Employer-Sponsored MBA?

I'm locked into a 3-year vesting period as a Director at a Fortune 20 company. After treading water for the first half of this year, I've rounded into form and believe I will shake out as top-bucket come year's end. If subsequent years to follow should continue to build on the momentum generated, I'll have quite a bit of leverage when my RSU's vest and it comes time to sign my next term sheet.

I've been thinking a lot lately about how I should be angling / positioning myself for the next 2.25 years and I truly think the path of least resistance for me politically and most fulfilling intrinsically would be to attend business school... but I don't want to pay for it.

Before I start asking the internal echo chambers and risk looking like a total douche / idiot, I wanted to ask WSO: Does anyone has any experience or knows anybody who has had an M7 MBA sponsored by their employer? And not that, "We'll reimburse 20K worth of graduate coursework!", type of bullshit that firms shill for "investing in furthering the education of their employees".

Any information on if Employee-Sponsored FT M7 MBA exists in Fortune 100 firms, who would have the power to make this type of thing happen, what post-graduation labor stipulations (e.g. sign a new 3-year term sheet) look like and any thoughtful political considerations would be greatly appreciated.

 

Unfortunately I wish I could be helpful, but I don’t have expertise in this area. There were a number of F500 companies that offered some pretty attractive relocation / sign-on packages to folks, in part to entice them to move to some geographies that are generally viewed as less appealing. However, I simply don’t know if there were other folks who had their entire MBA paid for by a F500.

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IBM paid for my friend's MBA at Columbia University. So I do think that there are specific firms that paid for it, but usually they are expected you to work at least 2-3 years or else you will need to pay them back. Luckily for my friend, his unit at IBM got bought out by Lenovo so the contract cannot be enforced. So it really depends on 1) whether the program is there, 2) whether you get along with your boss - most of the time they will only sponsor someone who has been working with them for a long time or at least make a case that you are coming back, 3) whether you are okay with signing a bond, which outlines that you will be working for them post MBA.

 

This is very reassuring!

I totally get that I would need to sign something that promises that I will return and sign another term sheet and I'm okay with that. But what a dream scenario your buddy got where that contract was nullified with MBA fully covered.

IBM is another one of those companies that broadcasts it covers X amount of grad school, but I'm glad to hear that if you look hard enough, there's full sponsorship. I think it's time to start aligning myself as such.

 

Further note. I have very little experience on this topic but would paying for an employee's MBA reduce said MBA's bonuses after returning? After all it is a numbers game. Shelling out 200k for an MBA and expecting an employee to return for 3 years puts a very loose ~70k / yr. investment into getting said employee to stay. Furthermore does being locked in for 3 years incentivize a firm to pay you less in bonuses? Is this all negotiated in a contract (I'm assuming it would be... but food for thought I suppose)?

Anyway... My only experience is a family friend was ASKED to get an MBA (He was an MD at a fortune 100 company a few decades ago and the Firmwide CxO wanted my family friend as the next CxO for a given line of business. The only hurdle he faced was that he was being given a hard time for not having an MBA. Anyways... that firm not only paid for the MBA but then brought him on as CxO.

 

My cousins husband got his top tier MBA paid by his employer, only requirement was he did the whole thing part-time (I believe it was intended to be 2 years but took longer due to his job and family commitments). Don't know whether he had to sign anything but he seems happy, he was a VP/junior Director level before and became a Director afterwards (not MD level). afaik his employer is a AIM shop in NYC, not sure which one.

 

My brother got his FT MBA at Stern paid for by his employer Coopers & Lybrand (now part of PwC). He hated audit so when the last tuition check cleared, he quit his job. No repercussions. IDK how many companies outside of Big 4 do this. However, I teach executive MBA students at an MBA business schools">M7. I'd say about 80% are there on the employer's dime.

 

Some of my peers in private equity (specifically Bain Capital) had their tuition covered by their employers. Also pretty common in Big 3 consulting, I know a handful of people who did pre-MBA stints at BCG and McKinsey who ended up returning to their previous gigs (with more pay and responsibilities). If they took a job elsewhere, they would have been on the hook to repay the tuition.

If your firm doesn't have a formal system in place to sponsor MBAs, you will probably have to do some maneuvering through bank channels to build up you case. You know your company better than we do - try to find some senior people in your organization (preferably people who have MBAs and see value in the degree) who can serve as advocates to create buy-in around the idea of sponsoring your MBA.

Good luck.

 
Deo et Patriae:
Some of my peers in private equity (specifically Bain Capital) had their tuition covered by their employers. Also pretty common in Big 3 consulting, I know a handful of people who did pre-MBA stints at BCG and McKinsey who ended up returning to their previous gigs (with more pay and responsibilities). If they took a job elsewhere, they would have been on the hook to repay the tuition.

