In June 2014, out of a sudden idea and some recommendations from friends that have finished their MBAs’ some month ago I said, hey, why not do that for myself? Having just been out of an 18 month consulting assignment with long hours and great people I thought that the only thing I did miss was something for the brain, to learn again. It’s not that I am proud of learning all the time but I like to find out new things, meet interesting people and I constantly need some food for my brain to think about. That’s the reason why I decided to pursue and Executive MBA even without having potential career steps in mind, just for the experience.
Until this point of time I had absolutely no idea what this means – except that there are some costs attached to that. Friends told me that for most Executive MBA universities you need to do a GMAT test, which I have never heard of before. I bought that Kaplan GMAT preparation book, was overwhelmed by how much I did forget over the years since I left school and started learning again, the first great experience.
Knowing that I have to do this I started to read through the Internet and talked to friends to which University I should go. To be honest, that was not very helpful. Every friend seems to be brainwashed by the own university and the rankings are good in order to see how good a university is in general but that’s it, and I don’t care about the university being 5th or 15th in a global list. I found out that applying to the university and talking to them was the most relevant experience because only in these talks you find out about what they are focussing on, and if they do understand you and your potential goals. From my top priority list I talked to five schools, and applied. With some I found out that they are strongly related to people working in large global companies – which was not the right thing for me working in my own company as a one man consultant. So I managed to focus on Insead as my first priority (thanks to a good friend how highly recommended this one), IESE and Kellogg-WHU. The final decision was a feeling in my stomach and I can’t tell you why. Although flying to Paris or Barcelona instead of Frankfurt seems to me very appreciating and the small town of Vallendar (the WHU campus is based there) was very small with only one bar and not much around. I had the feeling that Kellogg-WHU could be an attractive and fun environment to learn and to connect. The negative aspect was that there was no co-operation with Indian Universities or even the Middle-East which I would have loved, but I was more interested in the US (new economy) things than in the more Europe-focussed networks.
The costs of all universities are not very wide spread, everything ranges between 75’ and 100’ Euro for the studies plus the travel expenses. This is a massive amount and I have to admit that including travel expenses I will end somewhere between 120’ and 130’ Euro, but this really depends on you flying business or economy and what kind of hotel you are taking. I think at Kellogg-WHU you can do it for below 100’ Euro altogether. I was glad to hear that there is also an interesting financing scheme from Kellogg-WHU which makes the EMBA possible for almost everybody as your fees will be paid and you pay it back later on when you are finished based on your success. Which is a cool thing and I think this could have been offered with a broader approach from the university as I haven’t thought about the financing at that point in time. The only reason not to do this financing was tax and that – if you earn good money – you will of course pay back much more. But that’s the deal and it’s absolutely fair. So my company and myself (which is the same J) paid for this.
Having decided for Kellogg-WHU, the first year of the program started in September 2014. All courses are taking place in Vallendar, a very small town near Koblenz and one hour from Frankfurt, and partly at the second campus in Dusseldorf. Having studied in both cities I would say that plus 95% of us are absolutely in favour of the Vallendar campus. The amazing thing is that it’s good that it’s so small with no big cities around. When you are done with your group exercises which is normally not before 11pm, you have just one bar (Korova Bar) where you can head to, this is 15m from the university’s campus entry and they open up for you, even if you arrive at 2am. And the good thing is, as there is nothing else to go to, you will definitely meet some of your mates there which is fun, and a good start to getting to know each other a little more. Although we now have one or two more classes at the Dusseldorf campus we are always looking forward to Vallendar. Sure, you can say that this is a German thing, but we are from 17 countries, some even from India, Australia or Peru and they have a long way to go and they do like it, too. Feels like home after a while.
The administrative stuff and the teachers are great. It doesn’t matter what your problem is but the admin staff will help you and you feel at home immediately. They take care in every way so you will never get lost. And be sure, you are not the only one who is struggling with dates, visa, overwhelming work in the office and such things.
From the teaching staff point of view we might have been lucky (but I think its pure standard). We had a great combination of professors coming from Tel Aviv, the US, Canada, Germany and Switzerland, and we have learned a lot. Of course, there are topics you like more or less but even with statistics it’s getting funny, at least for most of the time (before you struggle with the homework). Compared to my studies earlier on in Germany and the UK, this is an unbelievable difference, sorry to say that although I liked my studies then. You learn so much new things, lots only because of the in class discussions with your peers and what they have had for challenges and solutions but also with different views (there seems to be on trouble-maker in every group) and perspectives you have never thought about before.
Having now finished the first year and being on one of the first trips to the home base of Kellogg University in Chicago, this gets even better. First of all an excellent campus you can only dream of. With pool (even the NASA uses it), sailing facilities (Hobie Cat 16 if anybody is interested), art museum and concert hall. There are class exercise which seem to be a little awkward, like playing cards in silence, until you know the reason for it and then it suddenly makes sense, and was a superb experience for all of us. Meeting so many new faces from all over the world is an interesting thing. Starting the first day I was one of the half a dozen people that answered with no, when asked if we like networking. I have to say I don’t like this 2-3mins talks at all, and I am not the one who comes home from a party with fifty something business cards. But you meet these guys also in class, group discussions and so on and you find lots of them who are great people to talk to and everybody can tell you an interesting story about his or her live and experiences. So even for me as a more long-term relationship networker, this was a fantastic opportunity. The social events are great in the university and if you go out, there is a lot of fun waiting for you too. And the good thing is that this is only the start as some more one-week study experiences in Toronto, Tel Aviv and Miami will follow for me and cities like Hong Kong and even something in China for others too.
Looking back after one year, and this is the reason I thought it might be good to write down and let other people experience from what I felt here, I have to say that even today it was the best and most valuable decision to start this Executive MBA course here at Kellogg-WHU. Just based on the personal experiences and learnings, even without knowing if I will ever get a ‘financial’ return out of this. But I thing that probably all of us will profit from this experience within the next 2-3 years, personally and financially.
What will now follow is the last year until May 2016 and then the master thesis (which only the Kellogg-WHU students have to write, and I am lucky that I did this the last two month when I had some spare time) when hopefully many students from all over the world come to Vallendar and we will meet them again and have a great time with learning and sharing experiences. This coming year of course means more exams, more classes, different countries, a lot of work in class, at home, additionally at our work, and at the same time less valuable time with family and friends at home.
Is it worth it? Definitely yes.
If I can answer any questions, share my experiences or there is a chance to get one of you out there to use the fantastic opportunities all of us can have, let me know and feel free to get in touch.