Sep 2017 - May 2019
I’ve been asked recently by some people that intend to join the Oxford Executive MBA programme: how is the experience? Is it worth it? Being at the programme mid-point, I made a more solid view.
As always, everything is relative. Some people find value in learning and development, others in buying a holiday house or a sport car. That’s why it depends. There are three important elements that enable this journey: initial motivation, time resources, and the Oxford experience.
Initial motivation. Everyone pursuing an EMBA should be very honest with himself from early beginning. Why would you really want to do that? It will take at least six months of diligence to apply, then will follow a waiting period that is usually painful, a short moment of supreme happiness when you are admitted in the programme (if you are admitted), which becomes a build-up for the roller-coaster of the incoming modules and assignments. To be straightforward, the University did its best to properly assess the students’ motivation within application and interviews.
In my opinion, there are three types of people, segmented based on their inner motivation: the ones that came for the Oxford blue badge on CV, the ones that came to learn new topics, and the one that came to grow and transform themselves. For sure in the end it is a mix, but one of the above is the main driving force.
If someone comes mainly for the badge on CV, in my view, it isn’t worth two years of work, backed by an important financial investment. It is a waste of energy for the student and not a suitable recruitment done by the University. If the motivation is shallow, the student is not going to put the foot on the gas pedal when the difficult assignments will come. The most evident gap will be during group projects work.
If someone comes to learn, then the Oxford Executive MBA has excellent value. The teachers are great and some are truly brilliant. Most of them blend consultancy and real-life projects alongside academics, and have vast experience. They are able to create an amazing class dynamic, they know how to engage students and make them contribute. Being an Executive programme, the quality of the debates created by students is remarkable.
There is even a higher level of energy: the drive to grow and transform oneself. If this is the case, than Oxford Saïd it is the perfect place and a lifetime opportunity. There are people that leave their current jobs because they understand that these do not represent themselves anymore. Others transform past failures from painful lessons into new endeavours or start daring entrepreneurial attempts. In these cases, Oxford acts like a catalyst of change.
Based on the levels of the motivation above, there is also the cohort segmentation, from the highly engaged people that actively contribute, create meaningful debates and generate ideas and those that haven’t left yet the safety of silence.
The second aspect is related to time resources, which sometimes is under-evaluated. There is a lot of travelling (one week a month) and a lot to study and work on at home. At the beginning, during the first modules there is a lot of hype and energy, but month after month, fatigue accumulates.
Before a module, pre-reading materials require spending a couple of evenings. During a module, a classic day starts with the class breakfast at Saïd and finishes with the group dinner. There is not too much time left in between for other non-class related matters.
After each module, follows the assignment. On average it takes three to four full days to accomplish an individual project properly. The group assignments are more provoking and require extra time to align. The difficulty of group work relies in harmonizing diverse but strong leadership profiles. Sometimes it is a truly amazing experience, highly rewarding, sometimes it will be quite challenging.
There are people that defaulted the year because they underestimated the time component of the programme, or because of health or familial issues. We started in September and up to June, four students postponed the year already.
The Oxford Experience. You will make lifetime friends during this EMBA. There is a great time spent together during the modules. I personally love to discover the people in the cohort. Even if everybody has different cultural backgrounds, we have in fact a lot of chemistry and things in common. I couldn’t say how much I learned from the teachers on courses or how much from the students around me.
The Oxford enchantment will slowly change everyone, as it did in the past centuries. “The city of dreaming spires” will conquer hearts with its charm, its lifestyle, its events and its dinners. It is an exceptional chance to be a student once again, especially here. All of these will create an intense emotional roller-coaster. After immersing into this oasis, the acclimatisation back to the mundane world will sometimes become difficult.
Halfway through, coming to Saïd’s Executive MBA was the best thing I could do. I came to find a transformational catalyst and it was more than I expected. I love every second on and off school and it was a rare opportunity that came exactly at the right moment of my life.
And the best part is that we still have another great year in front of us, together in Oxford.
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