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Our biggest career choices hinge upon some key factors – money, interest, passion, security etc. Some more than others depending upon your own risk aversion, importance of work-life balance, ambition and so on. Whatever the motivation, the common outcome from an MBA is expected to be ‘change’ – accelerated change. “I’m doing my MBA to change nothing in my current circumstances” – said no one ever! If change is the goal, then the measurement of success surely has to be how far you move from your current state. But not every moment in life is ripe for change and an untimely MBA won’t pack the power of a knockout punch.

In my opinion there are three distinct stages at which an MBA makes sense. First, the full-time MBA when you’ve had a few years in consulting, banking or other professions and are eager to get ahead in the corporate world. And because they have no great obligations at this stage in life, the opportunity cost of losing two years’ pay is minimal. The second is when you’re trying to make a similar change, but are a bit further along in your career and life to give up your income. The Executive MBA students, typically with a few more years’ work experience, will juggle work, family and weekend classes to change their position, a team, a discipline or try out another organization.

The third stage, is when you’re an established mid-to-senior level executive with experience in leading teams and organizations with a proven track record. So the case for change at this level is not because you ‘need’ to, but because you ‘want’ to – perhaps because you want a new challenge or want something more stimulating than what you’re doing or perhaps you simply want to see what options are available. Whatever the reason, at this stage in life the single most driving factor is realizing your own potential and pushing the boundaries of your capabilities. Unexplored, this can lead to a midlife crisis.

Enter EMBA Global. When I started the course, I was doing quite well as a revenue strategist at Starwood Hotels & Resorts, but I decided it was time to look at possibilities ‘out there’. I loved the work I did but I also had begun to realize I could do better. So I naturally wanted to equip myself with the education and network to discover other options. Someone once said to me “An MBA is a lot of money to just keep your options open”.  No doubt the case, but the reward when you pick an option can be life-changing. And so I found myself on a plane to London to start the 20-month EMBA-Global journey.

I remember sitting in class on the first day of orientation, being awestruck by everyone’s stories of how they got there, and thinking, “What am I doing here?” But as the year progressed and I got to know everyone, I discovered that we weren’t all that different. We had different backgrounds but still, being in the company of these smart individuals didn’t give me a feeling of competition, but of validation – that I could achieve whatever I set my sights on, like every one of my friends in class could. And so began a journey of self-searching, self-awareness, excitement for the possibilities and, of course, action. I can’t count the number of folks in class who have quit what they were doing when they joined to do something completely different – something they had always wanted to do. Many have chosen to change locations, professions and industries. Some like me, have taken the path of entrepreneurship, which wasn’t an option for me until I started the EMBA Global experience. With six months left to go in the program, I quit my job at Starwood and using that experience, I’m launching SuiteStory, the next best thing in online luxury hotel booking experience – one that will cater to a whole generation of affluent travelers looking for more than just a standard room and who’ve never made a booking on the phone in their life. My co-founder is a fellow EMBA-Global; the program seems to be paying dividends already.

All my classmates have similar stories to tell – a lull in the career, the desire to jump start again on to a new path, building the base of a Global MBA education, then, the leap of faith. Time will tell how the future unfolds, but you’d be hard pressed to find a single classmate who wouldn’t do this all over again. The success of an MBA program can be subjective and while many publications try to standardize it, my yardstick squarely measures how much you were able to do what you set out to do – which was change. EMBA Global has by far exceeded my expectations in that regard. It is the best way to gain knowledge, friends, networks and a new purpose to shoot for the stars. It is the perfect midlife miracle.

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If there’s one word that describes the world in the last two decades – the better part of my adult life – the first word that comes to my mind is Global. It’s the perfect accompaniment to anything business; as fries (or chips) are to fast food. Without global, any conversation of intellectuals in the business world is insipid and lackluster. The most expensive and exclusive gathering of world leaders and businessmen at World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos each year is a monument to the importance of this word in today’s vocabulary. But as with anything exclusive that gains popularity loses its appeal, ‘Global’ has been reduced to a common adjective in any and every context. So, when I was considering an MBA education and first heard of the EMBA-Global Americas & Europe program, my first thought was that this burger also came with fries.

Nonetheless, I chose the program for a) its class schedule – majority of classes take place in block week format, b) the expanded faculty and course choices at London Business School and Columbia Business School (the Asia stream of EMBA-Global includes HKU, Hong Kong in addition to LBS and CBS), and c) the ability to take electives in New York, London, Dubai and Hong Kong.

Eleven months later, just finishing the core curriculum I’ve now realized why applying to this specific program was the best decision of my life. While in block weeks, all sixty nine of us stay, eat, study and play together as a tight knit family. Everyone is genuinely overjoyed to see each other after the gap of a month and we profoundly miss each others’ company. Coming to the end of core has been a bitter-sweet moment, as won’t come together again as a class next until graduation. Neither do we all live in the same city to meet casually for a Sunday morning to catch-up over brunch. Being Global has its disadvantages too. But given the choice I’d choose EMBA-Global over any other; not least for two reasons:

Global means not only people who’re from all over the globe but also live all over the globe

Living in New York (well across the river from Manhattan in New Jersey), I could’ve easily applied for any of Columbia Business School’s programs. There’s the Friday/Saturday EMBA course – the equivalent of which exists at London Business School as well. Also, London and New York being two of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, I have no doubt my cohort would consist of people from all backgrounds and nationalities. But the reality is that they would still all live in London or New York if they were to show up for school every other weekend. My EMBA-Global class probably has the same diversity, if not more, except that these folks live in and travel from all over the world to attend classes. I have classmates traveling from as far as Johannesburg, Mumbai, Sao Paulo, Moscow and Wellington (NZ) each month to attend classes in London and New York. We don’t discuss global issues – we discuss local issues from every person from around the globe. That’s a crucial difference, one that separates mere knowledge of the globe and a deep understanding of it. For what it’s worth, it’s like having our own WEF each month in London and New York.

A worldwide network of close friends in every major city in the world

One must differentiate between a diverse network and a global network to grasp the importance of this one. A diverse network that most business schools and programs foster brings together people from a myriad professions, educational backgrounds and cultures. The EMBA Global network is all that plus the added benefit of a diaspora of ‘Globals’ (as we are aptly referred to). Once you’re part of this elite club, you’ve got close friends in every major city in the world, on the ground, in the trenches for anything you need. Your scope widens and you start to think truly global. From a farming startup in Senegal funded from the US to moving from Paris to San Francisco for a new job to a founding a healthcare company in the Caucuses through expertise from the US to expanding a Dubai based education business worldwide – all from connections made in just our class – this program has opened doors for us that have far surpassed any of our wildest imaginations.

My own story is that I’ve recently launched a hotel booking startup with a classmate – we have offices in New York and Rotterdam, our development office in Latvia and we will likely pilot with a hotel in Portugal soon. I came in to this program thinking I knew what I wanted to do – get a decent MBA, learn new skills and grow my network to excel and advance in my employment. I jettisoned that idea somewhere along Term 1, as soon as I embraced the EMBA-Global community. I became the career representative for the class, doing my bit to help every one of us achieve whatever goals we set out for ourselves. I know I’m going to end up on a far different trajectory than I originally allowed myself to dream. This program catapulted my thinking, my skills and my potential light years ahead. Arguably that’s in part due to the superior institutions that I’m part of including the award winning faculty and the vast resources available to us, but I’m convinced that the success of EMBA-Global is more in part to the ‘Global’ than the EMBA.

After all, have you ever tried having a burger without fries?

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