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The past year has been one of extraordinary economic volatility and it has thrown the MBA world into turmoil. So is this the right time to study for the degree?

On Wednesday January 28 between 14.00 and 15.00 GMT, a panel of experts answered your questions on this subject at www.ft.com/q&a/mba2009.

On the panel were:

Della Bradshaw, Business Education editor, Financial Times

Judy Olian, Dean of UCLA Anderson School of Management

Yvonne Li, Operations director with responsibility for admissions at Ceibs in Shanghai

Andrea Buck, Global head of MBA-Direct, the MBA recruitment agency

Rahul Bajaj, first year MBA student at Chicago Booth

I am an MBA aspirant for the year 2009/2010. I have been targeting the top tier and 2nd tier schools in Europe and the US such as INSEAD, Columbia, Wharton and Oxford. However, even though I live in Australia I have always felt hesitant about doing my MBA from a top school here, for example Australia School of Business or Melbourne Business School. So my question is, is it really worth doing an MBA from a top Australian School? What I’m really looking for from an MBA is a strong international curriculum and network, and a school with a global reputation. I feel that Australian schools will never compare in these respects with the likes of INSEAD or even Oxford. What do you think?
Abhishek, Sydney:

Della Bradshaw: I think my answer relates less to Australian business schools and more to schools in general and that is, when applying for a programme ask the school to show you who recruits at the school and what the career path is for alumni from the school. Several of the criteria on which we compile the FT rankings - such as the percentage of international students and faculty, the international course experience and the international mobility rank, which looks at how internationally mobile alumni are on graduation, are all indicators of whether the content of the programme will be global and whether the programme will lead to a global career.

Rahul Bajaj: You are right in assessing the networking and reputational importance of an MBA. Besides that, from an education point of view, I think it is crucial to have individuals from diverse backgrounds, which includes international students, in the classroom, outside it, in clubs, etc. I can not imagine an MBA experience without those aspects—it would make it a lot more insular. For me, it’s been a real treat because Chicago Booth is exceedingly international—so I spend most of my days in this United Nations type of setting which is awesome!

Yvonne Li: Which school to choose also depends on whether it fits you. Curriculum, network etc. that serve your needs and your career aspirations. If you are looking for a regional career development more in Australian and nearby regions, then a local good school might help you better than those further away. Every school has its uniqueness and I am sure those in Australia bear a stronger local network and the curriculum is more or less international and region focused as well.

Andrea Buck: With two Australian schools featured in the FT top 100 Rankings and an increase in the reputations of those across Asia Pacific, you have some very good schools to choose from, if you want to stay local. Another consideration would be your aspirations upon completion; the schools in Australia will have a very good knowledge of the local and national employment market and will be using their MBA alumni to develop as comprehensive a network as they can to assist with this. Make the most of any opportunities to network with alumni - they will be the true test of the ‘value’ of the MBA.

Judy Olian: There’s no question that there’s a pecking order among global schools of management. That said, 2-3 of the top schools in Australia have true global reputations and recognition, and their curricula compare very well to those in the best programs in Europe and the US. Plus, they have exchange relationships with the very best schools in the world so you could always experience a semester abroad in one of those institutions. I’d ask yourself about your ultimate objective: do you want to end up post-MBA in Australia, in another country, or in a multi-national with a dominant culture that is non-Australian? The more global your aspirations, the stronger the argument in favor of your leaving Australia for the MBA. Some of these other schools would also dominate Australian top schools in terms of the global mix of their student body.

What can Deans do to attract the best talents to the MBA programs in Europe and in the USA?
Viktor O. Ledenyov, Ukraine

Della Bradshaw: When we compile our MBA rankings we always ask alumni why they decided to study for any MBA. They invariably say it is to improve their career, make more money, develop networks and get a good grounding in management education. I think most business schools do a very good job in the last of those - the teaching - but have less control over the others.

In particular, visa changes in both the US and the UK over the past few years mean that it is both harder to get a visa to study and also to get a work visa on graduation to work in those two countries. Also the loan schemes in the US have almost dried up for non-US students.

Because the cost of doing an MBA is so high, particularly a two-year programme, students from countries in Asia, notably India and China, are going to think twice about studying in the US and Europe if they cannot get both a loan and a highly paid job on graduation to help pay off that loan. So, I think deans really have to address those sorts of issues.

Yvonne Li: I bet the Deans of MBA programs in Asia are working hard to attract talents to Asia too :-). So my answer is more general. As an administrative staff at CEIBS, I view the wording of your ”talents” in two categories: Student and Faculty. One of the important roles of a Dean is to attract top professors to the school. This helps with the admissions too.

