Sponsored post: Take the EMBA plunge - it's worth it

There are lots of reasons to take an Executive MBA: gaining skills, confidence and discovering the direction your career should take. Hina Wadhwa and Dawn Bournand have the low down.

Having spoken with numerous EMBA candidates over the last decade, the main piece of advice we would give anyone considering this prestigious degree is to put themselves in the right frame of mind: success inspires success. The results of pursuing an EMBA can be spectacular, but the journey itself is exhilarating and life-changing. Most of all, you come out of the program richer, not only in terms of knowledge and skills, but also because of the unique moments you will share with the people who will become part of your close network for years to come.

Take the plunge – it’s worth it!

Invest in yourself...

It’s a question of setting off the right signals. By being prepared, in your mid-thirties or forties, to sacrifice your evenings and weekends to develop your skills and broaden your horizons, you are showing those around you that you believe in yourself and that you are gearing up for success. As Emilio Veiga-Gil, Director of Marketing for Latin America and the Caribbean at Moneygram and a University of Chicago Booth School of Business alumnus (Class of 2011) puts it: “I think of a Chicago [E]MBA as a signalling device: it conveys to current/prospective employers something about your intellectual ability and your capacity for commitment.”

It’s easy when you are in a comfortable position to get stuck in a routine. Whilst some employees are lucky enough to have a flight plan for their career mapped out within their organizations or as entrepreneurs, others find themselves stuck in roles that offer little evolution, positive challenges and intellectual stimulation. You sometimes have to break your own glass ceiling and pave your own path to success. The Executive MBA could be your ticket.

Almost a decade on since graduating from university, James Hickson’s, IE Business School Global Executive MBA alum (Class of 2012), career had provided him with some fantastic overseas assignments, yet as he climbed the ranks of seniority, he felt he lacked a broader frame of reference for tackling new challenges. “I wanted to add value but I lacked the content to do so,” says the Global Head of Strategic Projects (Workforce Strategy and Operating Model) for Morgan Stanley New York – a position he can credit to his Executive MBA. “Over time, I identified I needed to take charge of my career and invest in myself if I was to maintain my career trajectory and broaden my horizons.”

“I found I really needed to answer some tough questions, such as ‘Where was I going?’, ‘What are my passions?’, ‘Where were the opportunities for personal growth?’and ‘What value was I going to add to society at large?’ The EMBA proved to be a lens through which to pause and evaluate myself,” he adds.

... and in your network

The Executive MBA is an exciting journey not only because you are back in the classroom revisiting business fundamentals and picking up new skills, but also because you are constantly working on group assignments and case studies with participants from diverse cultures, backgrounds, industries and job functions. All at once, you learn to work with people who are marketers, engineers, financiers, entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, mid-managers, senior executives, directors, VPs, CEOs, members of boards; talented young executives on the fast track as well as more mature classmates in their fifties.

Ryan Bogan, alum of TRIUM Global Executive MBA (an alliance between New York Stern School of Business (NYU Stern), the London School of Economics (LSE) and HEC School of Management, Paris (HEC Paris)) and former chief operating officer of LMI Aerospace explains that his EMBA experience was a transformational one. “My cohort consisted of 67 senior business leaders, representing over 35 different countries, each one of whom had lessons to teach, not only about becoming a more effective business leader, but also about being a more thoughtful, focused and globally aware individual,” says Bogan.

EMBA graduates report that one of the aspects they most cherish is their experience with the people they meet whilst on the program. “You embark on an EMBA because you want to learn new things, find a new job, increase your networking opportunities and develop your career in general, but you never expect to find such good people. I have made very good friends and we are still in contact. I have also learned a lot from their experience and knowledge, and a lot about myself,” says Rosario García Pecci, Compliance Senior Manager at Grünenthal Pharma and ESCP Europe alumna (Class of 2012)

Gain confidence and rediscover yourself

It’s all about the soft skills - which aren’t actually so soft. If you’ve ever been in a class on effective communications or improving your presentation skills, you’ll know that it’s hard work. Somehow, though, as you go through the program, you get used to standing up in front of an entire classroom full of people to present your case studies and group assignments. You also get more comfortable voicing your opinions, even if this is something you are not used to doing, because that’s the only way to participate in class and group discussions. Moreover, you learn to do this more and more diplomatically, especially because you know you have to work with your classmates throughout the entire program.

As TRIUM GEMBA alumna Florence Klein (Class of 2005) sums up, “You grow up a lot by being exposed to so many cultures, so much high-quality information, and pressure. Even though all of us had stressful careers with long hours, no one could imagine we had the inner resources to do it all. You have to develop survival skills to give your best everywhere, in your studies and of course at your job. It is a real commitment, a two-year period where your life changes but it was the greatest thing I did for myself.”