If your firm doesn't have a formal system in place to sponsor MBAs, you will probably have to do some maneuvering through bank channels to build up you case. You know your company better than we do - try to find some senior people in your organization (preferably people who have MBAs and see value in the degree) who can serve as advocates to create buy-in around the idea of sponsoring your MBA.

Good luck.

Thanks for the sentiment Deo!

I've heard about Employer-Sponsored MBA's for Private Equity, but never knew MBB did the same. It seems far more prevalent than I previously thought.

There is no formal system at my firm, but you're completely right about working back channels. I've got a few individuals in mind now that I know that this is more common practice than I thought.

'preciate the ammunition!

 

Quite a few people at my MBA program were fully sponsored by their company - including Fortune 500 as well as the standard consulting and PE. I have a few relatives at corporates that have been fully sponsored for EMBA programs as well.

Be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes.
 

There was a Director in my Corp Dev group (~Fortune 100) who had his MBA sponsored. It wasn't full time, though. He was becoming an important part of the team and was beginning to drive a lot of critical decisions. The CFO was a big fan of his and wanted him to get an MBA, so the company sponsored it. I don't know if it came with any stipulations. This was a unique instance as the company did not typically pay for graduate coursework. I'd think you need someone quite senior (C suite, SVP) who thought you were a rising star to approve / sponsor a FT MBA.

 

Hey Dedline hop you are doing well.

I will echo above, outside of a standard company policy it still may be possible to have your MBA sponsored with the right sponsorship from upper management. I would investigate that possibility before jumping ship to specifically an MBA-sponsoring firm.

I think generally one has to remain with the company for 2-3 years before hands are un-cuffed. If you do end up on the hook yourself (plus 2 years without salary which is horrible) I know many firms offer sizable signing bonuses to MBA candidates which does help offset the cost to some extent at least.

It may be worthwhile to have your firm commit, and if you recruit elsewhere during MBA, make paying for your tuition bill part of your offer to get you off the 2-3 year hook.

 

I would estimate 20-25% of my FT class was sponsored. Big consulting firms and large international corporates seemed most likely to offer vs others.

Heard that terms of sponsorship differ i.e. upfront tuition stipend vs debt repayment vs firm paying your tuition directly. Commitment to sponsoring firm post degree ranged from 2 - 5+ years.

 

UPDATE:

Had a meeting with someone well anointed in the process who said that the program does exist. However, it was mentioned that only a small handful of individuals are selected for the program (like 4 - 5).

I still love my odds. The profiles and positions of the individuals who were selected for the program were lackluster and compared to other business units, the senior leaders in my business unit are known to value education.

I've started covertly socializing that this is my underlying motive. I'll formally declare my intent to the stakeholders that I believe could make this happen by the middle of next year and then I will become demanding towards the end of next year.

My only fear is that by playing this hand I'm forgoing a concerted effort for internal promotion. But I really don't know if this is possible / if it's something I even want. If I'm able to max out my pay in the range I'm in + increase stock distribution while executing this strategy, I'll be more than content.

 

Hey Niwred,

First off, I would consider it an honor for your company to sponsor your MBA. This sponsorship has really become more and more rare.

I think the good news is, you definitely have options. As you mentioned, 28 years old is quite young to pursue an EMBA. I have yet to meet anyone that young who is in an EMBA program. The options that really make sense for you are:

1.) Part-time MBA. I am not sure what part of the country you are from, but most big cities have a solid part-time MBA program. For instance in Chicago, both Northwestern and University of Chicago have great part-time programs. I know quite a few people who have stayed at their company while pursuing an MBA there. 2.) Full-time MBA. Your stats and background mean you could likely get into a top 15 school if you are able to write solid essays. A full-time MBA would allow you the ability to potentially transition to a new field, or go back into the same area with a degree that will help your career growth. 3.) Wait 3-5 years to pursue an EMBA.

I think your decision boils down to whether you want to stay at your current firm or not. Coming from someone who ultimately pursued a full-time MBA while considering a part-time as well, the Full-Time worked for me, as I had the flexibility to change industries, while being able to focus solely on school. I knew too many people who were going part-time, who took absolutely nothing out of the experience, since they were so focused on work.

Good luck in your decision!

 

Good chance this isn't even on the table, but any chance you could convince them to sponsor a full-time MBA program if you sign a contract to return for X # of years after completing the MBA program? Very possible they will say no, but it sounds like that might be more up your alley?

“Success means having the courage, the determination, and the will to become the person you believe you were meant to be”
 

The payoff comparison in terms of gained network / alumni base, and the quality of education and new knowledge learned from class / projects is difficult to do. Sure, full time programs have (for the most part) better opportunities to develop connections with classmates and a lot more time to devote yourself to your interest / job seeking etc, but is it really worth forking over $ XXX over your company-sponsored program that takes 3 years? Hard to say, but probably not.

