EMBA Road Warrior: Arun Sasikumar Nair

Arun Sasikumar Nair commutes from Singapore to Toronto's Rotman School for its EMBA program.


Rotman Global EMBA Class of 2011

Commute: Singapore to multiple class locations including Brazil, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Budapest

The very idea of globalism is what drew me to Rotman’s Global Executive MBA program. I hadn’t come across a program that traveled to eight different cities around the world and gave you an opportunity to experience countries and cultures by being immersed in them. Being raised in Dubai myself, I have always been accustomed to life lived on a visa. As U.A.E does not give anyone citizenship regardless of having been born there, I am an Indian citizen because of my parents.

I have also had the fortune of being able to travel around the world since a very young age. Therefore, I’d always asked myself the question: if I am not really a citizen in any particular place (even though I have visited India numerous times, I have never lived there), how can I use the strengths and knowledge as a world traveler towards my career? This program seemed to be the all-in-one package where I felt I could learn and use the knowledge acquired to pursue my professional goals.

I began the program while I was living and working in Philadelphia. Having to travel to Toronto and Brazil from Philadelphia, I hadn’t realized how much of a commitment was required of me. Not long after the program started, I moved to Singapore with my company. Since then, I’ve been commuting from Singapore to the various regions that are built into the program’s required curriculum. It’s been a lot to manage, having moved to a new country, working in a new position, and trying to do my best in the program.

I compare the juggling of it all like riding a bike for the first time. You don’t get into something like this without knowing that you will give it your all; no less than 100%. It takes a lot of your time, but I’ve learned to set my priorities. Working in student groups helps in this regard. You gain a sense of responsibility where your group requires you do a certain amount of work to complete projects. When you have deadlines, you can’t afford to spend weekends going out or the luxury of a relaxed Sunday. One way to describe it is difficult, but unforgettable.

I am unmarried but in a long-term relationship (engaged a year and a half ago). This experience has definitely tested our relationship and the strength of it. When you pursue a goal like an Executive MBA, you need the complete support of your partner. Traveling every two or three months for extended periods of time is not easy on your partner or family for sure. They don’t get to see you, but at the same time they also understand the pressure that comes with it. I think it would be extremely hard if someone didn’t have their partner’s undying support like I have.

I wouldn’t think twice about whether I would do this again. Since enrolling in the program, I’ve had classes take place in Shanghai, Hong Kong, St. Gallen, Budapest, Hyderabad, New Delhi, and Toronto—all from my home in Singapore. Let’s say it helps your mileage status if you get into this program!

I think the traveling and the commitment takes a toll on you for sure. For me, personally, I had to adjust to a new position, a new country, and try to manage the pressures of school. Definitely, there were stressful moments. I wouldn’t say I have all the answers, but it has surely tested my patience and my ability to strive through it!

One major tip for others who may be considering this path would be to talk to other alumni and get a real sense—through other people’s experience—of what it really entails. EMBA programs are a huge commitment that you need to think about very carefully before diving into it. Also, as you consider an EMBA, try to visualize why you are doing it and what you plan to get out of it.

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

Christopher Min: Commuting from Seoul, Korea, to Wharton’s West Coast campus for the school’s EMBA program.

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