Top EMBA Live Chat (Q&A)

A top EMBA programme may boost your career and take it to the next professional level. If you want to find the right one for you, this live chat transcript may help you make a decision.

In November 2016, Access MBA held a week-long thematic online event on the topic “Learn all about the Executive MBA”. The Access MBA Spotlight featured four top business schools: UCLA Anderson (US), NEOMA (France), Rochester-Bern (US, Switzerland) and IMD (Switzerland).

Learn all about the Executive MBA here – watch videos, read articles and interviews, listen to an audio roundtable discussion with insights and advice by business school representatives and learn from the questions of your peers in the live chat.

The following is a transcript of the EMBA live chat with representatives of the four schools.

Q: Would you please share with us some basic information about your programmes?

EOMA: Our programme is part-time and based in Paris. We have 3 phases of 6 months each with a couple of international immersion programmes as well as an out-of-comfort leadership training with the French Navy. NEOMA Business School has triple international accreditation and, very importantly, we have a chapter with Beta Gamma Sigma, an academic honour society.

Rochester-Bern: The Rochester-Bern Executive MBA is an 18-month programme which takes place mainly in Switzerland but also in Rochester (US) and in Shanghai. After completion of our general management programme you receive a dual degree.

UCLA Anderson: UCLA Anderson offers two Executive MBA programmes – the Executive MBA Programme (EMBA) and the UCLA-NUS Executive MBA programme. The EMBA programme is on-campus (bi-weekly or once a month) in Los Angeles for 22 months. The UCLA-NUS programme is an Executive MBA partnered with the National University of Singapore. The UCLA-NUS programme is a 15-month programme with six 2-week modules in Singapore (twice), Los Angeles (twice), New Delhi, Bangalore, and Shanghai.

IMD: The IMD Executive MBA programme is for fast-rising, internationally experienced managers who aspire to lead. The programme lasts at least 15 months, with 9 weeks (45 days) out of office, and distance learning in between.

Q: What is the work experience requirement for your programmes? Is there an obligatory minimum?

Rochester-Bern: We always look at the overall picture and potential of a candidate for our EMBA programme. Ideally, students have an academic or equivalent background as well as at least 5 years’ managerial and leadership experience. And we are interested in finding out more about your career development and career plans to fully understand your profile.

UCLA Anderson: For our EMBA programme, 8 years’ work experience is required, with 5 of those years within management of either projects or people. The UCLA Anderson-NUS programme requires 10 years’ work experience. Our Class Profile average is 14 years’ work experience and 9 years’ management experience.

NEOMA: What would be important is to look at your profile and understand your career path so far. We would say managerial experience of at least 8 years.

IMD: The experience question is an important one, because the EMBA is designed to build on your experience and to deepen your capabilities. You want to have a management and leadership platform (your experience) which will allow you to benefit from the programme. This is why most EMBAs require more experience than a full/part-time MBA programme.

Q: What requirements do I have to meet to gain admission to your programmes?

Rochester-Bern: An academic background or equivalent with at least 5 years’ managerial and/or leadership experience. On average, our students have 14 years’ work experience and are 38 years old. If you are interested in our programme, we would look at your profile and motivation in more detail.

NEOMA: Candidates wishing to apply must have a Master’s degree or equivalent qualification, have more than 8 years’ professional experience, including managerial experience, and be fluent in English. Candidates are also strongly advised to pass the GMAT or Tage-Mage test before applying. It is possible to sit an equivalent test during your interview.

UCLA Anderson: Our programme requires college education completion and 8-10 years of work experience. A TOEFL is required if your college was in a non-English speaking country. A GMAT/GRE is sometimes required but this is on a case-by-case basis, depending on your educational experience or work experience.

Q: I have around 8 years’ work experience with a little more than 2 years’ managerial experience. I am looking for a programme that strongly emphasises entrepreneurship.

Rochester-Bern: The Rochester-Bern EMBA delivers general management knowledge including entrepreneurial skills. We also offer an optional study trip to Silicon Valley where you will learn about innovation & new technologies and experience the entrepreneurial spirit of this unique area. Furthermore, our concluding project is a real-life business plan that students establish over the course of eight months in teams and present in front of a panel consisting of specialists in marketing and strategy, but also venture capitalists.

IMD: The IMD Executive MBA this year completed our 20th expedition to Silicon Valley, where you experience entrepreneurship and innovation first-hand. Each year we run a start-up competition. This year, 130 high-tech Swiss and German companies applied and the best 10 were chosen to work with our EMBAs. Students meet the entrepreneurs and get into their shoes before going to Silicon Valley to pitch the company to a panel of venture capitalists. We have pitched over 200 companies, many of which have been very successful. Here is a video that highlights that journey:

UCLA Anderson: The UCLA Executive MBA offers a general MBA, but with elective units so you can delve deeper into areas of interest. We have 7 academic/research centres which offer elective courses, networking and industry connections, off-campus trips, etc. Entrepreneurship is a large focus at UCLA Anderson and it’s growing in popularity, so we have several business creation support options and have just opened our venture accelerator – a work space to build ideas.

Q: I'm in the early stages of finding the right business school, and I plan to do my EMBA in Europe (London, Paris or other large business cities). I've been told that the network gained from the EMBA experience is very important. Is there a way to determine which school would provide the best network for my career?

