Besides Expanding Your Network, What Can an EMBA Do for You？
Multinational joint EMBA programs, in which China participates, have performed well in recent years. Professor Patrick Moreton, (also known by his Chinese name as “孟润” Meng Run), Senior Associate Dean of the Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis in partnership with Fudan School of Management for their EMBA program, believes there is nothing wrong in attending an EMBA program for social purposes, but it is important to be honest about your needs. Beyond networking, the key value is in improving confidence.
Washington University-Fudan University EMBA Program ranked 7th in the 2017 Global FT EMBA Ranking, with graduates ranking 3rd in global salary levels. Additionally, the joint EMBA programs with Chinese institutions made half of the rankings for top 10. Joint EMBA programs, taking lead by the programs with Chinese institutions as partners, have been a new feature in recent years of this curriculum that originated from the West.
Professor Patrick Moreton, Senior Associate Dean of Olin Business School of Washington University in St. Louis, thinks the success of the EMBA cross-border cooperation meets expectations. The EMBA program that Fudan and Olin work on together is taught in English, with professors from the US leading in conducting the courses. Meanwhile, professors from Fudan co-teach and explain relevant China practices and cases.
From the students’ perspectives, the collaborative curriculum brings diversity, and connects with local markets better. From the school’s point of view, the transnational program itself can be regarded as a joint venture, so every member of the program is actually involved in the practice of international business cooperation.
Many people inherently think an EMBA program is purely a social venue. Professor Moreton admits that the point of an EMBA is for students to express their needs honestly to best match with the program, so there is nothing wrong if it is for the sake of socializing. The program will help students find the most effective way to socialize and network. However, he added, EMBA programs vary from institution to institution, so for people who come to their program only for social purposes, not all schools will be the best fit.
As a group, EMBA students are special because they have already achieved success on different levels before coming into the program. Professor Moreton gave two takeaway points on what this program can provide the students: One is significantly improved confidence from learning and collaborating with a class of outstanding students – "The last person in a good program is better than most students in a regular program,” – students should apply this confidence later in their career. The second takeaway is the high-quality circle of "birds of a feather flock together," which accumulates more human resources for the purposes of the future.
Looking back on his MBA years at Harvard, Professor Moreton felt that the best programs would make students think, “It was a mistake admitting me,” in the beginning, but after they finished, would feel their preparation for the future "is more than adequate."
The following are selected interview excerpts:
FT Chinese: Do you think this East-West cooperation model will become more common and popular in the future as EMBA programs from China, or involving China, have done well in the world in recent years?
Patrick Moreton: There are two ways to look at it. One is from the student experience, that collaborative programs bring more diversity, and I think there are better connections to the local market. Just as important - many people actually don't see this - is that for the (school) partners, they actually learn a lot about international businesses, because they are running a joint venture and becoming better business schools. I personally learned a lot from it as well, and it better prepares you to help with businesses that are global and, when in conversations, are multinational.
The vibrancy of the Chinese market is in every business, not just business schools. It doesn’t matter what business you are in here; the market is growing rapidly and there is an abundance of opportunities. India is also growing rapidly, but the infrastructure and level of development in China is what I call “the sweet spot” – though there are still a lot of opportunities, the actual structures to support growth are pretty good here.
Increasingly, there is a strong workforce and good capabilities in the market. In many ways, this may be the "glory years" for businesses in China. This is one of the reasons why the programs here are doing particularly well.
FT Chinese: Compared to the EMBA program at Olin in the U.S. campus, what are the similarities and differences of the WashU-Fudan EMBA Program?
Patrick Moreton: Each of their teams focus on the needs of their respective markets, while sharing a common platform and faculty. In the United States, many people already have an MBA, and there are good MBA degrees in lots of capacities there. So, what you tend to see in EMBA programs in the U.S. is a lot of people who are professionals or technical professionals and are going back to get an EMBA as a way to develop a better commercial sense and move into professional management roles. Therefore, you see doctors, lawyers, and engineers who make up the majority of EMBA students.
Here in China, it is still much of a manager’s market. People didn't get an MBA 15-20 years ago in their career. Or, if they did, the nature of the MBA they got was a more scholastic or academic one offered by main Chinese universities at that time. If they got a local one, they would look for more international perspectives.
If we are looking at our program in India right now, India has a long history of doing international business, so the managers, in some sense, are already quite international. But the nature of the business there has been based on outsourcing, so there is a bigger need for more comprehensive commercial understanding. So we are adapting that curriculum over time as we learn more from the students. In this case, the customers are actually the companies, even though the students are paying us. What we are doing is understanding what the companies need, then working with the students as partners to help them get ready to help those companies.
FT Chinese: One of the key words of the EMBA program is networking. Is it being over-emphasized?
Patrick Moreton: No. First of all, you have to respect the fact that people generally know what they need. We think about it very much; as a matter of fact, we’ve made quite some efforts across the program to help people better understand how they network.
