29 December 2021 13:15:29 IST

A back to school guide for working pros joining exec MBA courses

Having a strong enough why for doing the course helps manage time and achieve your career goals.

Doing an Executive MBA (EMBA) course is a big commitment given the time and effort required.An EMBA is a part-time master’s degree and the students will have to juggle work, family, and study for 18 to 24 months.

Having a strong enough ’ for doing the course makes all the difference. Knowing the specific reason(s) for wanting to study and how an EMBA can transform your professional career, and more tangible reasons put forward, the better. ‘why

Here are some factors that can help you finish the program despite straddling many things at the same time:

Schedule and mode of delivery

EMBA programmes are offered at different times of the week and during the weekend. Some B-schools schedule early-evening classes whereas others e offered in chunks over weekends. It is to important that candidates choose days and timings that best fit their needs and timing.

The programmes differ in the number of courses offered, what courses are offered, and the mode of delivery (on-campus or online). Covid-19 has resulted in the growth of many online EMBAs. Again, it is important for candidates to think through what specific EMBA program fits with their needs. Choose the one which has accreditations and rankings.

Getting back the habit of reading

It is probably true that nowadays with the advent of personal technology, and the need to constantly check your phone, people have lost the habit of reading books. EMBA candidates must definitely pay a visit to their local bookshops, purchase the latest leadership books about say Steve Jobs or Elon Musk and give it a shot to get back into the groove of reading and learning.

Linked to the above is learning some speed-reading techniques which help to digest the learning materials quickly and efficiently. If this helps save say 10 minutes of time per article, this will likely end up saving perhaps hundreds of hours over the length of doing an EMBA.

Robin Sharma from the ‘5am club’ fame says it takes 66 days to build and install a new habit. Doing an EMBA is no different. Getting back into the habit of studying will probably take around two months. Assuming this can be done very quickly within a couple of weeks is probably unrealistic.


EMBA students must attend Orientation. These are specifically designed to help students return to studies most of whom have not studied for many years. The process of learning is very different now from how they learned before. These sessions typically include learning from the case study method, Writing Skills, accessing the Online library, study tips from current students and alumni, IT advice and support, Program rules, policies, and procedures, etc. It can be suggested that attending and fully participating at Orientation is correlated with study success (and study success is correlated with career success).


Directly linked with the previous point is attending other workshops organised pre- and post- orientation. These sessions usually discuss subjects like Excel spreadsheet which come in handy particularly subjects such as accounting, finance, and statistics, which deal with extensive number crunching.

Family support

As mentioned before, undertaking an EMBA is a major commitment over an extended period. This commitment necessitates support from spouse and family with a clear understanding that the student should not be disturbed during study time.

Building upon the above, the EMBA student needs to have a quiet space to study whether at home and/or at work. Doing an EMBA requires focus, and concentrated efforts and energy, which can not be dissipated with unnecessary interruptions.

If an EMBA student is studying online, then it is important to invest in the right technology. This includes buying a quality headset with microphone. If students are investing big fees in their studies, it does not make sense to skimp on the technology.


Much has been written about establishing micro-goals. Within the context of learning this translates to making quick progress on an assessment — writing the first 250 words, speed-reading a case study, and jotting down some quick thoughts for each of the questions set. Essentially, every task can be chunked down to smaller bite sizes.

Power of the cohort

Many quality EMBA programmes are cohort or batch-based where a group of students start together and finish together. Therefore, the combined power of the cohort can be utilised to build momentum for supporting each other and ensuring everyone stays on track and complete on time.

Never give up

Doing an EMBA is a ‘roller-coaster’ ride. There are going to be some big highs and big lows along the journey to study-success. However, it is important to build resiliency to never give up. This competency can be transferred to later high-achieving career success as well.

3Ds of success

The 3Ds of success — discipline, drive, and determination — is vital. Discipline means daily or weekly practice to help master your craft. The drive is the original motivation that causes people to commit to disciplined action, and determination is willpower to keep going.

Well, with the above, there you have it. This trio will help anyone contemplating or currently studying for an EMBA.

(The writer is Dean EMBA and Professor Strategy at SP Jain School of Global Management, Dubai.)