3-time Olympian enrols in our part-time MBA


It’s not often that you can say that you are the best at anything in a country’s history, but new part-time MBA student William Henzell is no ordinary person.


Henzell is widely regarded as the greatest Australian table tennis player ever produced, having represented Australia in 3 Olympic Games, 4 Commonwealth Games and 8 World Championships. He won Australia's first Commonwealth Games table tennis singles medal with a silver medal in 2006.

Henzell now faces his next challenge, a part-time MBA at Melbourne Business School (MBS). We caught up with him recently to ask about his reasons for enrolling in the MBA, and how the experience compares to his sporting career.


Why did you choose to study at MBS? Did you consider any other business schools?

I consulted family, friends, colleagues and leaders and work about where to study my MBA. The common theme was that the reputation of the school was important for a qualification like an MBA. I thought the curriculum at MBS was particularly thorough and focused on many of the areas of study I was most interested in. I didn’t really consider other options as I decided early that MBS was the school that I wanted to study at.
I was busy playing ping pong all over the world during my teens and early 20’s - I don’t have a bachelor’s degree so I was required to sit a GMAT to gain entry, which took a couple of months to prepare for.


Why did you want to study an MBA?

I moved from a technical role into a management role at work and felt that I needed to strengthen my broader management and leadership skills.


How has your MBS experience been so far?

It has been a period of transformation. I’m working full time, trying to prepare for the 2016 Olympics and am aiming for H1s in as many of my MBA subjects as possible. I believe in fully committing myself to the things that I am doing, so I don’t really stop from 6 in the morning to 10 at night each day. My wife has been very supportive!
I’m still only in my first term of the MBA but it feels like much longer. Time management has been the most important skill so far, followed by delegating more tasks at work.


What are your career plans, and where are you working at the moment?

I have worked for Slater and Gordon Lawyers for the past 5 years where I am the Analytics and Customer Strategy Manager. I’m enjoying driving our analytics program forward and I think there is huge potential for analytics to have a major impact on the legal services industry. I am happy in the analytics space but am interested in management consulting and keen to explore general management at some point.


Any similarities between an MBA and the Olympics?

I see many similarities. The environment at the Olympics, and in professional sport in general, is extremely competitive. In an individual technical sport, you are relying on your preparation and the knowledge of those around you to get you to where you need to be, however, once you step on the court it’s really all up to you. The MBA has been similar; the lecturers are very knowledgeable and there’s access to a lot of great study material, but the responsibility of your results and learning rests on your own shoulders. It’s one thing to put in the hours and another to make sure the hours are used most effectively.
Transitioning from being a professional athlete to management in the business world has been a much bigger shift! I’ve had to refocus from being a self-centred individual athlete doing whatever I needed to win, to being a collaborative team player who creates connections across business functions.
View William’s recent appearance on the Australian television show Redesign My Brain.