The payoff comparison in terms of monetary gain would be a bit easier. Take into consideration your current salary, your expected raises in the next few years. Compare your current trajectory with the tuition / opportunity costs going into a full time program, and using an expected salary upon graduation depending on what area you want to get into. On average, just the base salary alone would be $100k - $120k for top 15 programs, with certain fields like consulting and investment banking that can be significantly higher. This is all conjecturing, but you can do some math.

Also, Columbia EMBA programs have students that are as young as you. Their weekends (or evening) programs are 2 years long, while still part-time, so you can imagine the amount of work / class time you have to squeeze into your evenings or weekends. You will have little free time.

 

Hi Darth Binks, any of these discussions helpful:

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Who will rescue this thread? pr4mence wrhiii3 shanusherwani

I hope those threads give you a bit more insight.

I'm an AI bot trained on the most helpful WSO content across 17+ years.
 

Thanks for taking the time to reply. What percentage of total consultants who stick with the company for their full contract does this top bucket represent?

 

At my MBB, 99% of the time if you're good enough to not get counseled out, you're good enough to get business school sponsorship. A majority of my starting class (coming out of undergrad) took this option 2-3 years later.

 

mrthomasjefferson, thanks for the insight. I'm pretty sure I won't be the type to be counseled out (fingers crossed) so that's great news!

As a final question, of the majority electing the business school route, what proportion ended up at HSW (with the understanding that there are many factors besides work experience at play in the admissions process)?

 
Blarg:

mrthomasjefferson, thanks for the insight. I'm pretty sure I won't be the type to be counseled out (fingers crossed) so that's great news!

As a final question, of the majority electing the business school route, what proportion ended up at HSW (with the understanding that there are many factors besides work experience at play in the admissions process)?

Of the full bucket that apply, I have seen stats as high as 60% for admission rates at each of the 3. And most people opt not to take advantage of the sponsorship outright. Most leave for industry beforehand, or choose to go back to some other role post b-school.

 

That is a great question. If you click on the Job Title area and sort it by "Business Analyst" (Just a catch all term I saw first and used it) here are the results: http://www.myvisajobs.com/Business-Analyst-2014JT.htm

Or I clicked on Occupation and here are the results: http://www.myvisajobs.com/Reports/2014-H1B-Visa-Category.aspx?T=OC

Definitely seems like there is place for FLDP, CorpStrat/CorpDev in there.

 

Kind of lame WSO appending a bunch of shitty miscellaneous threads to mine, but I'd like to provide an update as the ball is in motion.

I performed exceptionally well last year and came out top bucket in my reviews. In addition, I rolled into 2019 with two massive presentations (250+ attendees) that were well received and caught a lot of unexpected PR coverage. I'm on fire right now.

There are two Sr. Executive stakeholders here that I believe will ultimately decide my fate:

  • Executive A: Cares about public speaking, but cares even more about new closed business.
  • Executive B: Cares about technical innovation and organizational impact.

So in order to ask for what I want, I want to have pocket aces when I'm sitting across the table from these individuals:

  • Public speaking: I'm iron clad here - 10/10
  • New closed business: I have a case, but it's not strong - 5/10
  • Technical innovation: Highly visible technical IP published, 10/10
  • Organizational impact: Skunkworks project 80% complete, will be a 10/10 if it goes through.

My plan to remediate the closed business issue is complete and I'm ready to showcase the concept during our meeting to hopefully shore up that weakness.

I've scheduled time with both executives to talk about "2020 plans + a call for support in my ambitions". Executives are very busy people, so I've only asked for 15 minute time slots for both. It's a very short conversation:

  • Thank them for their time
  • Highlight my big hits that they care about
  • Tell them that I'm going to start studying for the GMAT come June
  • Iterate my love for our firm and that I would like them to consider sponsoring a FT MBA

I've already put the queries out to their respective AEs for a calendar spot in the coming month. I feel confident, but I don't know what I don't know. Hands clasped for productive conversations.

 

Update (6.21.2019):

My 2019 Q1 and Q2 job performance has been A+. I feel as though I am several steps ahead of my peers as I continue to transcend traditional role work functions and expand into tangential value add initiatives with greater visibility, technical difficulty and impact.

I managed to get on the calendars of both aforementioned stakeholders for 30 minute 1x1's.
To recap: * Executive A: Cares about public speaking, but cares even more about new closed business. * Executive B: Cares about technical innovation and organizational impact.

The meeting with Executive A never ended up happening, but after a few informational phone calls these past couple quarters, this individual will not be the key decision maker in my case.