To attract high calibre students, we need to know what factors an applicant usually considers when choosing an MBA Program: brand of the school, positioning of the program, curriculum design, faculty & research, student and alumni network, career and school services, recruiters feedback, location of the school as related to career aspiration, tuition affordability, etc. So, a Dean should manage to improve every aspect of those mentioned above or provide the best solutions. At CEIBS, our deans make sure that our curriculum strategically complies with the mission of the school, meets the dynamic demand of the market and that the school is striving for ”Continuous Improvement” and ”Sustainable Growth” in every aspect of the school/program operation. If a program ensures that studying for an MBA is an enjoyable and rewarding experience for the students and it receives positive feedback from alumni and recruiters, I am sure that the program could attract the best talents wherever it is.

Judy Olian: We’re trying building global brands, recognized for our value proposition. That means having a presence in various parts of the world through alumni, distinctive programs, information sessions and marketing that make us attractive and recognized among prospective students. Rankings matter, but it’s especially important to have alumni who speak from personal experiences about the strengths of the program. It’s also important that the program features are clear and visible to applicants so that they are attracted to programs based on real differentiators.

How come the prominent large-corporate states of Sweden and Germany are very successful in the absence of ’MBA culture’? Perhaps it is because MBA is a world apart from productive sectors?
Jerome, Netherlands

Rahul Bajaj: It is important to understand that the MBA, or at least an MBA at places like Chicago Booth, is grounded in solid academic disciplines—such as Economics, Finance, Accounting, Marketing, etc. If you want to run businesses successfully and ‘productively,’ you need to have a mastery over these fields. I don’t see a disconnection there. Sure, you could be successful without those tools, but I think a systematic method of preparation would suggest that you acquire them in a proactive way. If you wanted to perform surgery, would you not go to medical school to learn the science behind it and the best ways of performing surgery? Same applies to businesses. As for the ‘MBA culture’ …well, unfortunately, as Adam Smith pointed out, human beings and markets are motivated by selfish aims…and, that is not necessarily a bad thing for the society as a whole (the ‘invisible hand’). The track record of the alternatives to free markets (Soviet Union, for example) is not very compelling! Even with their limitations, markets are the best form of ‘productive’ human organisaton that we have…and an MBA education provides skills that are crucial in that setting.

Della Bradshaw: Just because they don’t have MBA programmes, doesn’t mean they don’t invest heavily in degree-level management education. Both have been very strong in undergraduate and masters level business degrees.

I am 34 years old and have accumulated 10 year’s business experience in development of infrastructure in a Japanese company. I am worried about whether I should study for an MBA now or Executive MBA after becoming a general manager (after 5 years).
Dai, Japan

Yvonne Li: You are asking about whether a full time MBA now or a part time EMBA later. Usually the student profile at full time MBA programs and that in EMBA ones are very different. MBA students are junior in age (average 29 at CEIBS), experience and positions. They usually pursue a full time MBA for solid knowledge accumulation, faster career progress or career switch, or for preparation to start their own business. While EMBA students are more experienced, higher in positions and focus more on networking and strategic management experience and knowledge integration. As MBA learning also goes through the process of classmate sharing, you may need to decide which age group of students you feel more comfortable with. And of course, opportunity costs are very different as well. So please identify first your objectives of dong an MBA. And there is no point to wait until you become a GM.

Judy Olian: You’re asking a very good question about future plans and opportunity costs. There are a series of questions you can ask yourself which may suggest that doing it now will accelerate your career and impose fewer opportunity costs than delaying the MBA for later. For example, is the absence of the MBA knowledge and leadership preparation holding you back in the short term from doing what you want to do? Are you not getting the assignments or the promotions you’d like since you don’t have the skill set? Are you interested in pursuing your own business ideas but don’t think you have the skills to assess the opportunities or build the business? Does your personal situation enable you to go to school for the MBA without too much hardship? If you continue your current career trajectory, is it possible that later on you won’t be able to afford to take the time out of your career because of greater job or family responsibilities? One other question you should ask yourself is whether there are alternatives to a full time MBA (e.g., part time MBA, shorter executive development courses) which might provide similar knowledge and leadership preparation without requiring the choice you pose.

Della Bradshaw: My question to you is, do you want to change the company you work for? Most full-time MBA students do the programme in order to get a different job, often in a different sector. If you want to continue with the same company, and you can persuade them to pay your EMBA fees, then that might be a better route for you.