In the program here, we do a survey where we ask people: “How often are you interacting with these people?” and “How often do your classmates say things in class?” So, the students list out their classmates and estimate how often they talk. Then we also ask: “How often do they say things that really impress you?”
This is an anonymous survey, as a student you get a report card back that tells you how you’re interacting with people relative to the average of the class. The reason we added these questions is because networking isn’t just about knowing someone; it’s having a reputation with people. One of the nice things about our format is that it is very participation-oriented and gives you a chance to build your reputation.
Later on down the line, if you need to call someone up and ask for help, or you’re looking for resources and going to your network, and if you’ve done a good job building your reputation in class, that’s a good network (you have). Your peers may respond with, “Yeah, I’ll help you because you’re smart and doing a good job, you won’t waste my time, and you very likely know the people I want to know.”
So, we emphasize a more sophisticated approach to networking. It isn’t just scale; it is the quality of it. If you’re coming to network, let’s make sure you’re working on it, and make sure you understand how “networking” works. There are some people who have been very successful entrepreneurs and often are just looking to “meet a lot of people” because they want to place a lot of bets. It’s more about getting to know people in-depth. If you’re working with a group of entrepreneurs who are looking to start businesses with other people, maybe a larger network that is more informal would be a better way to approach it. But I think it is more important that people understand what they need, (in order) to find the best way to approach it.
FT Chinese: What if people say they want to earn an EMBA just for networking – that the biggest value of an EMBA is networking?
Patrick Moreton: Value is in the eye of the beholder. If somebody says the most valuable thing for them is meeting people and networking, that’s fine and there’s nothing wrong with people having different preferences. That’s why we try to help people understand what they really want, and make sure that what they want is what we have.
Nothing is worse than having a person in the program who isn’t getting what they want or is looking for something different, because then they are disappointed and the people on their team are working with the people who are disappointed, meaning it affects not just one person but also the rest of the class. So, you need to be straightforward about what you offer and don’t offer, what you expect and what you’ll get – it’s a relationship.
FT Chinese: Most EMBA students have been rather successful. What is the best thing your EMBA can offer?
Patrick Moreton: It changes your confidence.
FT Chinese: Are you sure all students can feel more confident after the EMBA program? Because at the undergraduate or graduate level, students may feel less confident when they see their classmates performing better.
Patrick Moreton: I can't say 100%, because it is an individual thing. If you don’t do anything about the opportunities and resources of the program, it will not bring you the expected outcomes. But even if you're in the middle or bottom of a good class, you still work with a group of good people. Even if it’s the bottom of a good program you’re above the average.
In the beginning of my program, I want everybody to say: “Hmm…they may have made a mistake admitting me, because people here are really good.” Similarly, when you go back to work after graduation, you will find yourself more confident in interactions with other people, as you are already used to working with a group of good people. I haven't seen a student who loses confidence in our program.
FT Chinese: What else can the EMBA program bring students besides confidence?
Patrick Moreton: It’s a good program, so you have a group of people who are very good, and good friends made – “birds of a feather flock together.” You’re tied into a really good group of people, and you know they are great partners and friends; they won’t waste your time.
FT Chinese: You are also in charge of the MBA program at Olin Business School. Let's talk about the MBA. Do the millennials (those born between 1985 and 1996) want different things from an MBA program?
Patrick Moreton: I don't know if the millennials are any different than when I was at that age. In China, it’s maybe very different because there has been steep development happening here. The way they are experiencing the world is very different from their parents, and it’s even different from the people who are 10 years older.
One of the things people don’t realize is that material success actually makes your life more complicated; when you are choosing, it requires a deeper philosophical connection with yourself. Millennials have more options than their parents did. Their problems are bigger than their parents’ problems. Fundamentally, the world is different for them, and maybe it would make it seem like they expect things differently, but it’s the same for all humans: they have to develop and go through life.
Millennials right now who are in their late 20’s are going through what you go through in your late 20’s, which is sorting out “who I am” and what it means to have a fulfilling life. The 30’s are “the old age of youth”; you’re not that young anymore, but by no means are you old. We, as bosses supervising millennials, have to create space in the relationships at work for people to grow in that way, to allow them to sort out issues, instead of just taking the orders and following what [we are] doing. Same thing goes for MBA programs.
FT Chinese: Many MBA students are about to start their summer internships. What suggestions would you give to those who want to get more out of them?
Patrick Moreton: First and foremost, figure out how to make your boss successful, understand what your boss needs to get done, and ask him/her, “How can I help you to be more effective?” That is what makes you a great hire; you really have to invest and pay attention to that.
Second, figure out how you can learn the most. If you reverse those two, the chances that you’ll get into trouble will be higher. The boss will care about what you are learning, but at the same time, you were brought on board to make the company more successful. It’s worth it to always be thinking about this and ask your boss, “Am I helping you?” and “What would you like to see me do?” You will have to acquire some new skills and might have to change your work habits. You need to understand what it takes to make your boss more successful – not the other way around. It is beneficial to let this mindset guide your entire professional life.
This article was originally written in Chinese by Haolin Liu and translated by Jamber Creative Services