Robert Mann, Emory University EMBA alumni

Robert Mann wanted to learn the theory behind the practices he had learnt from his mentors, so he embarked on an Executive MBA. He tells Dawn Bournand why he would encourage others to follow in his footsteps.

When one works in the same industry for all of one's working life it becomes very easy to assume the business practices and expectations of that industry are the only ones possible, says Robert Mann, EMBA alumnus of Emory University's Goizueta Business School. But the diversity of the program participants' industries assures there are many alternative ideas and methods to analyze. Then it is possible to try and integrate new thinking into traditional practices. Much of the learning experience in my particular program came from a classroom environment that enabled free interaction between faculty and class members, Robert says.

Motivation for an EMBA

The Senior Vice President of Sales and Service for a German diesel engine producer - the company has sales in the range of US$1.5 billion - Robert's main motivation for pursuing the EMBA degree was twofold: firstly I wanted to extend my knowledge in the areas of strategy and finance. I felt that both of these areas needed strengthening if I wanted to take my career to the next level of management. Secondly, as I had many years' experience in my field of expertise, I wanted to learn the theory behind the practices that I had learnt from mentors or by doing, he explains.

Robert's EMBA was part of his career planning with his company, and before completion of the program his next career step was implemented. I would have had the opportunity to take this position without the EMBA, however the lessons learnt from the EMBA enabled me to make the move from subsidiary to parent company in the extremely difficult business climate of 2009.

He says the greatest advantage of the EMBA is the knowledge to understand which questions to ask of subordinates. This is especially true when the areas of strategy, competitive advantage and competitor analysis are under consideration. The answers to these questions allow one to sort out special interest from company essential projects.

Alternative business methods

It therefore comes as no surprise that Robert would recommend the EMBA to other candidates looking for further professional development. It opens the mind to alternative business methods, improves the overall ability of the generalist and equips managers with a modern toolbox of techniques that will help any company, he says. The case study teaching method enables a student to try different solutions in practise before taking some irreversible steps in a real company environment.

After graduating in the spring of 2009, Robert has stayed in touch with many of his EMBA classmates. The network is very beneficial in the sense that there are always people outside of my industry to bounce ideas off. In addition, with today's electronic social networking tools, the extended network of the class expands this reach immensely. Emory also gave me access to some of the very best faculty members and I am glad to say these also remain available and part of the extended support network.