Executive MBA 2018

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Last month, we welcomed a new class of senior executives to campus as they began their 23-month journey with us on the Executive MBA.

14 February was hotly anticipated at Imperial College Business School. Rather than due to widespread excitement for Valentine’s Day, last Wednesday saw our new class of Executive MBAs join together on campus for the first time.

Before joining us on campus, an online induction introduced the cohort to the programme team, the blended learning format of the Executive MBA and our bespoke online learning platform, The Hub, through welcome videos and primer modules. This left the second campus induction free to focus on building relationships between the new students.

This year’s cohort is made up of 34 students. Joining the class from locations across the UK, Europe, Africa, Canada and America, fifteen nationalities are represented within the class. The experience of the class is vast – 14 years is the average amount of work experience and backgrounds range from a CFO in the energy sector to Managing Director of a not-for-profit and CEO and Executive Director in pharmaceuticals.

Kicking off the programme with a busy two-day induction before delving into their first weekend session of lectures, the class were welcomed by Dean Francisco Veloso and Professor George Yip, Associate Dean of the Executive MBA. Professor Yip emphasised the greater rewards that the Executive MBA will bring. It presents an opportunity for the class to experiment, to connect with and learn alongside professionals from various sectors and functions, float innovative ideas and take risks in a supportive environment.

Icebreaker sessions throughout the day helped the new class find out more about the 33 other EMBAs they will be working, studying and celebrating alongside for the next two years. A team workshop introduced the class to their syndicate groups – teams of 5-6 members who they will work alongside on projects throughout their journey.

Some of the class are returning to education for the first time in 20 years, and all will be studying alongside a demanding career. An important aspect of the programme is the ability to take learnings back to work and begin seeing the benefits from day one.

As technology has rapidly changed over the last 20 years, so has education. The Executive MBA is delivered in a blended format, harnessing the affordances of both on-campus and online learning. Our in-house EdTech team also joined the new cohort on their first day of induction to answer any questions they had on The Hub, the bespoke online learning platform developed for the programme, and offer advice on how to get the most out of it – from downloading online content to access on international commutes to discovering video transcripts and connecting online with the MBA community from across our suite of programmes.

Day one ended with an opportunity to mingle, make memories and have fun with their new Imperial family of students and staff over a welcome dinner at Millennium Gloucester Hotel in Kensington. Introducing their new Imperial families to their existing families, 14 students also brought their partners with them to celebrate the start of their Executive MBA journey (and Valentine’s Day!)

On day two, the EMBAs joined us back at the Business School for another busy day on campus, starting with welcomes from members of the wider Imperial community – Student Leaders and faculty Heads of Department.

Alongside core modules, electives and international residencies, our Executive MBA cohort also undertake an Executive Leadership Journey (ELJ) that runs throughout the programme. The class were introduced to the theories behind the journey by Beate Baldwin, Head of Open Programmes and Marketing, EMBA, at Imperial College Business School and Dr Terry Clark, Research Fellow at the Centre for Performance Science, Royal College of Music and Imperial College London.

The journey is an opportunity to push the pause button, work with coaches as individuals and in teams, and reflect on who you are as a leader. The first year is tied to self-awareness and relationships whilst the second year brings the link back to your career and also involves regular dinners that ensure the EMBAs have the opportunity to reunite with their fellow classmates during electives.

Divided into groups, the afternoon of day two saw the EMBAs experience their first coaching sessions and also tackle the Performance Simulator as a team.

The Performance Simulator, this year hosted in Imperial’s Enterprise Lab, is a state-of-the-art facility that creates a realistic virtual panel on screen. Performance here is looked at in the broader sense to include presentations to stakeholders or public speaking as well as dramatic acting or musical performance. This simulation helps to transform ‘performance’ practice that maintains a low-risk approach but introduces the contextual richness that can negatively impact performance in real-life situations.

Their first challenge as a team was to decide how to approach delivering negative news of company redundancies to union reps and to choose a willing representative to deliver the decision to the virtual panel. Dr Terry Clark leads on the experiential side of the ELJ and facilitated the session, probing the teams following their performance to the ‘aggressive’ virtual panel with questions such as “how did that feel?” and “was the panel’s behaviour off-putting or was the message delivered as intended”?

For their second and final evening of induction before starting lectures on Friday, the class were joined by John Allan CBE, Chairman of Tesco, Barratt Developments, and London First as he delivered a keynote speech.

As a chance to unwind and seek advice from current students who are a year ahead on their journey at Imperial (the February 2017 EMBA cohort), the class spent Thursday evening bonding over strikes and American diner dishes at All Star Lanes bowling alley in nearby Bayswater. Advice sought from the second year students ranged from which hotels to stay in if commuting in for the monthly weekends on campus to how they coordinated their weekly calls.

After a very busy induction, the class delved into their first on-campus lectures on Friday and Saturday for three of their core modules – Organisational Behaviour, Managerial Economics and Marketing Management.

As part of Imperial College London, students at the Business School have access to brilliant minds not only in business but also science, technology, engineering and medicine. To help students capitalise on this network and understand their overlap into business, Executive MBAs sit in on a Future Vision Speaker Series.

In each session, an eminent Imperial College scientist presents on a technically-related speciality that has implications for business in the future. Following each talk, Professor George Yip helps direct discussion on how important science and technology issues and developments have implications for business.

On Friday the class sat in on their first session on the topic of crypto currency with Professor William Knottenbelt, causing a number of questions on how crypto currencies like bitcoin work. Professor Knottenbolt had also invited recent Imperial College London MSc alumni and the co-founders of Aventus – an innovative events platform using blockchain technology – to join the class.

As the EMBAs were wrapping their heads around a disrupted way of investing, the young founders knew the technology inside out from a technical perspective, with the perseverance to pivot, experiment and seek help to turn their knowledge into a new venture. This session exemplified the value of the Imperial College London network where, regardless of age, all students are able to share their knowledge.

After bidding the class farewell on Saturday evening, we’re looking forward to welcoming them back as a cohort for their next weekend on campus in a month’s time and, in the long-term, seeing how they’ll use the Executive MBA to further accelerate their success in the business world.

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About Charlotte Nixon