From Specialization to MBA — A Learner’s Path Through the Gies College of Business

From Specialization to MBA — A Learner’s Path Through the


Abubakar Abdullahi has been learning for years on Coursera from Abuja, Nigeria. When he decided to enroll in the Strategic Leadership and Management Specialization from Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), he set himself on a path towards acceptance into the Master of Business Administration (iMBA) program. 

Abubakar started the iMBA program in the fall of 2022, choosing business analytics and digital marketing as his areas of focus. We recently caught up with him on his learning journey by asking him a few questions and he has much to share with other learners on Coursera.

What was your education and experience before the iMBA?

The first degree I ever earned is in civil engineering. I worked in construction for a bit and then in real estate. Later, I worked at a bank before becoming a full-time entrepreneur. I started businesses in different sectors, including a consulting firm for IT project management, and I also worked at a non-profit organization for agribusiness across Africa.

What made you want to earn your MBA?

Because of the work I do, especially with entrepreneurs and founders of small businesses and startups, I get lots of invitations to join the boards of organizations. Usually, they want someone with an MBA. For me to take the next step in my career, most jobs require an MBA. It’s also important to have one for businesses that I start or run. It was a no-brainer to pursue an MBA.

What attracted you to the online program from UIUC?

I kept seeing people online who went to UIUC and had such great things to say about the programs. I saw alumni working at some of the coolest companies. But the Strategic Leadership and Management Specialization is what really made me commit. I find myself applying what I learned in that specialization constantly.

What are your favorite parts of the iMBA program?

I think the networking opportunities on Workplace are really cool. There’s also a tool we use in courses called Yellowdig that helps you share articles, blogs, and more. The program is so much more interpersonal than I thought it would be. You get to connect with so many people.

Would you recommend the iMBA program to others?

I definitely recommend the iMBA program—especially to Nigerians. In Nigeria, there’s a scramble for international knowledge and experience working outside the country. The iMBA from UIUC offers excellent opportunities because of its reputation and flexibility. With this program, you can earn a degree from one of the best universities in the world. You can also pay as you go and choose how many courses you take based on your budget. It’s a really great program. There’s no reason why I wouldn’t recommend it!

Could you be on a path similar to Abubakar’s?

Enroll for free in the Strategic Leadership and Management Specialization or apply now to the Master of Business Administration (iMBA)—both from Gies College of Business at UIUC.



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