The fact that the right executive MBA program can be a transformational experience of a lifetime is well known. Finding that 'right' program, however, requires a lot of exploration, both internal and external.
In the constrained economic environment of present times, it is more important than ever to ensure that the time, cost and effort invested in executive education yield the requisite impact and effectiveness, both in terms of individual and business improvement. In a 2010 survey carried out by UNICON, an organization of leading business schools, a majority of schools agreed that the ability to measure the impact of a program is a critical selling point in its conversations with prospective candidates.
Given the current trends in the world of executive business education and based on expert opinion on the subject, here are 5 focus areas that every aspirant of an EMBA should spend some time on before arriving at a final decision and choice of destination:
1. What is 'your' reason to do an EMBA?
Well, this is a question that you are likely to be asked anyway during the selection procedure at any good business program, so it is a good idea to give it some thought now. What's more important is that the answer to this can lead you to 'the' right program.
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Clarity on what you want to achieve through executive education is what enables you to carry out the proper assessment of a program and the kind of impact it can have on the attainment of your personal career objectives.
Thus, for example, if you are looking to graduate into a leadership role post MBA, make sure that the EMBA you choose has demonstrable emphasis on leadership development. On the other hand, if you are looking at it as a run-up to the assumption of a role which would involve expanding your business (or starting your career) in new geographies, then perhaps you should look at a program that has an explicit focus on emerging markets and business therein.
2. Does the format of the program you are looking at suit your circumstance?
Since you have opted for an executive program over a fulltime MBA, one could assume that you are looking at minimal disruption to your current professional and personal life. It would, therefore, be prudent to anticipate and calculate very carefully the time that you can devote to this program and the kind of schedule that would fit into your plans.
EMBAs come in diverse formats - they could either be offered during weekends or in modular format with a few residency periods in between, or through online classes with an occasional face-to-face contact session.
B-schools today are acutely aware of the need for flexibility among EMBA participants and are innovating extensively on delivery and format. Many increasingly rely on technology to facilitate distance learning and ease-of-use. At the Darden School of Business in Virginia, for example, online academic sessions are available as recordings for students who are not able to attend as scheduled.
However, not only should you weigh the pros and cons of each offering in relation to your specific needs and circumstances, but also explore how much faculty and peer support you will be able to garner in each of the alternatives.
3. What is the general satisfaction quotient of the program?
Your research on alternative EMBA programs must involve discussions with alumni, and even recruiters from the sector if you wish to change domains, or even jobs.
Thankfully, the electronic age that we live in has only made this easier. You can now connect with alumni in any part of the world to gauge the kind of impact that the program has had on their careers, and also the kind of cost, quality or productivity improvements that it has brought about in their immediate sphere of work. How likely is it that they would recommend it to someone in your place and role?
Also, do some research on how recruiters in particular sectors or for specific roles view the benefits of the kind of format that you are choosing, and the programs with top recall on their minds.
4. Is your employer with you?
While your organization may or may not sponsor your EMBA, it is very essential to have them support your decision and appreciate the value addition that it creates not just for your personal learning and network, but for the business at large. This will also ensure that the company acknowledges and accepts the necessary time and flexibility in the workplace that you will need to complete the program. From the first day that you decide to pursue an E-MBA, it is thus a good idea to loop in your manager and HR and build an element of partnership in the project.
Of course, with a seat in a reputed program and a fair amount of persuasion, you may also convince them of the win-win situation and hence secure full or partial sponsorship for the course. In fact, some schools such as IESE and INSEAD even provide assistance to strong applicants on how best to present their case to their employers and convince them of the investment potential of sponsorship.
5. How global is your E-MBA?
The overuse of the word 'global' in connection with the MBA these days makes it sound like a fad sometimes, but it is clearly not so. Business without borders has fast evolved from concept to reality and schools developing business leaders, too, realize the criticality of enabling global exposure for participants through curricular and practical exposure. But while it is much easier to accommodate such components in a full time residential MBA through study tours, international exchange etc., the structure of an EMBA may pose certain constraints where practice is concerned. It is thus important to gauge the extent and nature of international exposure that an EMBA program offers - diversity of the class and faculty, the option to choose global residencies, the integration and application of these modules in the rest of the program are all key determinants of the 'global-ness' of a program.
In conclusion, therefore, taking the plunge into the EMBA journey can bring you a lifetime of real benefits and gains, but it's important to begin with a necessary amount of deliberation and homework.