After 2 - 3 reschedules of my meeting with Executive B (classic Sr. Executive shit), we locked down a date and finalized with a location. You really only get one of these meetings a year without ruining rapport so I worked on messaging diligently. My game-plan for the thirty-minute meeting follows:

  • Pleasantries: Keep it open and let the executive drive here if they so choose. If there's going to be a void that needs to be filled, I have 3 different conversation branches that guarantee a solid back and fourth to establish a friendly familiarity for conversation to flow naturally.

  • Appreciation: Thank the executive for their time, for the opportunity and the consideration. The executive doesn't owe me shit and could tell me to go pound sand. I have to show gratitude here.

  • Flex accomplishments: Tell the story of the come-up. Talk about the struggles at the beginning, the adversity that I faced along my journey thus far and hammer home the progress made. In my case, I chunked accomplishments into three buckets that this executive would care most about: executive presence, strategy validation and technical contributions. I have to be extremely nuanced to avoid "getting off on myself" or coming off to meek. I need to come in an unflappable, clean confidence that is devoid of hyperbole -- it's just matter of fact. After delivering the selfish flex to establish a mutual understanding of where I'm at, taper off back into team / organization and back into gratitude.

The table is now set for my asks. I have two of them:

  1. What does the firm have planned for my future growth? - I ask this seemingly vague question to get a sense as to "where I am". Has my name made it this far up the chain? Is there a promotion in store for me? Does the executive even know who the fuck I am? This context is extremely valuable for me to career evaluation / validation. Am I who I think I am or have I developed a reality distortion field ala the late Steve Jobs?

  2. Will the firm consider sponsoring a FT H|S|W MBA for me? - I preface this question by saying that this has been my motif since I joined on with the firm. I explain how I've been studying for the GMAT and plan on applying to H|S|W in the fall. I will hedge the intensity of this question depending on the response I get in question #1.

So I ended up taking this meeting, and it went as well I thought it could have. Here's how everything landed:

  • Pleasantries: The executive took the lead on something heartfelt. Couldn't have gone better for 3 - 5 minutes (10/10).

  • Appreciation: I stuck a theme of gratitude that I weaved into our other scheduled encounters. Perfection (10/10).

  • Flex accomplishments: Again, perfect execution and the executive even poked in areas that he/she found interesting. I got room for further elaboration and I was able to use questions as bridges to make sure I hit all three buckets. Value has been communicated and it feels as though the executive recognizes I have arrived. I taper out perfectly, but stumble trying to bridge out to my first question smoothly. All is well and fine though (9/10)

  • What does the firm have planned for my future growth? - Knowing damn well what kind of question this was, the executive literally said, "well, let's flip that on you, where would you like to go?" I was caught completely flat-footed and just regurgitated ambiguous likes that were really personal whimsy but in no way showed that I had a cohesive plan for vertical movement (fuck). Once Executive B had that information, in conciliatory fashion, the executive basically told me that if I were to network / create my own opportunity, he would vouch for my vertical movement if it made sense from a skills standpoint. Although I got my ass busted, this was an extremely positive gesture on the executive's part. If I was a nobody or not ready, I would have been given the managerial run around under the guise of "career development" or "acquiring new experiences". (8/10)

  • Will the firm consider sponsoring a FT H|S|W MBA for me? - I went into this question with no hedge out because I felt I had the footing after knowing that it felt like I had relatively unbridled vertical mobility. Delivered the question and powered through the question by stating I would be applying regardless under the altruism of "it's been a dream of mine since I was a kid" and "my family places great value on education". The executive denied having knowledge that the firm sponsors FT Business School and pushed me hard to consider PT which would be much easier to fund. I didn't fold for PT and stated I would only attend Business School as a FT candidate. Somewhere near the end of the conversation branch, the executive said, "get acceptance and we'll talk". The executive then shit-tested me to see how much thought I had put into this. Executive B questioned my ability to get into these firms in the first place and I came back quickly, rattled off credentials that makes me a very competitive candidate while the executive sipped coffee listening intently. The executive asked why only H|S|W and from the bottom of my heart, I said pride, ego and accomplishment. The tense situation dialed back into stories of when the executive was in H|S|W and we parted cordially with expressed gratitude on my end (7/10)

Thoughts: This meeting still has me all fucked up. By all accounts, this was a very positive meeting in so many ways (i.e. unbridled vertical mobility in the firm, opportunity to talk sponsorship upon acceptance to FT MBA), but it all feels so squishy. What I wanted was the executive to say is, "...if you get in, the firm will sponsor your FT MBA", but I didn't get that. After thinking about my answer to why only H|S|W being ego, pride and accomplishment, I'm taking a second look at my career motivations. I'm temporarily lost, but I think I emerge to take the GMAT and try to get into H|S|W this September.

 

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