MBA Transitions into Organizational Strategist Role after Taking HR Courses


- Nabeha Khan

Term : March, 2016
Department : Business and Management
Program : Human Resource MGMT

When Nabeha Khan moved to the U.S. from Pakistan, she had already completed a master’s in business administration and was busy raising young children. Hungry for work opportunities in Silicon Valley, she discovered UCSC Extension’s Human Resource Management program. After completing a few courses, she became the director of organizational strategy at Tech for Change, a Bay Area nonprofit that provides digital solutions for public services organizations in Pakistan and the U.S.

What attracted you to UCSC Extension?

I grew up in Pakistan, where I got my master’s in business administration. I had kids right out of college, so when I arrived in Silicon Valley I wanted to take some refresher classes. The U.S. compensation structure is different than it is in other countries, as is the benefits structure. I wanted to learn a more generalist approach to HR, which is why I chose UCSC Extension.

What courses stood out to you?

“Organizational Development and Change, Introduction” was really good; it offered a lot of ideas that I’ve been able to directly apply in the work I do now. People don’t generally think that work culture is important to an organization’s profitability, but when you get into the nitty-gritty details of running a nonprofit, especially one in the public services sector, culture plays a huge role in insuring that your employees are happy and invested in the idea that the organization is helping to solve. It’s critical that they understand your mission and vision.

The class really helped me when I was working in our organization to transition from a team of 2-3 people to a team of 75. It is important that everyone is on board in terms of values, so I’ve been working to use exercises from class to figure out which values are important to everyone in the organization and narrow them down to the top five. I hadn’t given much thought to the importance of identifying values prior to this class, because generally people don’t ask what your values are in a job interview.

“Compensation Management” was also helpful because I had to design compensation plans when we started hiring people. I also developed performance reviews and feedback forms for our employees—these are skills that I learned in class. Sometimes you learn the hard way; if you hire someone based on their technical skills, you might later learn that they are not a good culture fit for your organization. I’ve had to pull out my organizational strategy book from class and review techniques for recruiting the right people.            

What skills do you think professionals need to succeed in HR?

HR is a field where you interact with a lot of people, whether you’re doing recruitment or trying to come up with a compensation plan. It’s important to understand who your employees are. You can apply design thinking to HR, because you’re always thinking of the end “user.” Strong communication skills are important when you’re trying to implement any kind of companywide policy.

What other benefits were there to the program?

Half the reason you come to a place like UCSC Extension is to meet people already working in your field. In my “Benefits Management: A Comprehensive Study of Employee Benefits Programs” class, the instructor really emphasized the importance of building a strong network. I was recommended for jobs by people I took classes with; when you’re in class you get the opportunity to meet a lot of people who could be in the position to hire.

UCSC Extension’s location is great; it has a strong HR program. The instructors were excellent; they did a great job of insuring that everyone person in class was engaged. The program is a great fit for someone who is looking to update their skills or transition into a career in HR.

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