Biggest Regrets Of Executive MBA Graduates

You can’t blame the Class of 2020 for feeling cheated. For two years, these Executive MBAs were working the equivalent to two jobs – three if you count family. They had missed out on children’s events, hobbies, and even sleep. In March, they were finally hitting the home stretch. This was their time: electives, class trips, and graduation.

And then COVID-19 exploded onto the scene.

Chris Martell, Arizona State University (W. P. Carey)

Sonia Sciampagna, a human resources executive in Germany, had been commuting to Spain for her MBA classes. When the nation went into lockdown from COVID-19, ESADE moved classes online and cancelled international study tours. While Sciampagna was happy with the program, she was tepid towards her lousy luck. “If I could go back in time, I would have done this Executive MBA five years earlier,” Sciampagna laments.


The same disappointment dogged many EMBAs this spring. Chris Martell, a senior pricing manager at PetSmart, attributes it to a lack of closure. “We were scheduled to depart on our international practicum just days prior to travel restrictions being levied against European and South American countries,” writes the Arizona State grad. “The final classes and commencement were all held virtually. Given how tight-knit and cohesive our cohort had become, it still doesn’t feel as though we’ve “finished” our program.”

That’s not to say class members haven’t made their peace with the pandemic. Michael Summers, an Australian consultant, regrets missing the opportunities to network with peers at INSEAD’s campuses outside France. However, the spring’s setbacks also came with a silver lining,” he points out.

“In crisis, there is the opportunity, and the COVID-19 pandemic allowed me the opportunity first-hand to see how organizations on the front lines can navigate and increase their organizational resilience. I also learned that an agile organization that values workplace adaptability and mobility has an increased chance of success over an organization that adopts fixed procedures and defines work as merely a place you go.

Alas, the Class of 2020’s biggest regrets didn’t just revolve around disruptions from COVID-19. Every year, Poets&Quants honors 100 of the top Executive MBAs as part of its Best & Brightest series. This year, nominees were asked to look back and share their biggest regrets about business school. From grades to networking, here are seven of their biggest woulda’s, coulda’s, and shoulda’s about their time as EMBA students.

1) Spent More Time With Faculty: “I would have loved to have had more time to spend with my professors to have free-ranging conversations and to cover more of the “optional readings.” As undergraduates or in other professional academic settings, there may be more time. Here, the division between school and work meant that additional time was rare.”
Patricia Turner, MD, University of Maryland (Smith)

“My biggest regret is not spending more time keeping in touch with all the professors immediately after class was over. While I kept in touch with a few via email, I am hoping to stay in better touch in the future. I often find myself wanting their insight and perspective while reading about current events. For example, I would love to discuss the current pandemic’s impact on globalization and nationalism with Professor Marc Busch.”
Jack Cheung, Cornell University (Johnson)

Cornelius T. Cook, Georgia Tech (Scheller)

2) Worried Less About Grades: “When I reflect on my 20-month experience in the program, I regret carrying so much stress and anxiety with concern about grades. I wish I would have worried less about the grade and used that energy to be more intentional about absorbing the entire experience. The outcome that matters is not the GPA, but rather the number of skills gained and lessons learned. The time truly does fly!”
Tammy Hannah, Michigan State (Broad)

3) Engaged In More Networking: “I wish I would have taken more time to network with other classmates in some of the other study teams—a demanding schedule at work led me to not focus on this a much as I should have. I regret not devoting more time to this. You can only enjoy opportunities and develop connections in a program such as this once. I did much better toward the end of the program; I only wish that I had spent more time from the beginning.”
Jeff Larkin, Michigan State (Broad)

“My biggest regret is that I didn’t spend more time with my classmates during the first semester. Admittedly, the first semester is quite an adjustment for everyone and finding the right balance between work, school, family, and new friends (i.e. classmates) takes time. However, I regret not taking advantage of more opportunities to get to know the new friends I have acquired. I have now come to truly value the time we share together exchanging stories, experiences, and bad jokes. Hindsight is 20/20 and if I had to do it all over again, that is only thing I would change.”
Cornelius T. Cook, Georgia Tech (Scheller)

4) Lived In The Moment: “That I didn’t step back and soak it all in more. When you are in the middle of the program, you are pushing yourself and at times wanting it to be the end of the semester. Now that I look back, it was the most rewarding 22 months I have given towards something in my adult life. The amount you grow as an individual is simply amazing.”
Sydney Storey, Notre Dame (Mendoza)

“My biggest regret was not realizing how fast time flies and not appreciating the little things. It’s easy to get caught up in the routine of working all week, going to class, and repeating that pattern for two years. It’s important to take time to look around and appreciate the moment you’re in.”
Joseph W. Krause, Rutgers University

Erica Dianne Taylor, Duke University (Fuqua)

5) Gained Support Of Those Around Them: “If I could do it again, I would have done a better job of negotiating employer support and investment into my business school program. I have made significant contributions to my leadership groups as a direct result of what I have learned during this program and I wish I had placed a higher value on myself from the very beginning.”
Erica Dianne Taylor, Duke University (Fuqua)

6) Pursued Student Leadership: “My biggest regret in business school was not pursuing a role on the student leadership team. I had not yet shifted to that mindset that I was 100% capable and would bring a unique perspective that would prove valuable to the position. I’m glad I’ve gained that new confidence for future leadership roles.”
Jesse Breidinger, Georgia Tech (Scheller)

7) Indulged In More Sightseeing: “My biggest regret was more outside class than in the class itself – I thought I would do a little more sightseeing outside of my class program than I managed to organize myself to do. This is because I often needed to catch up on work most evenings and had to keep my timing to arrive and leave sharp to make it back home in good time. I have lots of miles gained though as a result – so I will make up on the sightseeing later.”
Milkah Wachiuri, IESE Business School

DON’T MISS: 2020 Best & Brightest Executive MBAs or 12 Biggest Myths About Executive MBA Programs

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.