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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Stop saying identity politics caused Trump

It's a wildly unsophisticated analysis that ignores the fact that all politics is inflected by identity.

Look, I don't mean to be funny, but is there something in the water supply? When Mark Lilla wrote his jeremiad against "identity liberalism" in the New York Times, it was comprehensively picked over and rebutted. But this zombie take has risen again. In the last 24 hours, all these tweets have drifted across my timeline:

And then this (now deleted, I think, probably because I was mean about it on Twitter).

And finally, for the hat-trick . . .

Isn't it beautiful to see a Blairite, a Liberal Leaver and a Corbynite come together like this? Maybe there is a future for cross-spectrum, consensual politics in this country.

These are all versions of a criticism which has swilled around since Bernie Sanders entered the US presidential race, and ran on a platform of economic populism. They have been turbocharged by Sanders' criticisms since the result, where he blamed Clinton's loss on her attempt to carve up the electorate into narrow groups. And they are now repeated ad nauseam by anyone wanting to sound profound: what if, like, Black Lives Matter are the real racists, yeah? Because they talk about race all the time.

This glib analysis has the logical endpoint that if only people didn't point out racism or sexism or homophobia, those things would be less of a problem. Talking about them is counterproductive, because it puts people's backs up (for a given definition of "people"). She who smelt it, dealt it.

Now, I have strong criticisms of what I would call Pure Identity Politics, unmoored from economics or structural concerns. I have trouble with the idea of Caitlyn Jenner as an "LGBT icon", given her longstanding opposition to gay marriage and her support for an administration whose vice-president appears to think you can electrocute the gay out of people. I celebrate female leaders even if I don't agree with their politics, because there shouldn't be an additional Goodness Test which women have to pass to be deemed worthy of the same opportunities as men. But I don't think feminism's job is done when there are simply a few more female CEOs or political leaders, particularly if (as is now the case) those women are more likely than their male peers to be childless. Role models only get you so far. Structures are important too.

I also think there are fair criticisms to be made of the Clinton campaign, which was brave - or foolish, depending on your taste - to associate her so explicitly with progressive causes. Stephen Bush and I have talked on the podcast about how hard Barack Obama worked to reassure White America that he wasn't threatening, earning himself the ire of the likes of Cornel West. Hillary Clinton was less mindful of the feelings of both White America and Male America, running an advert explicitly addressed to African-Americans, and using (as James Morris pointed out to me on Twitter) the slogan "I'm With Her". 

Watching back old Barack Obama clips (look, everyone needs a hobby), it's notable how many times he stressed the "united" in "united states of America". It felt as though he was trying to usher in a post-racial age by the sheer force of his rhetoric. 

As Obama told Ta-Nehisi Coates during his last days in office, he thought deeply about how to appeal to all races: 

"How do I pull all these different strains together: Kenya and Hawaii and Kansas, and white and black and Asian—how does that fit? And through action, through work, I suddenly see myself as part of the bigger process for, yes, delivering justice for the [African American community] and specifically the South Side community, the low-income people—justice on behalf of the African American community. But also thereby promoting my ideas of justice and equality and empathy that my mother taught me were universal. So I’m in a position to understand those essential parts of me not as separate and apart from any particular community but connected to every community."

Clinton's mistake was perhaps that she thought this caution was no longer needed.

So there are criticisms of "identity politics" that I accept, even as I wearily feel that - like "neoliberalism" - it has become a bogeyman, a dumpster for anything that people don't like but don't care to articulate more fully.

But there are caveats, and very good reasons why anyone pretending to a sophisticated analysis of politics shouldn't say that "identity politics caused Trump".

The first is that if you have an identity that any way marks you out from the norm, you can't change that. Hillary Clinton couldn't not be the first woman candidate from a major party running for the US presidency. She either had to embrace it, or downplay it. Donald Trump faced no such decision. 

The second is that, actually, Clinton didn't run an explicitly identity-focused campaign on the ground, at least not in terms of her being a woman. Through the prism of the press, and because of the rubbernecker's dream that is misogyny on social media, her gender inevitably loomed large. But as Rebecca Solnit wrote in the LRB:

"The Vox journalist David Roberts did a word-frequency analysis on Clinton’s campaign speeches and concluded that she mostly talked about workers, jobs, education and the economy, exactly the things she was berated for neglecting. She mentioned jobs almost 600 times, racism, women’s rights and abortion a few dozen times each. But she was assumed to be talking about her gender all the time, though it was everyone else who couldn’t shut up about it."

My final problem with the "identity politics caused Trump" argument is that it assumes that explicit appeals to whiteness and masculinity are not identity politics. That calling Mexicans "rapists" and promising to build a wall to keep them out is not identity politics. That promising to "make America great again" at the expense of the Chinese or other trading partners is not identity politics. That selling a candidate as an unreconstructed alpha male is not identity politics. When you put it that way, I do accept that identity politics caused Trump. But I'm guessing that's not what people mean when they criticise identity politics. 

Let's be clear: America is a country built on identity politics. The "all men" who were created equal notably excluded a huge number of Americans. Jim Crow laws were nothing if not identity politics. The electoral college was instituted to benefit southern slave-owners. This year's voting restrictions disproportionately affected populations which lean Democrat. There is no way to fight this without prompting a backlash: that's what happens when you demand that the privileged give up some of their perks. 

I don't know what the "identity politics caused Trump" guys want gay rights campaigners, anti-racism activists or feminists to do. Those on the left, like Richard Burgon, seem to want a "no war but the class war" approach, which would be all very well if race and gender didn't intersect with economics (the majority of unpaid care falls squarely on women; in the US, black households have far fewer assets than white ones.)

Those on the right, like Daniel Hannan, seem to just want people banging on about racism and homophobia to shut up because he, personally, finds it boring. Perhaps they don't know any old English poetry with which to delight their followers instead. (Actually, I think Hannan might have hit on an important psychological factor in some of these critiques: when conversations centre on anti-racism, feminism and other identity movements, white men don't benefit from their usual unearned assumption of expertise in the subject at hand. No wonder they find discussion of them boring.)

Both of these criticisms end up in the same place. Pipe down, ladies. By complaining, you're only making it worse. Hush now, Black Lives Matter: white people find your message alienating. We'll sort out police racism... well, eventually. Probably. Just hold tight and see how it goes. Look, gay people, could you be a trifle... less gay? It's distracting.

I'm here all day for a discussion about the best tactics for progressive campaigners to use. I'm sympathetic to the argument that furious tweets, and even marches, have limited effect compared with other types of resistance.

But I can't stand by while a candidate wins on an identity-based platform, in a political system shaped by identity, and it's apparently the fault of the other side for talking too much about identity.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.