EMBA Road Warrior: Christopher Min

To attend Wharton's San Francisco EMBA program, Chris Min endures a 12-hour flight from Seoul, Korea.
CHRISTOPHER MIN
Wharton EMBA Class of 2011

Commute: Seoul, South Korea to San Francisco, California
I was born in the United States, but moved to Korea when I was two years old. From kindergarten through 12th grade, I attended school in Seoul after which I returned to the states to attend Boston College for undergrad.

When I graduated from BC in 2001, I entered the working world and embarked on a career with Accenture. Then I decided to move back to Korea with plans to launch a start-up. At 23, I was the founder and CEO of an English education consulting company. Soon afterward, my father asked me to join his company. Founded in 1980 by my father, Byoung-chul Min, BCM Educational Group is a total language education provider in Korea. We are involved in publishing, offline language schools, e-learning, corporate education, and telephone English tutoring.

Since inheriting this establishment in 2004 and assuming the position of CEO, I’ve been working to transform the company into an actual corporation. I’ve been fortunate to take over a solid family business with a good reputation in Korea. My desire is to help take it to the next level.

I spent eight years as a professional before considering Wharton’s EMBA program. Being a young CEO, I felt the need and desire to learn more so I started looking at the top ranked programs. The issue, however, was the distance. I couldn’t attend any programs on the East Coast because it was simply too far.

When I learned about Wharton West, it was the only school I applied for. I would be lying if I said I didn’t choose Wharton for the influence and prestige that comes with the Wharton brand. In Korea, the name of the school one attends is a big deal. Therefore, I was very set on this particular program.

My commute from Seoul to San Francisco is 12 hours. A typical schedule for me consists of 12 to 16 hours of classes on Friday and Saturday. My work week begins on Sunday afternoon (5 PM PST/9AM Seoul). I fly out to Seoul on Monday. During the 12 hour flight, I put in an average of eight hours worth of work. I arrive in Seoul on Tuesday evening then do a full week at the Seoul office from Wednesday to Wednesday. I study during lunch and evenings along with constant communication with classmates via email and telecommunications. On Thursday, I board a flight to San Francisco, study eight hours on the plane, arrive in California early afternoon on Thursday, rest, and prepare for classes on Friday morning.

To make this work for me, I personally found it helpful to spend half the time in California and half the time in Asia. I rent an apartment in San Francisco right next to campus so on some weeks I will spend two weeks there then return to Seoul for a week. I call this my two week cycle “Type B.”
It’s comprised of 12-16 hours of classes on Friday and Saturday. When the work week begins on Sunday afternoon (5 PM PST/9AM Seoul), I have full utilization of video, telecommunications, and email to communicate with colleagues in Korea. During the weeks between classes that I remain in the states, I make sure I’m online and available during Seoul working hours which are 5 PM to 1 AM PST. I also study for two hours before each work day begins.

Whether it’s a Type A or Type B cycle, work is always first priority for me. I’ve been working full-time throughout the duration of the Wharton program. You learn to adjust and make time out of seemingly full schedules to get school work done. Our company has been doing really well while I’ve been back and forth for two years which makes my life really comfortable for me. I would also add that there’s no way to successfully complete this program without the help and support of classmates.

As far as financing my EMBA education, I am covering the expenses on my own. In addition to tuition, I spend about $3,000 per month on airfare. This is a very clear investment I’m making in myself. Regardless of where you are in the world or in your career or track, the EMBA is the best tool for people who are looking to reassess things and re-strategize. It also provides a lot of perspective. I would recommend it to anyone.

My biggest tip for others who may be considering becoming an EMBA road warrior is to have enough frequent flier miles for upgrades. You can’t do this for two years on economy class. Twice a month on the plane working or studying is part of the planning and budgeting you need to factor in.

Like anything else, it’s how much u put into it and commit to it to make it all worthwhile. No matter who you are it’ll be challenging and that’s what an EMBA should be.

To read the stories of other EMBA road warriors:

Stephanie Carlton: Commuting from Washington, D.C., to Austin, Texas, for the University of Texas’ EMBA program

Chris Bouck: Commuting from the Cayman Islands to Cornell’s Johnson School EMBA program outside New York City

Harsh Gupta: Commuting from Dubai to Evanton, Ill, for Northwestern University’s Kellogg School EMBA program

Arun Sasikumar Nair: Commuting from Singapore to Toronto for the Rotman School’s EMBA program