Q&A with an Executive MBA Student

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I've got a great interview today for any readers who are thinking of pursuing an Executive MBA. I recently had a chance to interview an Executive MBA student at a top-15 school in the country.

Typical Full-Time programs at top schools like Harvard and Wharton are discussed at length on WSO on an almost daily basis. I know there are plenty of folks who'd prefer a part-time program but might be uncertain about making the jump.

Read on for some insight into the reasons someone might attend a part-time MBA program and what life is like when you're balancing a full-time job with a part-time education.

TheKing: Tell us a little bit about yourself. What is your current role and what kind of institution do you work for?

ExecMBA: My job title is Senior Manager. I work at a fortune 200 company that also happens to be a top 5 US bank. My job family is "Business Analysis."

TheKing: What's your background? What path did you take towards your current position?

ExecMBA: I started out working at a start up company for two years, and I've been with my current firm for the past seven years. I did the 'become a subject matter expert THEN get promoted' path, instead of learning how to leverage others.

TheKing: I understand that you're pursuing an Executive MBA at a top program. What led you to pursue an MBA? What do you hope to gain from the degree?

ExecMBA: I decided to pursue the program for a few reasons. Namely, difficulty getting the best out of my direct reports and not knowing the correct levers to motivate them, learning how to delegate better, and being able to view decisions outside the silo of my department. I want to be able to view decisions from an enterprise perspective, not just a department perspective.

TheKing: What made you choose a Part-Time program over a Full-Time program? Is your company sponsoring you?

ExecMBA: My company is footing the bill, so it seemed like a simple solution.

TheKing: What's it like to balance a job and an MBA program? Has your work load lightened or are you burning the midnight oil to keep up with both?

ExecMBA: It's a lot of work, I'm not going to lie. I spent the first month burning the midnight oil. I've had discussions with work about cutting the week at 40-45 hours, they said I should learn to delegate more - which resonates with what I'm learning. It's a balance - however a top tier grad school is going to give you 20-30 hours a week minimum. It's up to you if you want to do 2-4 hours a day or give up a good portion of your weekend.

TheKing: In your opinion, what kind of person is best suited for an Executive MBA?

ExecMBA: Somebody that is up for the work. It's fantastic being able to implement the stuff you learn the next day at the office. I think I will ultimately get a lot more from the degree through the Executive experience. Plus the other classmates have so much more experience then the average 26 year old in the full-time program.

TheKing: Any other pieces of advice you'd like to give to the readers of WSO, Executive MBA related or otherwise?

ExecMBA: Don't underscore the value of work/life balance in the program. I couldn't imagine the impact if my commute went from 75 minutes each way once a month to four hours every two weeks.

___________________________________________________________________

I'd like to thank the Executive MBA for taking the time out of his extremely busy day to answer some questions for me. It seems like, in short, a part-time MBA is great for those with more experience and more years under their belt than the average full-time MBA student. And it seems like a great way for someone whose looking to make the leap forward in their current role to get it done without the opportunity cost of leaving the work force for two years.

If anyone has any follow-up questions, leave them in the comments. I'll try and get some more info if we've got a critical mass of questions lined up.

Comments (17)

Sep 18, 2012

thanks king great interview :)

WSO's COO (Chief Operating Orangutan) | My Linkedin

Sep 18, 2012

Really useful, glad to see something outside of HWS or bust.

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses - Henry Ford

Sep 18, 2012
happypantsmcgee:

Really useful, glad to see something outside of HWS or bust.

werd

WSO Vice President, Data
@JustinDDuBois

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    • 1
Sep 18, 2012

Thanks King, this is a helpful interview.

I'm curious if ExecMBA ever considered part-time as opposed to EMBA or if there's a clear advantage to either. In my case, I'm looking at Booth and possibly Kellogg, and I've considered doing the PT for the simple fact that I have kids and can stretch out the timeline longer than with the EMBA. I'm looking to work my way up in a F500 so not worried about OCR for finance or anything like that. But based on my goals, EMBA could possibly be a better fit, so I'm open to both.

Sorry for rambling but I bet some other readers might be choosing between those options. Thanks again for your time.

Best Response
Sep 19, 2012

I'm currently in the Wharton MBA for Executives program. For those who are interested in an exec program, or another non-traditional MBA program, I think it's really important for you to determine what you want to get out of it and let that drive you to the right program. Scott Irish, while I didn't look into PT programs, I would imagine that some of these considerations could be factored into your calculus.

Is it important that the executive program be viewed as being on par with the FT program? If it is, then you want to look for programs that have the same curriculum requirements, professors, and admissions standards as the FT program. Many schools now offer the same curriculum and many of the same professors, but when you look at admissions standards (approximated by looking at average GMAT and GPA), you often see a significant difference between the FT program and exec program. This is even true for some of the top universities out there. Anecdotally, one highly ranked exec program that I applied to waived my GMAT on the spot after my interview. When I went in for my interview at Wharton, I was hoping for similar treatment. I asked about their policy for accepting GREs since I had previously taken a couple of years back, and I knew Wharton's full time program accepted the GRE. I figured it wouldn't be an issue and was therefore a little shocked when I was told that only GMAT scores were accepted for the exec program. No exceptions. Because the executive class size is so small and many of us have been out of the classroom for a while, the admissions department insists on using the GMAT because it's a proven indicator of academic success. Above and beyond the admissions stats, these kind of details can provide strong indications of the standards enforced.

