Experimental feature

Listen to this article

Experimental feature

I have wanted for years to start an MBA and now my children have grown up I think an executive MBA would be right for me. However, my husband is sceptical about the effect the workload would have on our lives. Is it unfair to go ahead when to do so would consume much of the time we have so recently regained?

No, it is not unfair at all. From the wording of your message it sounds as if you have spent many years tending to your children; now that they are grown up it is your time to suit yourself. If that involves doing an EMBA, then go for it. It is nice of your husband to fret about the effect the workload will have on both of you, but as it is you who will be slogging away into the small hours, it is you who must make the decision. Assuming you and your husband are in reasonable health, you will probably both live till your 90s. There will be plenty of time to go on cruises together then. Just not quite yet.

An EMBA may be transformative but is also eye-wateringly expensive. Should I try to persuade my employer to pay some of the costs when I know deep down that I will not want to work for the company for more than a couple of years afterwards?

Yes, you should certainly try to get your company to foot some of the bill. It has deeper pockets than you and has a vested interest in training you. The only thing you must not do is pretend that you plan to stay for ever, when you know that you plan to quit at the earliest opportunity. Unless your employer is utterly foolish, it will know this already. People with EMBAs are fairly likely to jump ship after graduating. Equally, if your employer values you enough to invest in you, perhaps you should wonder whether defecting makes good sense after all.

My company has an arrangement with a local business school, but if I am to commit to an executive MBA, I want to do so at a school of my choice. Should I try to force the issue or is it not worth risking my relationships with my employer and senior colleagues?

If you don’t want to go to the local school, don’t. If your colleagues and employer think you are getting above yourself in wanting to go somewhere a bit grander, that is their problem: you should not have to shape your ambitions to fit in with the lesser aspirations of the people around you. That said, I think you overestimate how interested they are likely to be either way. In my experience colleagues tend not to lose much sleep over which EMBA their peers sign up to. Of course, the bigger question is whether your employer will pay for your choice of school, especially if it is more far expensive than the local one. If you have to cough up for the course yourself, do you still want to go?

It has become obvious that two colleagues on my programme – who are both married to other people – have started an affair. This is affecting the dynamic of the group and making some people feel uncomfortable. Should I raise the matter with them?

And what exactly would you say? “Excuse me, but it has not escaped my notice that you appear to be fornicating with X, and this in turn is upsetting some of our classmates – not myself, of course, as I’m far too broad-minded…”? No, of course you can’t say anything. The good news is that you don’t need to: bad things are likely to happen to this pair if you give it time. If everyone knows what they are up to, both of them will suffer hideous fallout to their marriages – and their dalliance will not be helping their studies one bit either. If I were you I would try to enjoy it as spectator sport. There can be longueurs on any course, so such gossip can spice things up no end.

I am aware the best EMBAs offer the top professors and opportunities for high-level networking, but I struggle to believe the price differential between these programmes and online courses teaching much of the same content is really justified. I am tempted to sign up for the latter – should I?

It depends on what you want to get out of your EMBA. If your purpose is to learn a few things, I would take the online route. As you say, the content is fairly similar and if you apply yourself you can pick up a lot. But if what you want to do is make friends and influence people, you should go to the most expensive school you can afford. The fees may be extortionate, but in terms of the doors it can open, and the warm glow it will give you every time you examine your own CV, it might well be worth it.

I’m studying for an executive MBA that involves study sessions abroad. Many of my colleagues bring their partners along for the trip. I would like mine to come along sometimes, but despite having a successful career she fears she will feel out of place and inadequate mingling in what is quite a high-powered group.

If your partner feels that she would hate it, she probably would. Mingling with a lot of high-powered EMBA students is not most women’s idea of fun. Do you feel that your position will be lessened by not having a woman on your arm? Surely not. If I were you, I would go on my own and keep my powder dry for when I really needed her to be with me. Then by all means beg her to come along. But when you do so, promise in return to go somewhere with her that helps her career – however grim you think the event is likely to be.

Lucy Kellaway is an FT associate editor and management columnist, and writes the weekly Dear Lucy advice column

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2018. All rights reserved.