Case study: From MBA to HR

Case study: From MBA to HR
He didn’t go to uni, talked his way into marketing, fell into HR and eventually thought he’d give an MBA a crack.

HR professional, some-time electronica producer and award-winning talent acquisition strategist Richard Long didn’t foresee he’d be running his own business after completing study with the University of Auckland.

HR guru Richard LongNow principal of Talent Solutions Group, Long looks back on his University of Auckland MBA study as a challenging three years, which was “more about personal growth and confidence.”

“One of the main take-ups for me was an opening up of my career position and possibilities. I never pictured myself as an entrepreneur type of person but here I am. The MBA gave perspective, confidence, credibility.”

“You see more opportunity and are able to assess opportunity with a lot more rigour. I saw my career as an HR Manager. I now see my expertise as HR, however, my career as being in business. It’s just totally broadened my horizons.”

The MBA changed his thinking about business, which was “probably a bit limited, looking back.”


Starting Talent Solutions Group was a no-brainer for Long, who says the alternative was for him not to have a chance to realise his full potential.

“I thought, there’s an opportunity there and it’s at the right point in my career, in my life and I’ve got something to contribute.”

Long has since realised that through speaking at conferences around the world. He recently returned from the ERE recruitment expo in San Diego, where he spoke on talent acquisition, employer branding and social media.

While his career began in marketing, on an OE in London, after returning to New Zealand Long slipped into HR where he was instantly comfortable.

He joined Deloitte in 2005 to set strategy around talent acquisition, designed and led their in-house recruiting operations and developed and implemented their employer brand.

That included their social media strategy, a global award winner and locally, a 2010 TVNZ Marketing Awards finalist.

Responsible pets

Employer brand and corporate social responsibility strategies are pets of Long’s, who says there’s no excuse for New Zealand not to be leading the way.

“You’ve got organisations like AT&T and Starbucks who have massive teams of people working on this stuff, investing millions of dollars, who were at this (ERE) conference listening to me, who had led an implementation project in New Zealand. Our project team was two people and relatively small amounts of money.”

“There’s really no excuse any more not to be the best. Stuff is instant, we can be at the forefront – New Zealand is leading the way in the field of talent acquisition, employer brand and use of social media.”

The HR jigsaw

Long has an holistic view of how HR fits into the business picture.

“An MBA isn’t a traditional path for HR professionals. But after a number of years in HR, personally I didn’t really see any value in getting an undergraduate degree or an HR specific post-graduate qualification.”

“A lot of the value of HR is in being able to deliver strategic advice across the business. With the MBA, I think what’s really valuable is learning how to look at the broader bigger picture. You’re able to get a view of where you can have the biggest impact, and also where all the other parts of the business are coming from.”

“When I’m talking to clients, I’m talking from a business perspective. I’m talking about how HR impacts business in a holistic sense, this is what business leaders demand.”

Long’s clients include a major Australian law firm, finance and construction industries.

Other people’s boats

After finishing his MBA at the end of 2011, Long was pleased to have time back to spend with his partner and their four-year old son, reclaim some fitness, holiday up north and enjoy other people’s boats (he’d like to own his own).

The shift from a corporate environment to running his own business has been refreshing, but he remains firmly focused on the bigger picture and is very serious about business, which he now conducts with an MBA attitude.

“The MBA’s all about leadership, results through people. The parts that really resonate with me were about leadership and taking a disciplined, rigorous approach to developing business strategy.”

The University of Auckland Master of Business Administration (MBA) has intakes in January each year, and welcomes applications from business leaders. Find out more at

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