This leads me to academic rigor. If you are doing a full-time MBA program, I don't imagine that it's all that taxing. If you are trying to balance work, family, and an MBA, life can get a bit busy, however. Some programs are more understanding of the need to strike this balance and others less so. Again, a tale of two schools. My buddy spent his first week at a top executive program doing team building exercises and was literally told not to worry about grades. I spent my first week waking up early to attend 2 hours of math class every morning and was educated on the wonders of Wharton's "LT" system in which it's possible to pass but still fail if you are in the lowest ten percent. Bottom line, academic cultures can be quite different so you want to make sure you have a good understanding of the requirements.

Are you actively looking to transition to a new job or change careers? If so, then make sure your program has a dedicated career counselor and allows you to participate in OCR. A lot of programs now allow you to take advantage of these resources provided you are not being sponsored by your company.

Your fellow classmates are an important part of the experience. Unlike the top FT programs, which will predictably have solid representation from across industry, the top exec programs are far smaller and may not draw the crowd your interested in. Check out the class profiles provided by the school, do some research on linkedin, and ask admissions for detailed breakdowns to make sure that the kind of people you want to learn from and with are well represented.

One of the myths of exec programs is that they provide less networking opportunities than FT programs. Having never done a FT program, I can't comment on the relative value, but I can say that the exec format has a lot of upside if done right. I've made a lot of good friends and have found the small class size and caliber of senior professionals ideal for networking. If this is important to you, then in-residence programs that meet regularly are the best choice. A lot of the global programs, for example, are mostly online with a handful of trips. In addition, some exec programs do not provide housing, which I think is less than ideal for building class cohesion. My guess is that PT programs suffer from many of these drawbacks as well.

Finally, like mbaexec mentioned, the commute is not an insignificant consideration. Unless you are lucky enough to be living in the city where you want to go to school, you will be traveling. The longer the commute, the more wear and tear.

Executive MBAs are not for everyone. In fact, I'd guess that they aren't the best option for most on this site. If your company is supportive and/or you are farther along in your career, they are definitely worth exploring, however. Is an MBA worth it? This question applies equally to both FT and exec programs, although the farther along you get in your career, I think the harder it becomes to justify it. For the most part, nobody in the executive program NEEDS the MBA. It's something we WANT to do, which is the reason I started by saying it's important to figure out what exactly you want to get out of it.

If there are other specific questions, I'm always happy to try my best to answer them.

They all have husbands and wives and children and houses and dogs, and, you know, they've all made themselves a part of something and they can talk about what they do. What am I gonna say? "I killed the president of Paraguay with a fork. How've you been?"

    • 4
Sep 30, 2012
M. Blank:

I'm currently in the Wharton MBA for Executives program. For those who are interested in an exec program, or another non-traditional MBA program, I think it's really important for you to determine what you want to get out of it and let that drive you to the right program. Scott Irish, while I didn't look into PT programs, I would imagine that some of these considerations could be factored into your calculus.

Is it important that the executive program be viewed as being on par with the FT program? If it is, then you want to look for programs that have the same curriculum requirements, professors, and admissions standards as the FT program. Many schools now offer the same curriculum and many of the same professors, but when you look at admissions standards (approximated by looking at average GMAT and GPA), you often see a significant difference between the FT program and exec program. This is even true for some of the top universities out there. Anecdotally, one highly ranked exec program that I applied to waived my GMAT on the spot after my interview. When I went in for my interview at Wharton, I was hoping for similar treatment. I asked about their policy for accepting GREs since I had previously taken a couple of years back, and I knew Wharton's full time program accepted the GRE. I figured it wouldn't be an issue and was therefore a little shocked when I was told that only GMAT scores were accepted for the exec program. No exceptions. Because the executive class size is so small and many of us have been out of the classroom for a while, the admissions department insists on using the GMAT because it's a proven indicator of academic success. Above and beyond the admissions stats, these kind of details can provide strong indications of the standards enforced.

This leads me to academic rigor. If you are doing a full-time MBA program, I don't imagine that it's all that taxing. If you are trying to balance work, family, and an MBA, life can get a bit busy, however. Some programs are more understanding of the need to strike this balance and others less so. Again, a tale of two schools. My buddy spent his first week at a top executive program doing team building exercises and was literally told not to worry about grades. I spent my first week waking up early to attend 2 hours of math class every morning and was educated on the wonders of Wharton's "LT" system in which it's possible to pass but still fail if you are in the lowest ten percent. Bottom line, academic cultures can be quite different so you want to make sure you have a good understanding of the requirements.