Take the helicopter seat

For professionals with a sound number of years of experience, it’s refreshing to be back in a learning environment where you are encouraged to leap into a helicopter to look at the world from a different perspective: the big picture view. Understanding the dynamics of general management and the responsibility that goes with it, the political framework of a corporation, as well as the fundamentals of corporate finance and financial accounting, gives you the tool kit you need to be able to manage, lead and innovate.

Moreover, Executive MBA participants tend to get more out of their MBA learning because they are able to look back at their experiences and decisions made in their companies, and analyse the outcomes with a different pair of shades. “I wanted to enhance my skills to better deal with complex business in a broader perspective. I knew that the EMBA would provide me a lot of opportunities to experience many business cases in a short period [of time]; otherwise I would have had to go through many trials and errors in real life, which would have taken [me] a long time,” says Hye-Min Seo, INSEAD Global Executive MBA alumna (Class of 2008) and group product manager for Beiersdorf Thailand, in charge of marketing NIVEA in South East Asia.

“Also, I liked the fact that I didn’t need to stop working while doing my EMBA, so that I could apply the learnings from the class to the daily business in real time,” adds Seo. In effect, past work experience and immediately applicable knowledge make up the experiential learning that gives the Executive MBA an extra edge compared to full-time MBA programs. From learning how to assess an investment decision or prioritise key projects, to reading a company’s annual report, or implementing change in your organization, the Executive MBA is a polyvalent advanced degree.

Are you ready to take the Executive MBA plunge? Come find out by speaking face-to-face with admissions directors and alumni of some of the world’s best business schools at the London World MBA Tour & Executive MBA Tour fair on Saturday, 19th October 2013. For more information and to register: www.topmba.com/NewStatesman

This sponsored post is in association with QS TopExecutive Guide and was written by Hina Wadhwa and Dawn Bournand, Editors of the Guide

Campus life: Take the time to rediscover your ambitions. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Cabinet audit: what does the appointment of Andrea Leadsom as Environment Secretary mean for policy?

The political and policy-based implications of the new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

A little over a week into Andrea Leadsom’s new role as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and senior industry figures are already questioning her credentials. A growing list of campaigners have called for her resignation, and even the Cabinet Office implied that her department's responsibilities will be downgraded.

So far, so bad.

The appointment would appear to be something of a consolation prize, coming just days after Leadsom pulled out of the Conservative leadership race and allowed Theresa May to enter No 10 unopposed.

Yet while Leadsom may have been able to twist the truth on her CV in the City, no amount of tampering will improve the agriculture-related side to her record: one barely exists. In fact, recent statements made on the subject have only added to her reputation for vacuous opinion: “It would make so much more sense if those with the big fields do the sheep, and those with the hill farms do the butterflies,” she told an audience assembled for a referendum debate. No matter the livelihoods of thousands of the UK’s hilltop sheep farmers, then? No need for butterflies outside of national parks?

Normally such a lack of experience is unsurprising. The department has gained a reputation as something of a ministerial backwater; a useful place to send problematic colleagues for some sobering time-out.

But these are not normal times.

As Brexit negotiations unfold, Defra will be central to establishing new, domestic policies for UK food and farming; sectors worth around £108bn to the economy and responsible for employing one in eight of the population.

In this context, Leadsom’s appointment seems, at best, a misguided attempt to make the architects of Brexit either live up to their promises or be seen to fail in the attempt.

At worst, May might actually think she is a good fit for the job. Leadsom’s one, water-tight credential – her commitment to opposing restraints on industry – certainly has its upsides for a Prime Minister in need of an alternative to the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP); a policy responsible for around 40 per cent the entire EU budget.

Why not leave such a daunting task in the hands of someone with an instinct for “abolishing” subsidies  thus freeing up money to spend elsewhere?

As with most things to do with the EU, CAP has some major cons and some equally compelling pros. Take the fact that 80 per cent of CAP aid is paid out to the richest 25 per cent of farmers (most of whom are either landed gentry or vast, industrialised, mega-farmers). But then offset this against the provision of vital lifelines for some of the UK’s most conscientious, local and insecure of food producers.

The NFU told the New Statesman that there are many issues in need of urgent attention; from an improved Basic Payment Scheme, to guarantees for agri-environment funding, and a commitment to the 25-year TB eradication strategy. But that they also hope, above all, “that Mrs Leadsom will champion British food and farming. Our industry has a great story to tell”.

The construction of a new domestic agricultural policy is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Britain to truly decide where its priorities for food and environment lie, as well as to which kind of farmers (as well as which countries) it wants to delegate their delivery.

In the context of so much uncertainty and such great opportunity, Leadsom has a tough job ahead of her. And no amount of “speaking as a mother” will change that.

India Bourke is the New Statesman's editorial assistant.