A word from the Associate Dean: the value of an MBA for students in emerging markets

By Ashok Som, Associate Dean and Director of the Global MBA

As the world as we know it changes and evolves on a daily basis, education and commerce provide the means to embrace the opportunities created by globalization. At the intersection of these two routes to global understanding and success is an MBA, a degree that provides the stepping stone for bridging the gap between the Western World and emerging markets.The choice to pursue an MBA abroad is an important decision, one based on a variety of factors including long-term career goals, location and financial constraints, but for participants coming from emerging markets, this decision can have a lasting positive career impact. During an MBA program, students are exposed to international business and cultural practices that will equip and enable them to contribute to the growth of their home economies through the multi-nationals operating in their home economies and to bridge the gap between the developed nations and the emerging markets

Today, business practices are in a constant state of evolution and flux. Globalization means redefining what we do, how we do it, and on what playing field it takes place. Emerging markets especially the Big Emerging Marjets (BEM) such as Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Mexico, Philippines, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Turkey and Kenya have witnessed growth at a rapid pace. . This state of growth and change provides a whole new range of opportunities for entrepreneurs, investors, and business practitioners, assuming they have the knowledge and the skill-set to take advantage of these opportunities. The broad general knowledge of an MBA, combined with the global focus of a program such as ours here at ESSEC, makes participants more proficient to maneuver these changes as the opportunities for success that they are, instead of confronting them as indecipherable challenges. The more one knows about international business practices and diverse cultures, the easier it will be to grow one’s own business and career in an interconnected and globalized marketplace.
In addition to the obvious benefits of the knowledge and network gained during an MBA, there is also often a financial incentive involved for participants from emerging countries looking to go to well-known Western schools. Schools place a considerable premium on diversity, seeking to build connections among students from different parts of the world. This often incites them to offer scholarships to students from the BEMcountries, for example, who will add a unique and valuable perspective to the whole class. It also means that the pa

rticipants will understand and be sensitized to working in multi-cultural teams, will understand hot to think differently and how to criticallyappraise each other’s potential. During this journey they may fail and in so doing obtain an understanding of a critical element of life-long learning.

In terms of post-MBA career placement, the rise in economic growth in emerging countries, such as BEMs, means a rise in job opportunities, as well, particularly for professionals holding an MBA. Growth is occurring across sectors such as service, retail, manufacturing, luxury businesses. And as multinationals search for growth and profitability they are the one who are first attracted to the emerging countries. These companies require an efficient and competent workforce, adept and fluent in common business practices but also conscious of and conversant in local practices, language, and culture. This means that employers are often eager to hire locally, but from among a pool of local candidates who possess the skills obtained through a world-class MBA program. MBA holders with diverse backgrounds mean more competitiveness on the global playing field for companies with a multinational presence. These businesses are growing in complexity and scope, meaning they need skilled and competent leaders more than ever before.

For entrepreneurs and small and medium sized businesses in emerging markets, MBAs are an invaluable resource, as well. If companies want to grow quickly and with a strategy and perspective that will build their success in the long-term, MBA’s represent an important pool of planners and leaders who not only would lead them grow in the home country but also in the developed markets where they did their MBA and have built their network.

At the Global MBA of ESSEC Business school, our group of students this year represents 12 different nationalities. That means that in any given class, perspectives and practices are being shared between Asian, American, European, African and Middle-Eastern students. The cultural competency gained through these interactions is an invaluable addition to the already rich curriculum of an MBA program.The Global MBA rises to this challenge of offering a program geared towards high-potentials who are eager to bridge the gap between developed nations and emerging markets.

Departure to Singapore in 3 WEEKS!!!

By Aurélie Metcheka, Global MBA student

Three weeks from today, I will be in SINGAPORE! I don’t know if any of you have been there before but I haven’t that’s why I’m so excited!

The Global MBA at ESSEC is concentrated on emerging countries. During the program we will make couple of trips:

In February 9th, we will go to Singapore for 6 Weeks! Yes SIX WEEKS! There, we will be taking some classes at ESSEC Singapore.

In May, We will go to Russia for a week to visit some companies in order to know how they run their business and also to have a feel on the country culture.

And finally in July, We will have our international immersion program which consists on working on a consulting project for 4 to 6 weeks in Africa, Eastern Europe, South America and Asia.

The courses that we will be taking in Singapore are:

Operations Management:  an introduction to the topics, and computational techniques, in operations management, focusing mainly on risk management and sustainability. Specially, the course provides knowledge on forecasting, design of logistic systems and supply chains, project, inventory and total quality management, sustainable operations, revenue management and operational risk.

Geopolitics in Asia:  the aim of this course is to give us broad concepts that will help us to understand political challenges in Asia. These concepts are used to analyze how international conflicts and local claims are supported by historical, national and religious justifications. This course is intended to make us think out of the box, and switch from a managerial approach to a political one.

Global Strategy: Here, we will study the strategy that international firms use when they (to begin with we define them as multinational companies) encompass any problem or opportunity, in the areas of finance, production, marketing, information technology, and human resource management.

