By Valentin Vassilev, Published: 19 June 2019
With EMBA degrees growing in popularity, you could be forgiven for wondering why successful business people who have achieved wealth and eminence would return to school. What is it that prods them to rearrange their busy schedules to accommodate classes and study-related trips?
Glowing reviews from graduates
When asked the age-old question: “Is an Executive MBA worth it?”, the majority of EMBA graduates declare that the degree makes a significant impact on career progression. A study conducted by the Executive MBA Council (EMBAC) in partnership with LinkedIn Marketing Solutions found that according to 72% of the participants, the EMBA programme had a positive impact on their careers. For those graduates, an EMBA degree resulted in promotions, significant salary increases over time, career progression, and even the founding of their own business.
One of the most striking findings of the survey is that higher remuneration is not among the top reasons for enrolling in an EMBA programme. Michael Desiderio, Executive Director of EMBAC, says: “Interestingly, the results show that earning potential was not the main factor for prospective students when deciding to attend a programme; rather, it was an increase in business knowledge and skills that could positively impact change for their career course.”
In fact, the study found that the decision to study for an EMBA was influenced primarily by factors such as acquiring core business knowledge, as well as leadership and collaboration skills. Salary increases ranked fifth, behind opportunities to do fulfilling work and the ability to change a career’s trajectory. When comparing pre-EMBA goals with post-EMBA outcomes, graduates felt the programme delivered well in the two top factors.
It should be noted that every prospective EMBA participant will have to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of returning to the classroom. Revisiting their own needs and goals is an important step in recognising the specific value the degree will bring to their career. So let’s go through the basic benefits associated with the EMBA.
Premium on global awareness
Many business schools put a premium on the global aspect of their programmes. There are already many Global Executive MBAs on offer, with the term “global” being used by schools to express the fact that studies take place in multiple campus locations around the world and also to point out the diversity of the classes. The modular Global Executive MBA programme (GEMBA) of INSEAD (France), for instance, takes place in campuses across three regions: Europe (France), Asia (Singapore), and the Middle East (Abu Dhabi). Classes are highly diverse. Maryam Haghighi, who obtained her GEMBA degree in 2015, is full of praise: “Having 57 nationalities in one room, the diversity of the way they are thinking and expressing themselves – it was so enriching.”
There is a good reason why global, multifaceted perspectives in business are so important. The EMBA aims at providing business professionals with the skills and knowledge to succeed in business today and to identify and seize opportunities anywhere in the world. Business leaders nowadays should be able to navigate cultural differences, evolve with changing business climates, and adapt quickly to the shifting needs of global business.
Who you know is as important as what you know
Another one of the most valued benefits to EMBA students, apart from the global mindset, is the opportunity to build a network of outstanding individuals, many of whom were cherry-picked by their companies to attend the programme. “You have an instant network of supercharged, over-achieving friends,” says Kathy O’Shaughnessy, an EMBA graduate of Columbia University (US).
It should be pointed out that EMBA networking is slightly different from MBA networking. MBA networking is more focused on the creation of possible partnerships and new career opportunities. EMBA participants are typically well advanced in their careers, which means they are not as interested in new business endeavours as MBA graduates. Instead, they need experienced peers with whom to discuss the issues they are facing and who can help them gain new perspectives.
Of course, networking is not limited to the classroom. Depending on the business school and its convening power, participants may have the opportunity to rub shoulders with heads of state, CEOs, Nobel laureates, eminent scholars, successful entrepreneurs, senior policy makers, and investors, amongst others. The networks students create during their studies are often for life and are something they can call upon throughout their careers.
The thrill of learning
EMBA students usually have extensive managerial experience, but few of them have had any formal business education. That is why many feel that there are holes in their knowledge and understanding of business processes that need to be plugged. Sandra Dias, an EMBA graduate from Kellogg-Schulich (Canada), says: “Getting a degree stemmed more from an insecurity I carried throughout most of my career. No matter how many times I double- or triple-checked spreadsheets, forecasts, or business plans, a little voice inside my head would say, ‘Are you sure? Are you 100% sure?’”
For many, the EMBA is a way to rearrange and structure the knowledge they have amassed through experience over the years. Some business professionals do this at an earlier stage with an MBA. Bernd Hochstaedter, EMBA alumnus 2015 at Mannheim Business School (Germany), says: “Thanks to the EMBA, I assess situations now more from a management point of view and in a very structured way. In our extremely fast-changing world, in which traditional industries can be disrupted overnight, I now feel prepared to take the right decisions for the future.”
Viviana Alvarez, EMBA alumna at ESADE (Spain), concurs: “The Executive MBA not only provides you with in-depth knowledge of the latest in management trends, but also fosters a cooperative setting in which you can rethink existing paradigms and strengthen your decision-making skills.”
Quite a few EMBA graduates point out that the programme helped them improve their decision-making as a result of gaining core knowledge and general management understanding. They also stress the improved ability to think entrepreneurially in any organisational context and perform an in-depth analysis of complex issues, among other things.
Achieving personal growth
Learning to be a better professional and a better person go hand in hand. Participants have the chance to look around, compare leadership styles, and figure out ways to improve not only professionally, but also personally. The EMBA is an opportunity for self-analysis and introspection. Sandro Vitale, EMBA Class of 2017 at ESCP Europe, recalls the start of his programme: “The first day, one of the professors told us: ‘Not all of you will become CEO, but each of you will have the chance to develop him/herself as a human.’”
There is no way one can grow as a leader without growing as a person, and business schools know this. Therefore, they allow students to examine their own management styles and develop themselves as leaders who can inspire others. They are encouraged to explore their strengths and weaknesses to gain greater insights about themselves and their potential. As Vyara Stoycheva, EMBA Class of 2019 at London Business School (UK) puts it: “The very first thing you learn about at business school is You. The person you learn from? Yourself.”
This article was provided by our colleagues from the Access MBA Tour. It was originally written for and published in their 2018-2019 Access MBA, EMBA, and Masters Guide under the title “Reaching Out to Fulfilment”. The online version of the Guide is available for online viewing here.