Sep 2018 - May 2020
Having just completed the taught part of the Oxford Executive MBA, and enjoyed every moment of it, here are some tips and insights aimed at those either about the start the programme, or interested in doing so.
Colleges are an integral part of the Oxford experience, and the programme is built to give students the chance to see most of them through formal dinners. That said, the choice of college for each student is very important, and there are a few elements to consider.
• First, it is good practice to check whether a college allows its off-campus students to stay for a period of six consecutive nights, as that is the duration of the typical EMBA week, and not all colleges do.
• Second, it is wise to check the percentage split between undergraduate and postgraduate students, as some colleges are more geared to the young audience, and some are more geared to the grey audience.
• Finally, because a college is for life, it is smart to check whether the college has a presence in terms of activities and events in one’s city. Large colleges such as Christ Church, Keble, and Worcester have events across the globe for example.
The Oxford EMBA does a great job with its courses, which blend academic theory with hands-on practical experience, all enhanced by a wide array of external speakers. That said, one thing to note is that some courses are objectively challenging, and require extra effort, even for those with experience in the subject matter. For me, Accounting, Business Finance, and Analytics, fell in that category, even though I had studied the topics before (and I did manage to get Distinction in all three). I suggest doing the following:
• For those that are exam based, do each past practice exam at least twice, and compare answers with peers.
• Engage with the professor via Email, as that tends to be the best way to clarify doubts.
• Organise study sessions with classmates; this may seem a slow and somewhat inefficient process, but it works great if there is at least one person in the study group that is competent in the topics at hand.
• Write notes, and then circulate them to the rest of the class. This benefits the person writing the notes, as other students will provide feedback, and benefits the rest of the class who get some notes to study.
A real highlight of the Oxford EMBA are its international modules. For S18 that was Mumbai to study about global rules of the game in the context of business, Shenzhen and Guangzhou to study about business in emerging markets, Palo Alto to study about entrepreneurial finance (we had to do the course virtually, but we will go there next year), and Cape Town to study about business in Africa.
Each of these modules has engaging and useful academic content, offering a once in a lifetime experiences. As such, my advice is to give these modules undivided attention, trying to limit work meetings, and work in general, to soak in as much of the experience as possible. I am sure that anyone having completed the EMBA, and having lived the unique experience in the international modules, would share the same advice.
A key difference between the career services offered to full time MBAs and to Executive EMBAs is that a lot more recruiting events exist for the MBAs than for the Exec MBAs. This is because MBAs are a relatively homogeneous group in terms of levels of experience, allowing firms to host focused recruitment events, whereas EMBAs are not, making it much harder for firms to host effective EMBA focused recruitment events.
To cater for this, the business school offers alternative career services for EMBAs where industry experts provide hands on advice and broker introductions. The point is that EMBA students need to actively engage with these services, as opposed to just walking into an MBA recruiting event. For those who do, everything is in place to ensure they achieve their career goals, regardless of whether they are in the private, public, or NGO sectors.
In my first EMBA week I tried to be as productive as I could be with work, taking calls in breaks, writing Emails during lunch time, and working pretty much full time after class. Quickly, I realised that classes required my full attention in order to participate in practical seminars.
To achieve that, I found that the best approach was to arrange for a colleague person to cover for me at work. This gave me peace of mind to enjoy EMBA weeks. The next best approach that I saw others do was to timebox all work activities in the hours after class. This worked especially well for those that worked in a time zone whereby the evening in the UK was their morning.
A good score on the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) is a requirement for those who want to gain acceptance to the Oxford EMBA, yet have fewer than average years of experience. That said, my advice is that anyone doing EMBA should do the GMAT, as it provides a great platform to refresh skills related to mathematics and verbal reasoning.
The mathematics section covers foundations that are then useful in the quantitative modules of the EMBA, such as Macroeconomics, Microeconomics, Analytics, Business Finance, and Accounting. The verbal reasoning section refreshes core writing skills that can be leveraged in all courses with a written assignment, which are the majority.
The Oxford EMBA is a once in a lifetime experience that provides a platform for personal and professional growth. To make the best of it, my advice is to look out for a few things, including choosing the right college, being prepared for the more challenging courses, giving international modules undivided attention, being active with career conversations, setting up cover for work, and taking the GMAT.
That said, thank you for reading, and best of luck to all new and prospective Oxford EMBA students.
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