From Mon Capitaine to a Global Asia EMBA

EMBA Global Asia student, class of 2011My fellow course mates were as genuine as I was (and safe in the knowledge that they were all living on different continents anyway!), so I felt that I could lose the mask and be myself. Amazingly, the rest of the class still speaks to me.

Private Equity & Venture Capital at LBS was an eye-opener. I realized there could be a career that would allow me to combine both my arcane financial analysis skills and my hands-on business management experience to create wealth. Most finance careers are heavily segmented. You are in either a front, back or middle office position. This course showed me that there were firms out there that would actively recruit a jack-of-all-trades like me.

The three schools that make up EGA are, of course, very different. The most salient strength of the program is precisely that: it allows you to get the best of three prominent and complementary business schools. I liked:

  • LBS for the density and depth of the academic content. I was challenged in areas in which I thought was an expert (e.g. Project Management);
  • CBS for its innovative outlook (e.g. the improvisation seminar);
  • HKU for its dogged and down to earth “you are here to get a brilliant job” attitude. Full mark to the Head of the HKU career office for her energy, commitment and personal network.

The combination of the three gives you an extra edge. It gives you a broader perspective than your single-school program, fellow MBA/EMBA students envy, in spite of the additional costs and burden. Most would have opted for this program “if they had known about it”.

Increasing the span of your network should be the key reason why you consider doing an MBA. The level of interaction you get on EMBA Global Asia is truly second to none. After the first elective, you stop introducing yourself as “EMBA Global Asia” or “America&Europe” to other students at the schools. We’re simply “Global guys.” Being on this program has made me join working groups made up of students from CBS (full-time and executive MBAs as well as students on the Berkeley-Columbia Executive MBA program) and LBS (full-time and executive MBAs, London-Dubai EMBA, Masters in Finance and Sloan programs).

We say that one cannot be a prophet in one’s own country. It is true: beyond the fact that you are studying on an MBA program, the one thing that makes people curious about you is precisely this insane yet glamorous globetrotting. Networking becomes a very natural thing when people come spontaneously to you to inquire where you come from and why you are here. This simply does not happen if you’re doing your MBA at the school down the road.

It also gives to your colleagues back at work something to talk about. Senior Executives who hardly knew I existed started inviting me over for coffee out of sheer curiosity about my numerous trips to Hong Kong. And we all know that this sort of foot in the door is worth gold.

If I had to do it again, I would have arranged to be available two weeks a month for the program: one block week in situ and one week at home exploring every facet of our courses and assignments. Sadly, I often was dragged back into business emergencies and found myself completing my preparation work and assignments on the plane. You obviously can complete the program that way. But it’s frustrating to get a suboptimal return on such a massive investment.

The other reason why executive MBA programs tend to attract more senior people is that such part-time arrangements allow them to keep their revenue. In my case, the opportunity costs of forfeiting my salary for two years sitting on a full-time program would have been much more painful than the direct costs (fees+travel+accomodation) of EMBA-Global Asia. Plus I would have had to relocate with my family to one of those notoriously expensive cities where top business schools often dwell. You can trust a CBO on this: I ran a few spreadsheet simulations before applying.

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