I am looking to do my MBA soon, my question is it better to specialise on a particular subject or on a broad spectrum of subjects?
Joe Nsiah, Bracknell, Berkshire, UK

Rahul Bajaj: I faced a similar dilemma, and my decision to choose Chicago Booth had a lot to do with this question. In choosing Chicago Booth, I wanted a school that provided me with a Swiss army knife type of an academic toolkit—in economics, finance, management, strategy, marketing, etc. I also wanted a school that had a flexible curriculum, which would allow me to decide which of those tools I really wanted to become an expert at. Chicago fulfilled that requirement for me better than any other top MBA program because of its discipline-based approach and its ultra flexible curriculum. And I must say I am extremely happy about my choice. I know that as a Chicago MBA, I will have a mastery over all these building blocks of business, and a real super-specialization in one or more chosen fields among them. I think one must not forget that at the end of the day, an MBA is an education, and choose a path that best prepares you for the challenges of the real world. In summary, I would say study all the MBA programs carefully and pick the one that best meets your needs.

Della Bradshaw: If you are convinced you know what job you want on graduation, then it makes sense to specialise in that area of study. If not, an MBA gives you a real opportunity to try out different subjects and discover the sort of things you are interested in.

Judy Olian: One of the strongest advantages of the MBA is that the core curriculum is a survey of most of the basic functions of managers. It’s a ”tasting menu” where you can sample the functions and determine what you like. If you’re not certain, in advance, of your preferred area of specialty, the MBA is a terrific process of self discovery regarding your likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. It is also a great primer for managing complex organizational systems. Once you’ve gone through the core, then you should consider getting some depth in one or two areas that fit your preferred career track(s). You’ll need some depth in order to present yourself in the job interview process since recruiters expect some knowledge and understanding in particular functional tracks. If you’re convinced that you are suited to, and excited about a particular field, like HRM, supply chain management, financial engineering or accounting - sure, you can get a specialized degree but it will be tailored very specifically to a functional field and will come at a cost of the more integrative and strategic view of organizations and management.

I am wondering if it is the right time to study for an MBA? Two things in my mind are preventing from going ahead in pursuing my dream of studying for a full-time MBA. 1) Hailing from a lower middle class family with absolutely no money and a family to support, I am not convinced if the opportunity cost is worth doing MBA. I have a decent job. 2) Present economic meltdown and the US Visa restrictions are making it even more harder to land a job in US. Hence my question - is it better to tide over next couple of years and then start pursuing MBA? I am 26 years old and I have 5+ years of experience in US and India.
Ramachandran Muthusami, Baskingridge, NJ

Rahul Bajaj: That is a very personal decision that only you can make. Weigh your opportunity costs carefully before you make a decision. I am biased - I would say take the plunge! The gains will eventually far outweigh the costs, if you want to think of it that way.

Yvonne Li: Timing for an MBA depends more on the applicants themselves (purpose of doing an MBA, current career progress, future plan, affordability, etc.) but less on the external economic environment. If your current decent job still gives you room to grow and develop, and you enjoy it, then there is no need to pursue it now. You are young and your cross culture experience is a plus wherever you apply in the future. Or you may consider a part time program now.

Della Bradshaw: There will be a lot of people in your position at the moment trying to make exactly this decision. I think it all revolves around what kind of job you can realistically expect on graduation and what the opportunities are in your current position.

The last ten years or so (except for the dot-com) have seen an economic boom with MBA’s in high demand and salaries that fully justify the investment in education. Do you think that a) there will be a continuation of strong demand for MBA’s and b) do you think that salaries will be high enough to support the education investment? Furthermore, in which sectors and which types of roles do you see most demand for MBA’s?
Sigurdur Erlingsson, Reykjavik, Iceland

Judy Olian: The MBA differentiator is that it enables graduates to obtain an understanding of the various intersecting functions of management, gives them tools to create and manage new ventures, and provides them with insights about their own leadership dispositions. These are very significant and market relevant advantages to the MBA and companies will continue to seek out those who have a higher probability of success as experts in the functions of management, and who have the preparation to lead and innovate. I expect that the demand for MBAs will go through cyclical shifts with some parallel marginal adjustments in salaries, but if one examines career returns from the investment in the MBA, there is no question that the two year investment yields significant positive returns over the course of one’s career that swamp the cost of the degree. Of course, you can affect returns in the short term by selecting a less expensive program, provided it is a well recognized program.

