Like many MBA candidates, Kane Cuenant sought to broaden his knowledge in a more formal business school setting. However, unlike many other MBAs he chose a Russian business school over the top North American schools to pursue his MBA degree. He talks to TopMBA.com about about the choices he made and why he decided upon Moscow School of Management, Skolkovo.
If there was one thing Cuenant wished he'd known before embarking on his MBA it was the importance of languages. Languages are very important for the BRICs, the Canadian born MBA graduate says, referring to the world's fastest growing economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China. Anyone that has a few of them is far ahead of their peers.
But language proved no barrier for Cuenant, who left Canada to study for his MBA at Russian business school, Skolkovo. Everything came down to what school had the most opportunities, he says, explaining his criteria for choosing a business school. I started by taking a list of top schools in different countries, including the US, Canada, China, India and Russia. In the end, the schools in the US and Canada were only interesting because of their brands and a top MBA graduate position.
However, Cuenant says despite the reputation of many North American schools he did not believe they showed as much promise in terms of opportunity to go beyond the mainstream consulting and finance positions in developed countries. Meanwhile, he felt the Chinese and Indian schools were impractical because they mostly copied US business schools' MBA models, rather than focusing on gaining the practical knowledge about their own emerging markets.
Skolkovo encompassed all the good qualities of the other schools, plus a few other factors not typically seen, claims Cuenant. That is, the ability to spend most of the time working with real projects in emerging markets, personal mentoring by successful people, and a very personalized MBA development path.
During his decision making process, Cuenant attended one of the many QS World MBA Tour events, where he was able to meet representatives of the Russian business school without getting on a plane. The school now regularly attends these events in major cities across the globe, and it is one of the few venues in which prospective students can compare the real added value of different MBA programs, he says.
Getting into business school
Cuenant currently works as a consultant for Cuenant & McCarville PL, a Florida based law firm specializing in bankruptcy and real estate litigation. But for the last 16 months he has been immersed in the world of MBAs.
In Canada, a great number of businessmen and other types of managers have, or plan on eventually having an MBA, Cuenant notes, before pointing out the appeal. Some of the best things about business school life are the opportunities, the ability to work with emerging markets, practical experience, and the network.
Cuenant did not need to sit the GMAT entrance exam, but he still had to go through the ordeal of the MBA essay for his application. What were the key things he thought the admissions committee liked about his essay?
We both wanted the same things, he reveals. The committee looked for a certain kind of business experience, academic background, cultural knowledge and approach. Most of all, they wanted high performing people with large ambitions. These characteristics were no different from what I was looking for in a school.
Explaining the Russian business school's rigorous interview process, Cuenant points out that he had a few interviews, but none like those at Skolkovo. They are typically spread over several days and involve hours of question and answer sessions amongst other things. People interviewing include faculty, staff, and independent consultants as well as founders (CEOs of multinationals, politicians and the like).
However, these high profile interviewers don't just arrive to help out with the admissions process. At Skolkovo, companies, staff, professors and even the founders participate in mentoring MBA students' individual development goals. Through these cases, students gain major networks of their own choosing without any networking hurdles.
But the mentoring isn't the only element of the MBA program tailored to meet students' needs. We don't spend 18 hours a day in the classroom learning theoretical applications, says Cuenant. Rather, students have project based learning. In effect, everyone gets real time in the field [training] with multinationals, government organizations, NGOs and the like. These are tailored toward individuals' preferences and personal development goals.
Cuenant's time at Skolkovo allowed him to explore emerging markets, gain an internationally-recognized business qualification, and set him on his way to business success. But the MBA did not come without its challenges. On the negative side, there is not enough time to do everything, Cuenant admits. At times, it may even seem difficult to pursue a particular opportunity to its fullest. Moving from country to country during the course of the program also makes the timing of accomplishing some tasks arduous.
Secondly, working hard is somewhat of an obvious negative. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that working diligently over a 16 month period is no easy task for anyone. While the rewards are greater than anywhere else, the risks associated with them are also high. That is, people must be prepared for the problems associated with developing countries.
Now, an MBA graduate, Cuenant plans on staying in Russia to work on a startup project. Thus far, there are a number of places in the corporate sector available for students as well, he says. Suffice to say, the great number of opportunities here leave everyone quite pleased.
Liked reading about Kane's story? Click here to read last week's MBA profile, featuring Michael, an MBA graduate from Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of North Carolina.