Poets & Quants for Executives

MIT Sloan Graduates Its FIrst Class of Executive MBAs

by David Bogoslaw

Members of the first class of MIT’s budding Executive MBA program didn’t have to wait until graduation on Friday (June Eighth) to reap the benefits of their studies. By last September, midway through the new 20-month program, over half of the 62 students had already landed a promotion, accepted more responsibility in their jobs or used what they were learning to start a new company.

For MIT’s Sloan School of Management, this inaugural EMBA class has been an impressive bunch from the start. Some 54% of the students already came to school with an advanced degree. Half of the students traveled to Boston for 26 weekends and four one-week sessions from outside New England, some as far as Portland, Ore., and Guatemala City, drawn by the luster of the MIT brand.

A hallmark of the EMBA program for mid-career executives who are working full-time is action learning, which lets them immediately apply what they are learning on their jobs. Action learning is one of three recent business trends that the new EMBA program at the Sloan School was designed to address. The other two are the need to retrain executives so they can increase their business impact and keep their companies competitive and the rise of the technical executive who is bumped up to general manager often without the financial and marketing skills required to succeed.

Kalpesh Sheth, technical director of a $160 million business unit at DRS, a leading military equipment and systems provider, readily admits to exemplifying the third trend.  Sheth has a bachelors and master’s degree in computer science, but first realized he needed a business education from a top school when Motorola bought the startup he was working for in 2001 and he went from being a hands-on computer programmer to a senior engineering manager with more wide-ranging duties.

FILLING GAPS IN KNOWLEDGE WITH AN EXECUTIVE MBA

“With technology, you’re good at what you do and you get more responsibility. You don’t know marketing, the finance aspect, the business aspect,” says Sheth. He saw that unless he understood what drives the business, he would not be able to speak the same language as other managers when trying to get approval for new products or R&D funding.

What Sheth values most is the vocabulary the program has given him to talk to his finance and management colleagues. He also lauds the training in data modeling and analysis, which he sees as a foundation for mastering the optimization process that goes into any business decision.

CREATED AS A COMPLEMENT TO MIT’S FULL-TIME SLOAN FELLOWS PROGRAM

Conceived as a complement to MIT’s full-time Sloan Fellows program, launched in the 1930s, the EMBA program acknowledges the current demands of business, says Jonathan Lehrich, one of the program’s two directors. Companies are far less willing than they once were to lose “high-trajectory mid-career executives” for a one- or two-year sabbatical for advanced management training. Some are happy to foot at least part of the cost — $141,000 for the third class that starts in September 2012. One third of the students are currently being sponsored by their companies for at least half the tuition.

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