Are you actively looking to transition to a new job or change careers? If so, then make sure your program has a dedicated career counselor and allows you to participate in OCR. A lot of programs now allow you to take advantage of these resources provided you are not being sponsored by your company.

Your fellow classmates are an important part of the experience. Unlike the top FT programs, which will predictably have solid representation from across industry, the top exec programs are far smaller and may not draw the crowd your interested in. Check out the class profiles provided by the school, do some research on linkedin, and ask admissions for detailed breakdowns to make sure that the kind of people you want to learn from and with are well represented.

One of the myths of exec programs is that they provide less networking opportunities than FT programs. Having never done a FT program, I can't comment on the relative value, but I can say that the exec format has a lot of upside if done right. I've made a lot of good friends and have found the small class size and caliber of senior professionals ideal for networking. If this is important to you, then in-residence programs that meet regularly are the best choice. A lot of the global programs, for example, are mostly online with a handful of trips. In addition, some exec programs do not provide housing, which I think is less than ideal for building class cohesion. My guess is that PT programs suffer from many of these drawbacks as well.

Finally, like mbaexec mentioned, the commute is not an insignificant consideration. Unless you are lucky enough to be living in the city where you want to go to school, you will be traveling. The longer the commute, the more wear and tear.

Executive MBAs are not for everyone. In fact, I'd guess that they aren't the best option for most on this site. If your company is supportive and/or you are farther along in your career, they are definitely worth exploring, however. Is an MBA worth it? This question applies equally to both FT and exec programs, although the farther along you get in your career, I think the harder it becomes to justify it. For the most part, nobody in the executive program NEEDS the MBA. It's something we WANT to do, which is the reason I started by saying it's important to figure out what exactly you want to get out of it.

If there are other specific questions, I'm always happy to try my best to answer them.

M. Blank,

Some really interesting information here, thanks for posting. I am considering going for an exec mba in the future, but I have trouble gathering quality information (specifically regarding admission stats). The individual school's sites rarely seem to have the information I'm looking for and anytime I find a 3rd Party resource it seems to only show stats for ft mbas. Are there any exec mba resources that you'd recommend?

Due to bad undergrad school and subpar gpa I know I wouldn't be competitive for the top fulltime programs (no desire to go ft anyways), but I'm hoping that if I make Dir at my F500 that would help me gain admission to Kellogg or Booth.

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy

Oct 4, 2012

Wish I had some great resources for you, but unfortunately, I never came across any, which I found frustrating as well. Most of my research was done by talking with admissions as well as current students and graduates of the programs.

As for limited information on admissions... I don't think it's all that uncommon for schools not to publish their admissions stats for their EMBA admissions. I read this as their admissions criteria for their EMBA program is sufficiently lower than there admissions criteria for their full time program. Let me clarify that... they put far less weight on standardize test scores and GPAs for the EMBA program than their full time. As a result, GMAT scores and GPAs are likely to be be significantly lower. Schools are try to preserve the reputation of their brand so they'll stay away from publishing anything that may detract from it.

In your situation, I think it's as simple as having a conversation with the admissions departments. Ask them about their admissions philosophy and standards. Lay out your background and experience, and I'll bet you get some fairly straight forward answers. If not, I'm sure you can read between the lines as to what is expected. If you have specific questions about the applicability of the program to your career goals, ask to be put in touch with a graduate who was in at a similar point in his/her career when he/she started the program. You can then pick their brain as well. Admissions should be willing to do this for you.

Best of luck. Booth and Kellogg are both great programs.

They all have husbands and wives and children and houses and dogs, and, you know, they've all made themselves a part of something and they can talk about what they do. What am I gonna say? "I killed the president of Paraguay with a fork. How've you been?"

    • 1
Oct 10, 2012

I agree with these comments about part-time/exec MBA. It is very demanding. 20 hours average a week. 30 hours to score well. When I discussed with one of the professor she mentioned that part-timers dedicate more time and effort that full-timers. She also mentioned the part-timers are more knowledgeable in what they are doing and have practical mind set. The program which I do is based in UK. I get a chance to meet global students (40-50 countries). It is different kind of experience.

Nov 5, 2013

thanks, great interview indeed. it is refreshing to see something other than HBS. this cleared lots of questions in my mind.

Dec 1, 2013

ExecMBA works for Capital One and most likely attends Duke.

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Dec 1, 2013
spreadsheetmonkey204:

ExecMBA works for and most likely attends .

I think he would have said that if he wanted everyone to know.

    • 1
Dec 1, 2013

Wrong.

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses - Henry Ford

Dec 1, 2013

The Darden MBA for Execs program is also highly rigorous. A friend of mine is in his second year there now and he said it is more academically demanding than his undergrad in Mech E at West Point.

Dec 1, 2013

For good emba programs (wharton, booth, kellogg, etc), will their admissions folks be able to turn the other cheek if you dont have much community service after ugrad, or are they going to be similarly anal about that stuff as the FT folks?

Dec 1, 2013

Thanks for the info..

Dec 4, 2013

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Jun 13, 2017
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