width=140In December 2009, Lindsey Nefesh-Clarke graduated with her Executive MBA from ESCP Europe in Paris. It was an intense, incredibly fast-paced and challenging 18-month course, she recalls, but the impact has been immediate. No sooner had I started the EMBA than I was putting into practice the business and managerial insights from my MBA and seeing tangible results in my work, Lindsey says. This was the advantage of doing an Executive MBA, where we could apply the learning on a daily basis in the workplace.

Entrepreneurial ideas Lindsey's 'workplace' is her own entrepreneurial project, the Women's Worldwide Web. It's an online philanthropy platform dedicated to women's empowerment through microfinance, education, mentoring and networking. I worked on the business plan of the Women's Worldwide Web within the frame of the 'International Consulting Project', a 12-month team project which was a key part of the ESCP Europe EMBA, Lindsey explains. The International Consulting Project could entail anything from exploring the potential of launching a new business product line, to restructuring a company or setting up an entirely new business venture. The projects could be conducted on behalf of the MBA students' employer companies. It was a great opportunity for both students and employer companies. In my case, it was an ideal opportunity to work on the business plan of setting up the Women's Worldwide Web.

For the past six years in the lead up to her Executive MBA, Lindsey worked with a Paris- based humanitarian NGO, Enfants d'Asie (Children of Asia), which operates humanitarian programs in Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and the Philippines. The main focus of the association's work is to provide access to education, but we also provide comprehensive care for children in distress-food, shelter, medical care, counselling and schooling, Lindsey says. Enfants d'Asie provides care for over 10,000 children in South East Asia. I am director of the Philippines program, working particularly closely with children and families living in the slum areas of Cebu city. She is also a board member of the organization. It is this experience in the humanitarian field which stands Lindsey in good stead to embark on her own humanitarian project, but she also acknowledges the value her EMBA is having on her career. I committed to an Executive MBA because I wanted to apply business, management and leadership skills to strengthen my work in the humanitarian field. I also wanted to explore the possible synergies between corporate social responsibility and humanitarian work: and to move into the field of microfinance.

My career has taken a quantum leap thanks to the EMBA. It enabled me to develop a refined toolset (of both hard and soft skills), as well as the self-confidence and the sense of the possibilities of management and leadership necessary to embrace this ambitious social venture, she says.

The EMBA investment

In the non-profit sector, financial resources are notoriously scarce, so Lindsey self-funded her EMBA. It was an investment I had to get right, and I can happily say it's one of the best investments I have ever made. The advantage of the EMBA is that it's an opportunity to take time out, to reassess one's career, refresh one's perspective and radically enhance one's learning, skills and credentials, without actually taking time out from one's job or career. It's a challenge to complete a degree and hold down a full time job, but an extremely worthwhile one which I would wholeheartedly recommend.

Lindsey also talks about the sense of 'before' and 'after' she experienced surrounding her business school experience. I emerged from the EMBA with an entirely new vision of the global business and social business worlds and with a concrete sense of what skilful 'leadership' 'management' and 'entrepreneurship' are about. Skilful management and leadership: I think these are the most powerful assets I will take through my career. The quality of management and leadership can turn an organization around, make or break it. This was highlighted during my MBA course, not least by what we were observing in the business world around us, with companies in crisis.

Women and EMBAs

The only disappointment Lindsey associates with her degree is the lack of women on her course, but that hasn't stopped her from developing initiatives to empower her fellow female peers. The low proportion of women in EMBAs encouraged me and other women at ESCP Europe to address the issue of why there is this disparity. We founded the ESCP Executive MBA Women's Group, the objective being to explore ways of narrowing this gap and to encourage female applicants. We are collaborating with businesses and looking at the, best 'practices' used by businesses in terms of promoting gender equality. This is not just a politically correct nicety; gradually businesses are acknowledging that it makes sound business sense to promote gender equality. The fact that an increasing number of women, including mothers, are successfully completing EMBAs is proof that it can be done, and initiatives such as mentoring (ESCP Europe has a mentoring scheme) are helping to provide the support and guidance for women who choose to pursue an EMBA.

As Lindsey prepares to launch her latest entrepreneurial project, she is conscious of the impact her time at ESCP Europe, studying for her EMBA, has had on her abilities. I think one of the greatest advantages to having an EMBA degree is the sense of opportunity it affords-it radically opens up one's professional horizons-and the skills and confidence that it provides to embrace those opportunities.

Women's Worldwide Web, an international non-profit organization, harnesses the power of education and microfinance, which are globally acknowledged as the most effective tools for the sustainable alleviation of poverty and the advancement of women and societies. Women's Worldwide Web seeks to raise funds through online lending and online giving, thereby financing grassroots microfinance and education initiatives around the world. Women's Worldwide Web is also an information provider/sharer and a social networking platform. Women's Worldwide Web will be launched on International Women's Day, 8 March 2010.

Lindsey Nefesh-Clarke was declared the winner of the 2009 Student of the Year Awards at the Annual Gala of the Association of MBAs (AMBA). This prestigious award aims to recognise the broad scope, international attitude and leadership abilities of today's most outstanding MBA scholars.