Rahul Bajaj: If you want to be absolutely rigorous about this, then it is not your immediate salary that is important here, but the incremental increase in your cashflow over the entire course of your working life. Now, I am from Chicago Booth and this kind of NPV calculation is bread and butter to me…yet, I would discourage you to use just a single prism to answer this question. Some things are not weighed just in cashflow terms. I think education is one of them. Think more broadly in terms of what you want to do in life and how the right MBA could enable you to get there. When was the last time you read a good book or saw a great movie? Did you do a cashflow analysis for that? Same way, don’t do it here. And by the way, if you did do a cashflow analysis, clearly an MBA is worth doing! : )

Andrea Buck: Good companies are always looking for talented people with MBAs. An MBA shows any potential employer that you’ve been through a particular education process and you have a range of skills and experiences that will add value across business functions. The dynamics though are shifting and employers can be far more discerning in choosing the ‘right’ person, so while the MBA is a great qualification to have how your skills transfer to a role will become ever more important.

Della Bradshaw: To answer the second part of your question first.....there will always be demand for top managers in companies such as pharmaceuticals and I think one of the really exciting things will be the growth of ”green” companies, especially in the US under new government initiatives.

It is hard to imagine these will generate the kind of excessive bonus systems that were commonplace in Wall Street and the City, but companies will always pay to get great managers.

I am a physician with several years of clinical medicine experience and not too much management experience. I am looking to apply to an MBA program. Is there any difference between a regular MBA program and an EMBA for me? I will be doing a program that is mostly on-line and there are several that would suit me logistically.
Vaughn Payne, Kentucky

Della Bradshaw: The main difference between a regular and an executive MBA programme is the age of participants and the amount of work experience they have under their belts. It sounds to me as if you are still in your twenties, and therefore your profile is more in line with those on a regular MBA. Your choice, therefore, is to go for either a full-time programme (which you seem to have discounted); a part time programme; or an online programme. If you choose the online version, you need to work out what you want from the programme. For example, are accreditation and reputation of the school important to you? Do you want on-campus elements to the course? How good are the faculty and the tutors?

In your opinion, will the financial crisis change the MBA applicant profile? How? There is an opinion that the financial crisis is affecting Russian applicants in a less degree than Europeans or Americans due to the fact that we haven't yet got into the habit of living on credit. Until now, the main means for paying MBA tuition fees has been applicants' personal savings. Could it be the reason for European and American business schools to change their strategy to be more active on the Russian education market?
Evgenia, Moscow

Judy Olian: Regarding the first part of your question, there are some changes expected in the applicant pool for MBA programs. Those at the frontlines of the financial crisis (analysts from investment banks, private equity firms, real estate developers and lenders), and more junior professionals in manufacturing, consumer goods, retailing, advertising, consulting and technology who have lost their jobs may take this opportunity to pursue an MBA since the opportunity costs of the degree have declined. This may have been their intention all along but their uniform timing in deciding to apply - now - for an MBA program has been determined by the economic crisis. So, full time applications may increase this year, especially in job categories in the eye of the financial storm. On the other hand, applicants of part time and executive MBA programs may be more reluctant to part with their discretionary income during this economic uncertainty, causing applications to such programs to decline. Regarding schools’ entry into Russian markets - ’ability to pay tuition’ is just one factor in deciding to enter the market.

Other key factors are whether such regional presence fits with the global strategy of the school, whether the school has the capacity to staff and deliver programs in the region, whether the size of the market is sustainable and of the right quality, etc.

I graduated 6 months ago and I am now working in consulting. I would like to apply for an MBA program after 2 years of experience. Will it be more difficult to derive the benefits from an MBA with less than the average work experience required? Do schools take into account the fact that one year will pass between the application and the start of the academic year?
Eric Scaramozzino, London

Rahul Bajaj: Unlike law or medicine, business students tend to get more out of their graduate school experience based on previous work experience. It is just the nature of the subject. I can tell you that if I was studying some of my business cases 1 year out of undergrad, I would not get 10% out of it as I do when I study the same matter now. Clearly there are gains from waiting and getting work experience. Is there an optimal amount of work experience? I think that varies from individual to individual. For most people, that is somewhere between 4-6 years, depending on industry, role, geography, etc. But, for others, it could be less or more. A good test would be to try to have a conversation with current MBA students at a top program, and see if you’re on the same wavelength as them. If they seem to be conversing in some code language you don’t understand, get some more work experience before you apply.

