Being an effective leader of teams and projects requires a deep technical understanding of your sector, whether you work in energy management or seniors care. Equally important is understanding the influence of organizational and financial dynamics on your projects.

A leader who can confidently communicate with both technical and business colleagues brings significant value to their organization.

When you’re starting out in your career, your technical expertise may represent the bulk of your contributions to your organization, whether that’s an understanding of mechanical engineering or best practices in health care. However, as you advance into leadership positions, you’ll be expected to contribute more.

While you still need the subject matter expertise to evaluate issues and develop solutions, you’ll also be expected to inspire and lead teams, mentor junior staff, and successfully manage complex projects on time and on budget.

You’ll require knowledge that goes beyond the sector-specific information that’s enabled you to advance in your career.

To be an effective leader, you need to understand your organization’s business and financial context, its short- and long-term goals, and the challenges and opportunities inherent in your corporate culture that might impact a project’s success.

The Master of Engineering Leadership (MEL) and Master of Health Leadership and Policy (MHLP) degrees were designed for professionals who want to develop an integrated skill set – both technical and strategic – so that they can bring a holistic approach to project planning and leadership.

Technical classes are taught through the UBC Faculty of Applied Science by internationally renowned instructors, enabling you to delve into the latest knowledge in your field. These are balanced by business and leadership courses taught by faculty from UBC Sauder’s Robert H. Lee Graduate School that cover topics that can include organizational leadership, project management, strategy, data analytics and sustainability, as well as an intense three-week Business Acumen for Technical Leaders class on six core business competencies.

This dual focus offers significant benefits for professional growth and advancement. Our graduates tell us they are better positioned to communicate technical issues with a broad range of non-technical stakeholders – from those in their organization responsible for approving budgets and setting strategy to policymakers, government agencies, the public and third-party consultants.

They also have the communication skills to keep their teams up-to-date on the broader business and operational goals that are guiding their work, helping team members understand the why of what they are doing.

Alex Chui, a 2016 graduate of the MHLP in Seniors Care, says that those professionals who come to the program from a clinical background particularly benefit from the curriculum’s business and leadership content.

“It helps you switch your viewpoint to see things from more of a business focus, which is important if you want to move into leadership roles.”

The value of being able to switch viewpoints is echoed by Liam Russell, a 2019 graduate of the MEL in Advanced Materials Manufacturing, who says he learned “the vernacular to speak confidently about business cases, strategy and decisions.”

This confidence on both the technical and business side of projects enables MEL and MHLP graduates to bring a more integrated approach to their work.

They are able to advocate for their projects with the decision-makers in their organization, and then return to their team members and use their technical knowledge and leadership skills to translate strategic objectives into action plans and deliverables.

Want to learn more? See our article Technical expertise is fundamental to leadership on the importance of having a broad technical understanding of your sector, and the article A new path to a leadership position on how the MEL and MHLP can be used to deepen your entrepreneurial thinking and expand your business understanding.