So far, I’m enjoying the Global MBA! We are almost at the end of the second term.

A Word from the Associate Dean: Considering MBA Rankings

By Ashok Som, Associate Dean and Director of the Global MBA

During the last ten years, business education as an industry has grown in leaps and bounds and so has ranking as an ancillary industry. Ranking business schools follows some statistical criteria but also is an art. There is much to gain for the media outlets that publish them such as The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Forbes, and The Economist, as well as many non-English and private publications and internet education portals. In Europe, The Financial Times is the most referred to as they publish at least 6 different ranking of different programs all the year round.

As education becomes more and more global, accreditation and rankings are two important criteria that prospects look at. Prospects from far away nations (especially from emerging economies) usually do not have the time and the resources to travel to the US or Europe to do campus visits to actually supplement their research while choosing business schools. So how do they chose or short-list the business schools to which they apply? My experience of starting the Global MBA of ESSEC Business School, which is a one-year, full-time post-experience MBA program, in a super-saturated market tells me that the primary criteria for these students include ranking, accreditation, average GMAT, price, financing, and reputation based on word-of-mouth from friends and colleagues. These are the starting reference points when prospective students start their short-lists.

Ranking is a necessary evil for business schools. Because business education has become global in nature, one cannot be outside the rankings that provide prospects a first impression of business schools. On the other hand, if and once ranked, the position in the rankings might not reflect what the individual schools feels they are worth. Ranking represents a danger in that the methodology used, such as survey tools, might create response biases, data point selection biases which can provide diverse results. Also the rankings process is resource intensive and repetitive. Once one is inside the game, one needs to play it year after year. And the rules of the game can change a school’s focus from providing sustainable quality education, rich in pedagogy and experiential learning to matching criteria defined by the media.

My take on rankings has been that within the diverse multitude of information that exists between different programs, numbers simplify and make it easy to get noticed. They are just a starting point. The most important criteria for us are the VALUES of the school and the program. Those are the core competencies of a school that are valuable, rare, and difficult to replicate or substitute in the short- term. After the initial screening of schools is over, it is also important that students consider carefully the type of environment in which they are ready to invest.

How to interpret the rankings  and how to understand their limitations

Continuing from the above discussion, one must interpret and use the rankings not only intelligently but also with caution. Otherwise one risks comparing apples and oranges. For example, not all of the rankings available today differentiate based on the duration of the program, be it full-time MBA, EMBA, MSc., etc. Thus a one-year program and a two-year program are ranked in the same category. If not properly taken into account, this means the price, opportunity cost, career opportunities, internship opportunities, etc. are all skewed in the decision-making process.

The best way to understand the rankings of business schools is to try to understand the criteria and the limitations.

Understanding the criteria and making the choice:

1. Understand the criteria of rankings of different media publications. Note them down. Make a
comparative table of the rankings that you want to follow to start the selection process.
2. Note down your criteria of choosing a set of business schools where you want to spend 1 or 2 years
of your most valuable time.
3. Match your personal competencies with both the above criteria.
4. Prioritize your own criteria in terms of the objectives you want to achieve in your MBA program.
5. Go back and fine tune the schools that match with your objectives and the value system that you
believe you will be comfortable with.

Understanding the limitations:

1. Criteria differ from ranking to ranking. The rank is how good the fit is between the school and the
criteria defined by the media publication, not necessarily how good the school is.
2. Ranking involves data collection. Whatever the data collection methodology (surveys, interviews,
archival data, etc.) it is ultimately a statistical model. This data generally has a positive bias as the
respondents of the data collection are mostly alumni of the school.
3. Ranking data does not match your personal requirements and your individual definition of business
4. Ranking also does not measure the subjective measures and the values of the school.
5. Overall ranking cannot identify the strengths of a school in functional and particular research areas
and fields of expertise such as Chairs / Institutes.

Global MBA trek: A "fruitful" expedition to Apple Paris

By Global MBA student Yong Wang

At the beginning of the new year 2012, twelve members of the Global MBA cohort, including myself, enjoyed an unforgettable evening visiting Apple France.

We were warmly welcomed by members of the top management: sales director, retail director and country chair, HR manager, and the sales support director, who is also an ESSEC alumnus.

The trek began with and introduction to and upate on Apple’s iOS family, a product line with which we were all quite familiar. She emphasized that the iPhone revolutionized the smartphone industry and that the iPad seized the niche market with powerful functions and competitive price. We then talked about Apple’s service contents, consisting of iTunes, the App Store, iBook, iWork, etc. Thanks to its organic integration of hardware, software and service contents, Apple surpassed Exxon Mobil to embrace the title of world's most valuable company in August 2011.

All of us raised hands for questions after her impressive presentation. After listening to my proposed question of, “I still remember in March 2011, Steve Jobs proudly declared to the whole world that 2010 was the Year of iPhone and 2011 would be the Year of iPad. What about the Year of 2012 ?”,  she laughed, recalling that once she asked the same question of a friend who had attended a confidential conference at Apple headquarters. Her friend simply replied, “I will be killed if I disclose it”. Obviously, we will have to wait until this year's Apple’s keynote to find out.