Yvonne Li: If you look at the profile of full time MBA students in every business school, you may find their ages range from early 20s to mid or late 30s. At CEIBS, we enrol very young MBA students every year. It is true that students benefit more if they had related business experience before the MBA. But that does not necessarily mean that those with more experience enjoy it more. We usually value valid experience in our applicants rather than length of experience, and we also look into how well they learn and grow from their past experiences. Management potential is another important factor to consider.

I think most schools take into account the one year as a valid year of work experience if applicants are working during that period.

Judy Olian: We look for a maturity level among students, and for experiences that can enrich the discussion of class and case materials in teams. Sure, some people with limited work experience have had life experiences, or are sufficiently interesting and talented to compensate for the lack of time in the workforce. But that’s the exception rather than the rule. And yes, we take into account the months between application and start of the year - that’s a constant for everyone.

Della Bradshaw: It really depends on where you want to study. Many US business schools at the moment are keen to increase the number of students they matriculate who have just two years of work experience, or even less. European business schools, as a rule, put more emphasis on work experience.

I’m sure all business schools take your second point into consideration.

I have a bachelors degree in Business and an MSc in Finance & Management. In addition, I am working in a well known financial company in London. Could you please tell me if an MBA could add value to my career progress? If yes, please could give me an opinion on how this could be?
Juan Reyes

Yvonne Li: I do not think an MBA will add value to your career for the time being. What you need now is more practice of the knowledge you gained from the 2 degrees. If you enjoy your current job and could foresee a steady progress in the coming 3 years, then why bother?

Della Bradshaw: I think you’ve answered your own question there.

Judy Olian: Sorry - the answer here is ’it depends’. Are you pursuing a specialist career, e.g., in financial products, or are you interested in going into more senior management or other areas of business? Do you feel that you currently have general enough skills, leadership and global business preparation, or do you see some areas in which you have gaps? In other words, I would see the value of an MBA in your case as a function of the particular knowledge or skill set you feel you need to add to your portfolio, and less associated with the credential per se since you already have a relevant Masers degree. And if you feel you need to acquire a particular set of skills, perhaps shorter management development programs are the way to go, rather than the full degree program?

Can the Chinese young talents fill the growing number of vacancies at the European and American MBA / EMBA programs and bring the financial stability to the Western universities in 2009?
Viktor O. Ledenyov, Ukraine

Della Bradshaw: To be honest, I think applications are the least of the problems for business schools this year. Many schools are reporting increases of applications in excess of 20 per cent.

Two years ago I started my on-line MBA and am just about to finish my dissertation. I was told then it was a waste of time, I was a senior manager, now aged 55. Today, I can compete more effectively with others for positions, especially younger people. It is a major investment in time and money. Do you think it is losing its value as a selection criterion to would be employers?
Brian Kinkead, Scotland

Judy Olian: There are two sources of value to your degree: What you actually learn, and what people perceive as the value of your degree. Regarding the former, if you actually learned a lot from your degree and can apply it in your career, that’s value right there. Regarding perceptions of value, there’s no doubt that the quality of your pedigree matters so if employers don’t recognize the source of your MBA or PhD, it will diminish the value of your degree. That said, there are many instances in which you’re given the benefit of the doubt and just the title (e.g., Dr.) matters, without people checking on the source. Generally, I suggest that when students invest in education, they should go to a school that is recognized by others because that will affect the value of their degree, over and above what is actually learned.

Andrea Buck: An MBA is one of any number of criteria employers use when recruiting and evaluating the suitability of a candidate for a particular role. As a ‘currency’ of your academic understanding it clearly indicates to an employer the breadth of understanding you will have about business process and practice. The way you have chosen to undertake your MBA also demonstrate to your dedication and commitment.

Yvonne Li: Your case reminds me of an old saying in China: It is never too old to learn. Also, you seem to be very confident in yourself. As long as you find this MBA program useful and beneficial, then you’ve made the right investment. There are so many different MBA programs in the world: full time, part time, on-line, distance learning, each has its own uniqueness and competitive advantages. To find the right fit is always the right choice. When employers hire talent, they look at many different qualifications of an applicant. Compared to job related experience, capabilities, soft skills etc, which program you graduate from does not play a deciding role.

Given events in the financial markets over the past 18 months, has there been any significant change in the market perception of the MBA and the value of qualification?
James McQueen, London

Yvonne Li: No matter how dynamically the market changes, the value and perception of the MBA remain the same. An MBA gives a person not only the knowledge, but also a platform where s/he can grow and develop the confidence to take challenges.

