Carlos Filipe Duarte








Jan 2018 - Sep 2019

By Carlos Filipe Duarte

“Genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration”

Edison’s dictum on developing new ideas comes to mind as my group finishes up our GOTO (Global Opportunities and Threats Oxford) assignment. Not that we believe ourselves or our work as genius, but, boy, did we perspire. Which brings me to the main point of this blog post:

“How much work does an EMBA student put him?”

Roughly a year ago I received an offer for a place at Oxford’s Saïd Business School EMBA program and one of the things on my mind when I made the final decision was how much work I was expected to put in. A survey of information on the web from this and other programs, information given by the Admissions Team and from the visit to the school during the interview pointed to a large commitment – 1 hour per day, 2 hours per day, more than that. But, who knows, it might be less.

Well, 6 modules in and with one of the two major projects done (GOTO – the other one is the EP -Entrepreneurship Project) I can tell you that it will be significant, but it can vary depending on you.

An Executive MBA (at least at Oxford) covers pretty much the same ground as the full-time MBA and you are expected to absorb as much information, if not more. But you spend less time at the school, have less lectures and most assessments are based on written assignments – which means that a large proportion of learning will happen post-modules, when writing the assignments and will be based on your own ability to understand the reading material given to you, the revisiting of the lectures (be it your notes, the lecture slides and also your memory) and new research you perform. On top of that you have the readings you are expected to do before the modules. While as a full-time MBA you can expect some hand-holding, at the EMBA you find yourself frequently left to your own devices.

So, back to time, how much?

Sorry, no straight answer. It might be an hour or two a day on average, but if you are like me you’ll work in bursts. Some days you might do several hours, others none. Some days you’ll be at your keyboard or with an article in your hand after dinner, others you are sneakingly taking advantage of a slow work day to do some EMBA work.

Any easier shortcuts?

Sorry (again), no shortcuts. But there are ways: you’ll have your cohort – share the burden. They are in the same boat as you. Discuss ideas, clarify mutual doubts, network knowledge. Don’t despair and don’t try to take the world on your own if you don’t feel able to – asking for an opinion is not a sign of weakness, but rather one of strength. If you can (and it might be hard) start as soon as you can, don’t leave it for the last week. Be critical of your work but be mindful of your criticism. Sometimes trying to achieve perfection will end up destroying previous good, solid foundations. Read the assessor’s report from the previous years – they have a lot of good information on practical “Do”s and “Don’t”s.

Sounds like a lot of time and trouble. Is it worth it?

Well, it will be hard, it will be taxing, it will eat up your free (and not free) time but…

When you review your final draft and hover the mouse pointer over the submit button, heart-racing and wanting to go back and review it for the nth time, it is rewarding.

Because it will be your work, because it’s the result of your intellectual effort, of your ability to coordinate the various competing aspects of your life, of not waiting for the stars to align but altering your Universe to get them in position.

And because, as a good friend and GOTO group co-member said about the Macroeconomics part of the Firms & Markets assignment, you can read “The Economist” in a whole new light. And now you understand more, and now you understand better and now you do so on your own, self-acquiring knowledge.

As a younger contemporary of Edison, Henry Ford, said: “Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is the probable reason why so few engage in it.” You have the opportunity to do so. Embrace it.

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