Next, we were presented Apple’s multi-channel distribution system --- retail stores, online stores, direct sales force, resellers, carriers, and wholesalers, among which 359 retail stores worldwide are Apple’s priceless assets. My classmate Julian asked whether Apple adopts the “hunger marketing” strategy, illustrating the recent unavailability of iPhone 4S in France during the Christmas holiday. The presenter attributed this to logistical problems. Another classmate, Samer, pointed out that Apple is cooperating with third-party cellular network carriers now but ultimately aims at getting rid of carriers. Interestingly, all four directors chose to smile and stay silent in response!

Our ESSEC alumnus, sales support director Mr. Yves Martin, started sharing us with his career experiences by citing one of Steve Jobs’ famous quotes:  “It’s more fun to be a pirate than to join the navy”. He joined in Apple in 1988 out of his fascination with Macintosh computer and games, left Apple in 2006 during a period of decline, and re-joined in Apple in 2001. His masters in finance at ESSEC, completed between 1979 and 1982n, paved his career path.

We learned briefly about Apple’s recruitment criteria, mainly the emphasis placed upon the principles of both Focus
and Expertise. Apple focuses on its core competence of designing electrical products by inviting experts in different fields, such as marketing, accounting, design, etc.

The session lasted for three hours, one hour longer than originally scheduled time. Questions regarding Apple’s products, services, distribution, strategy, future, competition and vision all came up. All of the directors were extremely happy to exchange with us. The vibrant discussions and interactions we shared made for a very fruitful evening, and all of us were very appreciative of their passion and willingness to share with us.

I have been fascinated by Apple's products, especially the  iPhone, which I see as a lifestyle device and a life facilitator. I really appreciate such an exceptional opportunity to explore Apple’s culture and to communicate with Apple’s top management here in France. Focus, a principle stressed by all of them, is embedded in my mind. Their emphasis on Focus and Expertise coincides exactly with the ideas that I took away from Steve Jobs' biography, written by Walter Isaacson.  I hope that 2012 will continue to be the Year of iTune U,  Apple TV, the iPad, and the  iPhone!

The first 100 days of my GLOBAL MBA at ESSEC

By Shriram Venkatasubramanian, Global MBA student

Time flies fast when you are an MBA student. It is a remarkable experience that pushes you out of your comfort zone to explore new horizons. I have penned down a few C’s to reflect my thoughts on the student life at ESSEC so far.

Cergy – Cosy Corner!

Cergy is a relatively new town in the north-western suburbs of Paris. The main advantage I have living in Cergy is that I am close to the school. Most of the students live in the residences here and so it is very convenient to work on the group projects. However, there are not many places to hang out in Cergy and I miss the opportunity to experience “la vie parisienne”. Still, I have no worries; Paris is just 40 minutes by RER A.

Cohort – Small global village!

My class has students from 12 countries sharing their experiences, beliefs, and knowledge. Also, most of us have studied or worked outside the home country and these varied experiences add value to the discussions that happen in the class. Be it an engineer or a lawyer or a consultant or an art gallery manager or a mountaineer or an army officer, you name a profession - I have someone in the class from that background. Such is the diversity that aids peer to peer learning.

Courses – Real life lessons!

I took 9 courses in the first term – Accounting, Marketing, Written Analysis, Statistics, Decision making and Negotiations, Strategy, Leadership, Finance and Macro Economics. Professors adopt both class room lectures and case studies to teach us assess business situations and make vital decisions. These trigger an amazing exchange of ideas and I gained valuable insights doing a variety of assignments – video resume (self-branding), new product development ideas, strategy cases on almost all industries, economic crisis outlook, statistical analysis, capital budgeting, equity valuation ….. and the list goes on. I am also taking the French language course. Though you can manage with only English inside the campus, knowledge of French makes your day-to-day life much easier. “Vouloir, C’est Pouvoir” and so am working hard to hone my French skills.

Coëtquidan – Soldier for two days!

Camp Coëtquidan is the French military academy where we had our leadership workshop. The enriching individual exercises, team based rescue operations and role-playing games helped us learn about situational intelligence and the personality traits that make a good leader. We received valuable feedback from army commanders and learnt what it really means to be a leader in an unusual setting.

Career - A lot done, a lot more to do!

On the career front, we attend information sessions at ESSEC’S other campus in the famous CNIT building at La Défense, the business hub of Paris. We usually don’t have classes on Wednesdays and so we plan our team meetings and career sessions then. Career assessment tests, CV Book and cover letters are some areas we have worked on.

Celebrations – Fun, Friends and Foy’s!

Parties at ESSEC add spice to the student life. In addition, Diwali, Thanksgiving and New Year are some festive occasions we enjoyed celebrating together. But wait, you don’t always need a reason to celebrate and so whenever we find time, Foy’s (student-run pub in the campus) is the place we stop by to chill out and relax.

That’s all for now. Looking forward to the new term and the study tour to “Scintillating Singapore”.

Best wishes to everyone for a happy and prosperous new year 2012!