Della Bradshaw: I think undoubtedly this has happened: the strong links between MBA programmes, finance teaching and investment banking has made this inevitable. I think there is a problem, though, in that perceptions swing from one extreme to the other. When there was a strong global economy, MBA graduates could do no wrong; now they are being blamed for everything. I do think, though, that the onus is now on the business schools to demonstrate to both employers and government that the degree is fit for purpose.

Judy Olian: MBA degrees and frankly business schools in general are asked some tough questions when there are widespread and well publicized problems in markets. This was true during the Enron, Adelphia and other wave of executive malfeasance in the early part of the decade, and now with the misuse of financial instruments and excessive risk taking. These are fair questions that provide reasons for business schools to re-examine their curricula and teaching cases, which is a good thing. We also constantly update the emphases in our program so that risk management will likely take on a broader and perhaps greater focus in our classes. However, the public rightfully recognizes that these behaviors (malfeasance, excessive risk taking) are neither taught in business schools, nor are they descriptive of the behaviors of the overwhelming majority of business school graduates. Enrolments are strong and until this past year, hiring was also very strong so if people (students and employers) are voting with their feet, then that’s an indication of the sustained value of the degree. And if anything, in some areas such as financial engineering, the lesson is that people need to learn more about these sophisticated products, not less. Having said all of that, this is a very sobering period for all of us who observe market phenomena and it is incumbent upon us to learn a great deal from this experience, and to reflect it in what we teach, how we teach, and in the role models we promote for our students and graduates.

In your opinion, what are the most important skills and/or qualities that women must focus on/improve so at to reach senior leadership and stay there?
Sioned Pierce, UK

Andrea Buck: Understanding who you are - as in your work preferences, strengths and weaknesses - and why you want to be a leader is as important as the skills and experiences needed to operate successfully in such a role. Networking is a skill not to be underestimated or underused. In addition - and I’m slightly biased here as I’m currently doing postgraduate studies in organizational leadership - I’d say get a thorough understanding of the scope of leadership so that you have a set of tools from which to draw.

Judy Olian: I always tell students that performance is the best qualification for success! That’s true for everyone, men and women. So first and foremost, anyone who aspires to get to the top must get there with some basic inputs and skills - hard work, energy, expert knowledge and effectiveness in the relevant professional area, interpersonal and communication skills, in some instances creativity and risk taking, and as one moves up the ladder, ability to influence others. I tell everyone, but I think it’s even more relevant to women, that they need to plan for life choices among jobs and the commitments entailed, family and child-raising because it’s almost inevitable that there are pulls and tugs among these, and women may have a harder time making these choices. When senior management opportunities are presented, it may not be quite as difficult or as stark a choice because you’ve prepared for these both in your career building blocks, and in the life patterns that surround your career.

Yvonne Li: Women leaders should possess every same quality as those of men while at the same time retain what is special of being a woman. People tend to be more critical when evaluating a female leader. CEIBS holds the ”Women In Leadership Forum” every year and I have the chance to meet and chat with many of the successful women business leaders in China. They impressed me with the following qualities: charming, smart, persistent, humorous, caring, good at balancing work and family life and willing to take risks and challenges.

Which modules/areas of study from your MBA program have you a) most enjoyed, and b) found most useful during your post-MBA career?
Sioned Pierce, UK

Judy Olian: I’ll give you a biased answer because though I’m now a dean, I specialized in management and am a management professor. But I do think that management skills are a requirement for anyone who is in any way successful in his/her career. If you’re good, you move up the ladder, and as you move up - no matter what your field of expertise, whether finance, brand management, operations or accounting - you manage others. And as you move up further, you become even more removed from involvement in the details of your field of expertise and most of what you do entails managing others. To the extent you’re good at management, you’re successful because others are effective in doing the business of the business. So I happen to like the field of HRM and organizational behavior, but I’d also argue that it is one of the most under-rated and necessary skill sets out of the MBA. Alumni always tell me that they wish they had paid more attention to these courses because 10 years or so out of school, that’s the set of courses they most use now.

Yvonne Li: When I was doing my EMBA, I was the owner of a small new business in my company. I had to understand and handle everything: strategic planning, R&D, production, supplier management, product pricing, project management, marketing & sales, post sales service, people management etc. It is perfect timing I did this and I found every course of the MBA program useful and rewarding. I realised that there was more to achieve. Luckily, I could always learn from my classmates, a group of people even more talented than I am. Also luckily, I am still using the tools I learnt during the study and enjoy applying them to my job.

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