EMBA Road Warrior: Harsh Gupta

Kellogg EMBA student Harsh Gupta

Every other weekend, Harsh Gupta’s roundtrip flight to Kellogg adds 14,522 miles to his frequent flyer account.


Kellogg School of Management Executive MBA Class of 2011

Commute: Dubai to Evanston, Illinois

I believe learning is not attained by chance; it must be sought for with ardor and diligence. To be at the Kellogg School of Management, pursuing an Executive MBA, learning from the best faculty in the industry, and having peers who are well accomplished and intellectually stimulating, it makes traveling from Dubai a worthwhile investment.

I also feel that travelling long distances for jobs is an acceptable norm for a lot of people, but when you talk about doing the same for personal development it does not sink in easy. I meet people and they ask, “So where do you come from?” When I say, “Dubai,” and I see their jaw drop to their chest, it’s an expression that’s impossible to describe, but is worth seeing. Even if it is 30 hours every alternate week and travelling to a different time zone, I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to pursue quality education.

Having worked for large organizations and run my own business, I was at the juncture of my career where I was looking to identify additional opportunities to hone my skills so that I can use my talent to expand my business and identify new growth opportunities both personally and professionally.

As the world is becoming flatter and organizations are striving to sustain themselves by identifying global competencies, I also believe it is important to position oneself as a cross-cultural capitalist, which is what I intended to achieve through this EMBA.

I work for a small company in Dubai dealing in consumer electronics of which I am the CEO. As the chief executive of Muller (Middle East) FZCo, I oversee all development operations, develop strategic plans and objectives, manage financial and physical resources to achieve overall goals, and I lead recruitment, deployment, and evaluation of staff members.

Our business sources products from six countries across Europe and Asia while we sell to five countries across the Middle East and Africa, so it’s a fairly large footprint when we talk about geographical region. The business relationships and partnerships in these markets are more personal, thus requiring a lot of time and extensive traveling.

My usual work week is comprised of 8-10 hours a day, five days a week, which includes meetings with staff, suppliers, customers, and government officials. I spend time shaping the strategies and future growth policies of the organization while ensuring we are on target with our present plans.

My EMBA schooling is an alternate week event which requires me to travel 15 hours to the U.S. We attend classes Friday afternoon and the whole day on Saturday. The courses are intense but very enjoyable thanks to the faculty and peers who really make it a worthwhile experience.

Being a road warrior isn’t easy but there is nothing that comes easy in life. The advantage of having classes on Friday and Saturday is that these are not the working days in the UAE. Therefore, when I am travelling I generally miss the office for only four days in a month (alternate Thursdays and Sundays). I have hired a senior level professional to support me while I am away from work. In addition, the time zone allows me to work post school hours if required.

Weekends are generally for friends and family. I am single, but I have my father and my brother’s family living in Abu Dhabi which is an hour’s drive from Dubai. I usually spend time with them or have a round of golf with my friends. Being a group of car enthusiasts, we sometimes take on the roads. I have also spread out my one month holiday to a short three times a year and have been able to experience lovely destinations like the Caribbean.

I am sure for people who have families and children their partners need to be very understanding and supportive. In my view, a new thing added such as this would definitely imply more time away from one’s family but I see it as an investment for a lifetime that would improve the quality of life for the family as a whole. Therefore, a sacrifice of two years would definitely be worthwhile.

I see no negative in being a road warrior except for the costs involved. For instance, I am paying for my own education and flying to the U.S. costs $4800 for a return business class ticket. But if I capitalize the expense over my life span, I am sure the returns will be far greater. Adapting to time zone changes is a challenge sometimes but you get used to it after a while.

Being a road warrior also helps in meeting people on these long haul flights and it does give me time to work on assignments and deliverables.

Why Kellogg? Kellogg is one of the premium management education institutions in the US and has been a pioneer in executive education. The quality of faculty and alumni that I have met are excellent. As I was looking at a global perspective in education, a general management degree was an obvious choice.

It has been an enjoyable one year and three months. The amount that I have learned at school and from my peers has been immense. The network I’ve been able to build is amazing. Travels definitely expose you to various kinds of people and their stories which you learn from. It adds to your intellectual depth and spiritual understanding. I have gained a good number of friends on these journeys who I intend to keep as friends for all my life. If I could, I would definitely do it all over again.

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

Christopher Min: Commuting from Seoul, Korea, to San Francisco for Wharton’s West Coast EMBA program

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

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