MAKING THE CHOICE
In a world where academic titles can seem to be little more than fitting a C.V. on a business card, the intrinsic benefits of an MBA run the risk of becoming marginalized. That danger applies to the average student, content to consider any program at any university.
For the driven, however, all programs are not created equal. The benefit of the program is the program’s value.. For those willing to invest the time selecting an MBA, the world is an oyster. And for Tomas Cink, the pearl was not very far from home.
Cink is the freshly-appointed CFO of AMCON Europe, an international wastewater treatment company with a branch office in Prague. Before earning the position, though, he set his mind to earning his MBA. “I wanted a high quality MBA program that would have AACSB accreditation, an excellent reputation of professors, and would be focused on the practical application of current business principles. The program had to be delivered in the English language,” Cink said.
He was able to narrow his search by excluding several programs based on his concerns about their excessive cost, troubling reputation, and in one case what he saw as a lack of sufficient real-world business experience of its professors. The MBA program with Chapman University in cooperation with Anglo-American University in Prague, he concluded, offered the most complete MBA program, one that best meets the balance of requirement and need. He was not disappointed.
“The best prepared students,” he said, “seemed to be students with master degrees in economics and finance. Other students seemed to need to work a bit harder to learn the abstract business concepts for the first time.” The degree program at AAU put him in an excellent professional position.
An MBA is not a cure-all, he cautioned, or a guaranteed ticket to executive management. It may be best seen as supplemental – both to the formal education a prospective student might have had and to the work he or she may be doing currently. Cink says, “My motivation to get the accredited MBA was to fill gaps in my formal business education. I wanted this education to support my real business experience. I wanted to participate in a program that included complex and structured know-how from business management principles, and would be communicated and related to areas focused on practical application in the ‘global’ marketplace.”
The AAU MBA program paid off in spades, Cink said, recalling a class in Operations Management that was so engaging “because the professor was a current business manager with a global firm, who managed to switch an inefficient post-communist production system into a highly effective, just-in-time, production system.”
The perspective of that instruction combined with the interactive classroom approach meant that the results were “lively and engaging. The professors were always helpful, ready to give advice, consultancy or suggestions on how to approach questions, problems, and solutions. I still keep in touch with some professors today.”
He feels a similar benefit is derived from the relationship with his fellow students. The structure of the “cohorts” allowed the MBA participants to “share experiences with each other and discuss different business, industry and cultural perspectives.”
In both cases, these formal and informal interactions characteristic of the Chapman MBA, “broadened our horizons, enriched our minds and helped us to be more open to different approaches. . . Many of us [still] share and brainstorm ideas, business issues we face in our companies, and talk about current situations together. The network of colleagues is an important part of bringing value to investment in the MBA program.”
MBA IN PRACTICE
Cink feels the Chapman MBA gives him far more than an advantage on paper.
“I learned how to look at the company and its business environment from different points of view and through different lenses. In this light, he looked and applied for managerial positions that would allow him daily usage of and engagement with the new perspectives he gained from the program at AAU.
“As a CFO of an international company, I use know-how from financial accounting and financial management on daily basis. Operations management knowledge and skills give me the tools to communicate with my production manager about the costs and efficiencies of our production facilities.
Knowledge gained in marketing classes help me to better understand the effects of less obvious, or intangible, gains from money invested and spent in our marketing campaigns.”
Experienced employers certainly consider the reputation of institutions where the prospective hire obtained his or her degree. Quality and ranking matter, which was a deciding factor in Cink’s MBA search: “The application of new information in an uncertain business situation makes the candidate more likely to be a ‘top’ candidate for hire. A good education at a reputable, global, institution can bring that value.” Still, though, in the end, he wouldn’t call the reputation the “key decision point.”
That point is determined by the individual. If you choose a school that turns out students like a factory, the chances for you to supplement your knowledge are reduced: “The important thing is experience, knowledge and the work attitude of individual.” When the economic climate puts pressure on cost-cutting measures and optimization of production, companies will be highly selective and very demanding during the new hire process.
“Under specific circumstances your decisions depend on personal plans and goals. Gaining further education can only benefit the individuals participating. How anything is applied is up to them,” Cink says.
In short, a good program allows you to understand. A great program allows you to thrive.