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Tony Mullen may be one of the world’s most travelled commuters. Each month the Australia-based chief operating officer of Events Management Queensland completes a 20,000-mile round trip to attend an executive MBA programme at University of Cambridge, Judge Business School in the UK.
EMBA programmes (an MBA for working executives), based on monthly weekend classes and online modules, are attracting many more overseas-based candidates. Mr Mullen is one of a growing army of MBA students prepared to travel incredible distances to study at their business school of choice.
“To me getting on a plane is a bit like getting on a train — it’s really just part of the deal,” says Mr Mullen.
“I have a classmate who travels from Malaysia and there are students from Ukraine, Russia, France and Ireland in the class,” says Mr Mullen. About a third of his class travel from abroad to attend classes, he adds.
“There was a gentleman from Sydney taking last year’s programme and I spoke to him before signing up to get tips on managing the travel.”
The Judge EMBA is delivered over 16 weekends and four week-long blocks over a 20-month period. The format is tailored to suit busy executives with heavy work schedules, and coursework is designed to complement students’ existing responsibilities in their jobs.
“I leave for Cambridge on a 1am flight on Thursday nights. I sleep for the first six or seven hours and then work for 12 hours straight on the plane,” says Mr Mullen. He estimates he will have spent at least 960 hours or 40 days on an aeroplane over the course of his MBA programme. But by travelling for study at the weekend he says he does not have to miss a lot of work.
Mr Mullen says his day job is pretty busy as his government-owned company manages three major sporting events: the Gold Coast Airport Marathon; Pan Pacific Masters Games; and the Great Barrier Reef Masters Games. However, his employer he says has been supportive, allowing him time off to travel to pursue his EMBA.
“It is the opportunity of a lifetime to attend the course,” says Mr Mullen. “I chose it because of the quality of the programme, the diversity of the cohort, future networks, world-leading academics and the global value of the University of Cambridge brand.”
Mr Mullen says he believes the EMBA will help him to build skills that will benefit his current company and enhance his future prospects.
A father of seven-year-old twins,
Mr Mullen says there is sacrifice involved in terms of time spent away from family but he works hard to maintain a work- life balance.
“My wife and I spoke about the course in detail before I took it on,” he says. “I make sure I have quality time with the family and I take some time out to volunteer in my children’s classroom once a week.”
Keeping physically fit is important he adds, given the lengthy flights to the UK and jet lag. He tries to start each day with a 10km run on the Gold Coast beaches in Queensland.
The financial cost of his EMBA programme and the associated travel, at about A$140,000, was a further consideration.
“Whilst you may find some programmes are cheaper there are many, many more that vastly exceed the cost of the University of Cambridge programme,” he says.
“I very much see the programme as an investment for the future and I am already seeing dividends come through now in terms of implementing ideas gleaned from my course at work.”
In time, Mr Mullen hopes the EMBA will help him to reach the level of chief executive and into the board room.
An added bonus is that by the time his EMBA programme is finished, Mr Mullen will have clocked up 400,000 frequent flyer air miles. However, whether he can bear to take another long distance flight is another matter entirely.
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