Since January, I experience Fridays differently. Ever since becoming the Programme Director for the Executive MBA (EMBA) Fridays no longer signify the end of the working week. It is the opposite: every three weeks, Fridays mark the beginning of the in-class teaching weekend for the EMBA at Frankfurt School (FS). These EMBA Fridays offer students a wide variety of opportunities to learn new personal skills, deepen their academic expertise, network with senior figures from the corporate world and relax at the end of it all on the beautiful FS terrace with their peers.
Sounds like a long day? On paper, certainly. But EMBA Fridays simply fly by. On my way home from work, I always feel energized by the positive atmosphere in the cohort and inspired by the passion of the speakers during that day. And, I have to admit, quite relieved that my choice to do something new, at a time that appeared totally inappropriate for a career change (directly after my second maternity leave), seems to be working out OK.
Imagine Frankfurt School was Audi. The yacht building division is FS International Advisory Services, a well-respected boutique advisory outfit specialising in financial inclusion and green finance. As you would expect from someone who builds yachts, I travelled frequently to exotic destinations. Under the leadership of my visionary and enabling boss (captain), and together with our agile, committed and enthusiastic team (crew) we designed and brought to market a suite of innovative, popular and impactful executive education programmes (specialized boats to charter different terrains ) in the sustainability space.
The opportunity came up to transition to Degree Programmes, or – staying with the analogy – the car building division at FS. The Executive MBA is core business for a business school like the A8 would be for Audi. To ensure this professionally built programme remains competitive and relevant, FS (myself included) invests many resources in perfecting the design and delivery of the programme.
You can think of it as follows: From the moment students open the car door (step on campus) until they arrive at their destination (graduation), Frankfurt School wants to ensure the best possible learning journey. We carefully groom the engineering (fine-tune the curriculum). We are mindful of the experience (personal and career development). And lastly, we are extremely careful about who we invite to sit in the driver’s seat (admissions). One of the most important ingredients for the EMBA journey is the cohort experience. Therefore, we take recruitment quite seriously.
Was it a good idea to take the plunge and transition from building Yachts to perfecting the A8? Definitely. Here are the top reasons for why: First, as I have discovered, doing something new mid-career has allowed me to transfer some of my “old” skills to a new setting. Here is an example: Sustainability is now the talk in town. Many businesses wonder how to combine impact and profit, and how to avoid “greenwashing”. Happily, these questions resonate well with my previous professional experience. I can draw on my network, and my expertise to add value to the curriculum. This does not mean that we will now be delivering a Green EMBA. Yet in the 2022 edition of the EMBA, we will be pairing Corporate Strategy with Sustainability, and we will examine, very concretely, what it means for organizations to embrace sustainability goals in terms of competing for customers and employees, access to finance, and delivering results.
Second, being part of the EMBA team gives me the chance to indulge one of my nerdy hobbies professionally: thinking about business, leadership and intercultural aspects thereof. Many of the corporate guests we invite to FS share their experience of what it’s like to lead truly global teams and why some business propositions fail while others fly – and how to navigate (office) politics.
Third, and most importantly: the best part of my new job is engaging with the EMBA students. They are delightful and inspiring to be with. Re-think any stereotypes you may have: True, EMBA students are ambitious, bright and goal getting. Yet they are also generous, open-minded, constructive, very diverse – and fun: they are always last to leave on EMBA Fridays.
And finally, a personal note of encouragement to all parents (or prospective students who have hobbies/ friends / loved ones): the EMBA is an intensive – but plannable – experience. The teaching schedule is respectful of busy agendas. This enables you to balance the holy trinity of immersing yourself in your studies, upholding a great performance at work and leading a meaningful private life.
You don’t need to upend your entire life to enjoy the satisfaction and the energy buzz that comes with doing something new: you can start a new job in the same organization… or step into the driver seat of your personal EMBA journey at FS.