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Tuesday 20 October 2015

They did an MBA, and now they tell the story…

Original version in French is to be found at LeMonde.fr, translation by Alison Mann

Doing an MBA (Master of Business Administration) is always an investment for an executive who must either stop working or at least devote much of their time to their studies at an age where they already have responsibilities. To understand their motivations, interests and investment better, we went to meet 76 ESCP Europe MBA students at their final seminar. The ESCP Europe students are working in the park on the Madrid school campus.

From all over the world

Jennifer Frisanco, who is Swiss and French, works for a big luxury brand. Indian Rahul Sharma is employed in an IT company. Italian Vittorio Magnaghi runs a family business specialising in shipping equipment. Romanian Mihai Zant works at Veolia ... they are 76 from all over the world and are completing their ESCP Europe Executive MBA in Madrid in a very upbeat atmosphere." They may well have an average age of 37, but the university-like environment produces this fun atmosphere. Especially as when they finish their studies they know they will have less opportunity to meet again," remarks Valérie Madon, the programme director.

Who does an MBA?

"Those who join us want to take a step back from their current practices to progress more in their business," explains Delphine Manceau, director of continuing education and corporate relations at ESCP Europe. Students are professionals who are on average 37 years old, some 15-17 years of experience and who are considering their second career. While many are various sorts of engineer, there are other profiles, and 72% are men in this ESCP Europe class for example. "We accurately reflect the gender ratio in the executive world," notes Valérie Madon.

Combining study, work and family life

An executive MBA like the ESCP Europe one is 18 months of intense work in addition to one’s job. It’s not always easy to combine with family life. "Doing an Executive MBA is also a family project! During the graduation ceremonies I always thank the families because it is not necessarily easy for them at an age where one often has young children," continues Delphine Manceau. This has certainly not discouraged Olivier Peyrelongue, a father of six and a graduate of Reims SM who has worked in the same company for twelve years. He first sees in the MBA an "opening to foreign countries": "living and working abroad is a dream that I share with my family and my company supports me in this project."

The wide scope of the MBA

Like many others, Peyrelongue Olivier chose the ESCP Europe MBA for its "international track" which enables one to study on several school campuses (Paris, Turin, Madrid, London and Berlin) in addition to trips to Brazil, India, China or the United States. But beyond the skills, students place great emphasis on the human dimension of their learning. "I thought I was just acquiring knowledge, but ultimately I worked a lot on myself," says Jennifer Frisanco, who has "learned a lot from other cultures" in hierarchy-free multinational groups: "It's very different from a classic company; we are all on the same level and we have to work "peer to peer".

An engineering graduate from Efrei, Hussein Oz Houssami, felt rather limited in his career progression. A year after completing his MBA and having changed company, he can now look back and take stock: "Today I can read a balance sheet and I can challenge specialists in all areas without being an expert in everything." Like Jennifer, he also learned a lot about himself: "I have much better interpersonal relationships. Even in my private life! "Above all, he notes that since he graduated, those who have contacted him on LinkedIn or elsewhere "no longer offer the same positions and the same pay!"

The strength of MBA executives

Executives are finding it increasingly difficult to leave their companies to follow a full-time MBA, and are therefore choosing more and more part-time executive MBAs. The high potential executive market is becoming increasingly competitive and many are reluctant to leave their jobs to follow a full-time MBA. ESCP Europe’s E-MBA and requires only five weeks full-time spread over 18 months and two days off from work per month in addition to regular work at night and on weekends. Erwan Legros, an engineer employed in a large British company specialising in glass, has even opted for an MBA over thirty months to lighten the workload: "I could not be away too long, especially since my job requires me to travel a lot".

Financing?

In a country where training throughout one’s life is the norm, Erwan Legros did not have too much trouble convincing his British company to finance it part of the €51,000 the MBA from ESCP Europe costs: "I simply had to negotiate my choice of MBA and not the one offered by my company." Not all candidates had such luck. Hussein Oz Houssami borrowed to finance his and considers that the return on investment is already good. Patrick Perroux got his funding when he left his old job: "I had been thinking for a long time of developing my capacity to work internationally; something I could not do in my old company." Since then, he has found another job without too much difficulty, even if some employers hesitated when they saw that he would not be available full time before the end of his MBA.

A new professional direction….or not

Changing jobs during and especially after the MBA is the destiny of many students. "We do an MBA to increase our attractiveness and skills. If the post MBA progress curve does not go up, there is a risk it may simply bottom out!" said Patrick Perroux. Not necessarily, replied Jennifer Frisanco, who had wanted to do an MBA since she obtained her Bachelor in the US, "My company financed much of my MBA and this increases my loyalty. Now I hope to implement what I learned quickly."

Rahul Sharma is intending to change companies and countries soon: "At 18 I had to work in a call centre in India while I was studying to pay my tuition fees." When I became an engineer I was able to go work in Malaysia, then the United States, Britain, Germany and finally France. "I am doing this MBA to understand how business in Europe works and then I want to go elsewhere to see an other cultures".

"Work your network!”

An MBA is as much an opportunity to improve one’s techniques as to build a network. "Work your network!" Valerie Madon urges her students. "Now I have a network and know who to turn to whatever the subject," says Hussein Houssami Oz, who was even named "ambassador" of his MBA with another student, Sophie Baillet. They organise many events each year on this subject: "We very often see former students visiting each other for holidays."

About Olivier Rollot

I have been an education specialist for 25 years and was chief editor of "Monde Etudiant" and head of orientation within the Le Monde group after being managing editor of "l'Etudiant" from 2000 to 2008. I am the author of numerous books, including the my latest, "La Génération Y", at PUF. I am now Executive Director of HEADway Advisory communication centre, the first consultancy and training company exclusively for players in higher education and training. Every week I publish a newsletter devoted to vocational higher education: l'Essentiel du sup. I invite you to share my experience in higher education and policy issues in this blog. But above all, I urge you to respond and discuss my posts to create a true forum of exchange. And finally, follow me on Twitter: @O_Rollot

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