Specialising in the Social Innovation stream of the MBA at the UCT Graduate School of Business (GSB) has given Dianna Moore (MBA 2012) the opportunity to bring her varied work and life experiences together in preparation for a new career path. “It took a while for it all to fit into place, but my study and work experience definitely led to the GSB and a career change,” she says.
Originally from Austin, Texas, Moore went to New York University for her undergraduate qualification in European Studies and Art History. She then completed her honours thesis abroad in Prague and Paris, before returning to New York where she worked for the prestigious Marlborough Gallery. “I love art but quickly realised that something was missing. I wanted a career that had more of a direct impact on improving people’s lives,” she says.
Realising that she needed a change but unsure of the direction this would take, she travelled through South East Asia and eastern and southern Africa, where she interned on a boutique, organic vineyard in Wellington, South Africa. Her time in Wellington was the first indication that she might be suited for work in sustainable development. “I found sustainable agriculture completely fascinating, and while I understood the principles and impetus behind the theory, I wanted to learn more about the practical application for a business, how to make it work in the long run,” she says.
She returned home to the US to work in business development at a winery in Texas. “The winery needed someone to help structure the retail and product development side of the business, and they also wanted to open an art gallery and tasting room. My experience from both the gallery and the farm in Wellington helped secure the position,” she says.
In her business developer role she served as tax operator, public relations manager, and more, and she started to realise her skill at juggling multiple duties. “I enjoyed the diversity, being able to fill so many different roles, but eventually I had to come to terms with the fact that there wasn’t much room for me to grow long-term in such a small organisation. I also missed South Africa and wanted to study a masters qualification.”
When faced with the choice of how to proceed in the next phase of her life, these factors came together to highlight the GSB as the perfect place to study her MBA.
“Between being located in the city where I wanted to be, and the calibre of the MBA itself, the GSB was the clear choice. The newly launched Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship made it an easy decision; the fact that social innovation and rethinking business’ role and abilities were encouraged made it obvious that the programme was in line with my goals and would offer the training I desired,” she says.
Studying at the GSB has consolidated her ideas on sustainability and the moral and strategic imperative for business to change the way it operates. “Businesses need to be sustainable, but for that to happen, they first need to ensure that they are financially sustainable. The GSB taught me both the traditional foundation needed to run a company well and the importance of thinking in a new, longer-term, and more collaborative way if a business is to stay relevant in the future. This thinking helped inform my thesis: 'Strategies to integrate small-scale farmers into the food retail supply chain.'"
Since the move to Cape Town, she has certainly not looked back. Working as a team, Moore and two other students were recently chosen from 10,000 applicants as one of 250 teams to compete in the regional rounds of the Hult Prize. The competition challenges the teams to create new social enterprises that will help solve the global food crisis and awards $1,000,000 to the winning idea.
Her team recently won the regional leg of the competition, and they now go on to New York for a six-week full-time incubation programme and to compete against five other teams for a million dollars from the Clinton Global Initiative.
With her MBA in the bag, Moore says that she is confident that she will find her work fulfilling and inspiring in the future. She plans to pursue a career focused on integrated strategy and supplier relations in the fast moving consumer goods or food retail industry in Cape Town - the perfect convergence of her experience and talents.