Biggest Myths About EMBA Programs

Wharton School’s Todd Wilson


On the surface, money can be driving force to returning to school. In theory, an MBA reflects that professionals have mastered the fundamentals needed to take on more responsibility — a precursor to a larger paycheck. Wharton’s Todd Wilson, a Wall Street tech prodigy and entrepreneur, argues that he gained far more than just a seal of approval from his MBA. “I learned as much about ethics, social responsibility, communication, networking, leadership, team-building, and having a better global understanding as I learned about profit maximization,” he says.

Wilson wasn’t alone in absorbing the social graces as much as wielding Porter’s Five Forces or becoming a Sultan of SWOT. “I thought it was going to be all about the academics, but it was as much about how to work with people,” adds USC’s Simpson. “We weren’t just learning information, but trying to work in teams – simulating a work environment. I never realized how important the people are to enhancing your educational experience.”

So what value does an MBA have to offer to executives who’ve been in the workforce for decades and reside near the top of their employers’ food chain? Plenty says the Class of 2017. In Rodney Cheung’s experience, one myth is that successful professionals don’t need an MBA. According to the University of Toronto grad, there is a belief that such sages already have all the answers, Anyway, many business school theories can’t be applied in a work setting, right? The reality, says Cheung, is the opposite, with the MBA curriculum often exposing potential biases and knowledge gaps that can quickly derail a career.

MIT’s Sharon Pian Chan

“Although you have reached an advanced level in your career with a great skill set, let your confidence open you up to new avenues of learning,” Cheung advises. “An executive MBA program opens your mind to new capabilities and new options which will provide even more opportunities to advance you career, help others grow, and help organizations succeed. It becomes an injection of new ideas and energy.”


This is particularly true when EMBA students come from outside the traditional business world. MIT’s Sharon Pian Chan, was a top journalist with the Seattle Times before recently heading up the paper’s innovation and product development efforts. What was her take on the executive MBA experience? “I’ve learned things I would only have vaguely grasped after decades of work.”

Medicine was another profession that drew many “Best & Brightest” students to campus — and for good reason. Take Southern Methodist University’s Robert Alan Probe. The Chief Medical Officer at Baylor Scott & White Health, the largest for-profit health care system in Texas, Probe had been told that an MBA wouldn’t add any value to his lengthy resume. Like Cheung, Probe experienced the complete opposite. “The critical thinking skills that I have developed have been invaluable,” he notes. “As a physician, I used to feel like a “fish-out-of-water” when the board conversations drifted to debt capacity or strategy. That is no longer the case. I know the organization is benefitting from the synergistic knowledge that I now possess in medicine and business.”

IMD’s Andreu Torregrosa Martinez

Indeed, an MBA degree is just the proverbial cherry on top, says IMD’s Andreu Torregrosa Martinez, who became a father, built a house, and started a company while he was a student. “The biggest myth is that some people think that it is just about getting a degree. It is not. It’s about your transformational journey as a leader.”

However, says Northwestern’s Jeffrey Brunton, the biggest myth may be that the hardest part of the EMBA is making it through. He came away with a far different take. “It’s not as hard as you think,” he emphasizes. “The hardest part is saying yes. Then all you have to do is hold on for the wild ride.”


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