Dr. Monica Gallant has worked as Associate Professor of Accounting at the SP Jain School of Global Management for the past three years, based in Dubai. Qualified as a Chartered Accountant from Canada with a Master’s degree in Education Technology and a Doctorate in Education, she began her career at Deloitte as a Senior accountant/auditor and then found her passion for teaching as a community college instructor. Dr. Monica has worked in the education sector in Dubai for 25 years at the Higher Colleges of Technology as the Associate Dean of Business and more recently as President and CEO: The College of Fashion and Design and Dean: Esmod Dubai, French Fashion Institute.
Pursuing post graduate studies on a full-time basis is a luxury that cannot be afforded by everyone. Many prospective students would prefer to study while maintaining their employment. Is this the right path for you? Let’s examine some of the challenges and opportunities of completing an Executive MBA while working full time.
One crucial benefit of continuing in your career while pursing further studies is that career progression is not disrupted. Job seniority is maintained, networks and relationships are not severed, and promotion opportunities are not lost. In some cases, employers will contribute financially toward tuition fees or offer some brief study leave as an investment in their talent pool.
As concepts are learned in class, they can be immediately applied on the job. Theories can be tested and refined in this way. The learning becomes more relevant, contemporary and practical. Challenges faced in the workplace can be brought into the classroom for group discussion, consideration and innovative problem solving.
The migration from theory to practice and back again allows for growth and development in the business world. Often managers and coworkers are impressed with the novel ways of thinking and new perspectives highlighted by the student. A continuous loop of improvement can take place as new ideas are discovered, implemented, measured and refined. New assignments can be taken up by the working student to stretch their knowledge and explore their limits.
Studying together with other working professionals creates Immediate networking benefits. Students Interact with their classmates to offer new insights from diverse industries and contexts. Classmates can exploit partnership and collaboration opportunities amongst themselves and can recommend their colleagues for roles that may arise in terms of employment, consulting or entrepreneurship.
Experienced faculty members who possess a powerful combination of academic credentials and years of executive work experience guide the students’ journey and act as consultants and role models. They bring insightful stories from the real world of work and facilitate lively discussions that allow the cohort to share their own perceptions from a variety of business environments enabling authentic learning.
A balanced mix of new concepts along with the enhancement of soft skills is critical for success. Career professionals are sometimes inhibited from reaching higher managerial levels due to a lack in some aspect of their personal skills. Communication and presentation skills can be honed through written assignments and oral discussions. Techniques to improve negotiation and conflict resolution are often included explicitly in the curriculum and practiced through role plays. Likewise, leadership and team building are illustrated through case studies and applied in group projects. Emotional and intercultural intelligence can be explored and elevated by working with diverse people in a structured environment.
Technical skills need to be continually updated in the rapidly changing business world. Advanced levels of Excel are typically used to prepare financial and statistical analysis. Practicing the techniques studied in class on live data in the field boosts application and retention. Conducting research using digital data analysis strategies can provide immediate benefits in the work place as well as instilling curiosity and purpose in the students. The use of computer simulations can demonstrate unique situations that may occur in various contexts.
Of course, combining full time work and study does not come without its challenges. Finding a healthy balance between work, study and personal life is crucial. Time management is key to making this work. Creating a schedule, assessing priorities, setting deadlines and breaking assignments into “doable” chunks can help to create a manageable time table.
Setting aside the ideal of perfection and focusing on submitting high quality work within the defined timelines can be difficult for some but necessary with so many constraints involved. Some element of sacrifice may be needed in terms of reduced time for socializing or relaxing. However, it is important to manage stress by preserving a healthy life style with adequate sleep, exercise and nutrition.
Family support is extremely valuable. There may be tough moments where the thought of quitting may look appealing to students, however, the motivation and encouragement provided by parents, spouses and children can make the difference.
Considering these challenges, is it worth it? Just ask the graduates. Many graduates say that is was the most challenging but most rewarding time of their lives highlighting the new perspectives and new skills that they have developed. Others stress the lifelong friends and professional colleagues that they have made describing how they will continue to interact and network for many years to come. Still others revel in the career advances that they have earned or the entrepreneurial ventures they have launched. Spouses and children of the graduates applaud their achievements and feel proud that they have been able to contribute to their success.
All in all, it is never too late to embark on further education and combining full time work with an Executive MBA is a great way to obtain the best from both worlds for career advancement and personal fulfillment.