Rochester-Bern: Which school would be best depends on the industry, size and whether they are acting internationally. Rochester-Bern offers alumni networks within Switzerland, but also internationally. You will also have access to the EMBA alumni network of the University of Rochester in the US. Our alumni work for both national and international companies.

IMD: EMBA alumni join the exclusive IMD network of global executives worldwide: 100,000 executives in 140 countries, 11,000 board level and C-suite, and 45 alumni clubs around the globe.

Q: Is the programme at NEOMA delivered in English, or French, or English and French? In other words, do I need to be proficient in French to join your school?

NEOMA: The programme is indeed taught in both languages. The courses at the beginning are held predominantly in French, but towards the end of the programme all of the courses are in English. So, you will need to be comfortable with the French language.

Q: I have been working for 12 years and would like to do an Executive MBA in a full-time format and take a sabbatical year. Is this possible?

IMD: It's possible, but the modular or part-time format of the EMBA programmes will leave large gaps between modules if one is not working.

NEOMA: We offer an international full-time MBA which lasts for 10 months. Our EMBA is carried out in 3 phases and stretches for 18 months.

Rochester-Bern: Our EMBA is part-time so you can immediately apply everything you learn to your current job. This and the discussions with faculty and students about current work issues/questions will improve your learning experience.

Q: Are there any scholarships offered?

UCLA Anderson: We offer a 7-10% discount on fees in support for incoming students (USD 5,000- 10,000) based on merit. Our students work with our EMBA financial aid coach to ensure they are taking out the appropriate loan with the lowest interest rate.

NEOMA: We offer an early-bird discount of 10% for our April intake if you register before 31 December. Scholarships depend on one's profile.

IMD: We partner with several international post-grad student loan organisations and we offer a very flexible payment plan. Scholarships for EMBAs are rather sparse compared to full-time MBA programmes.

Rochester-Bern: We offer a scholarship competition where you can win a reduction of up to CHF 25,000 on tuition. Furthermore, we offer other smaller scholarships. There is also a reduction if you apply before 15 June (for the January intake).

Q: Are the GMAT and IELTS exams valid for admission to your programmes?

UCLA Anderson: The IELTS and TOEFL are language proficiency exams, which is a requirement only of some schools depending on your background. The GMAT or GRE is acceptable for the standardised exam requirement. We sometimes waive the GMAT/GRE requirement, based on your background.

NEOMA: At NEOMA, both are valid.

Rochester-Bern: At Rochester-Bern, neither GMAT nor IELTS is required. Through recommendations from your managers and two interviews with alumni and our academic director (both in English), we can establish if your business/management experience and English level are sufficient for our programme.

IMD: In 2012 IMD discontinued the GMAT requirement for the Executive MBA. We only require it for the Full-time MBA programme. The IELTS and GRE exams are not required either. We pre-assess our candidates via our internal admissions process instead.

Q: How many recommendation letters are required?

NEOMA: We require two letters of recommendation.

Rochester-Bern: We require two completed recommendation forms. One recommendation must come from your organisation, and the other from someone who is familiar with your work in a professional setting.

UCLA Anderson: UCLA EMBA and UCLA-NUS require two letters of recommendation from a current or past employer or a client.

IMD: We require a total of three letters of recommendation: two from relevant contacts, and a third from your organisation.

Q: I am self-employed. Should I recommend myself?

IMD: For those "self-sponsored" candidates, we ask for three general letters of recommendation. This often includes CEOs, founders, etc.

UCLA Anderson: Someone that you work or have worked with closely. a client would be ideal.

Rochester-Bern: We ask for two recommendation forms from people who know you in a professional context, i.e. someone from your board of directors, business partners, external partners you have worked with, etc.

Q: I have worked in sales for 5 years now and I am considering doing an EMBA with the idea of starting my own business. Can the EMBA really help and support me in this? And do you have alumni I can get in touch with?

IMD: Our degree and schools have a strong brand recognition and value among international and global organisations in the US, but no European or Asian school rivals the networks in the US that American schools provide.

UCLA Anderson: A large part of your MBA experience is networking, which can turn into a future opportunity. If the plan is to move to a new location, you may want to join a programme in the area/country/state that you are looking to ultimately end up in.

Rochester-Bern: Our classes consist of employed students working for national or international companies as well as entrepreneurs who have already started their own company or are about to. The mix makes it interesting and allows both sides to learn and benefit from each other. Equally, our alumni networks (Rochester-Bern, Simon School and SAMBA Plus alumni networks) consist of like-minded people.

Q: What kind of qualities and characteristics from an EMBA applicant are your school looking for?

IMD: We look for career progression with a preference for management and international responsibility over at least 10 years. But your ambition and motivation is equally important. So we look for people who want to take on greater leadership and management responsibility. Of course, there is no ideal profile! We also look at the soft skills and personal side: vision, courage, initiative, maturity, curiosity and self-confidence, for example.

NEOMA: We look for a variety of profiles, so everyone can bring a new perspective to others, in order to enrich the relations and communications during/outside class. Our motto is humanship (copyright NEOMA) so we emphasise the importance of soft skills as well.

Rochester-Bern: We look for medium to senior level managers who have at least 5 years’ managerial experience and who have the potential to take on more senior roles in their organisations. Soft skills and teamwork abilities are also important factors, along with the overall profile of each individual.

UCLA Anderson: Our programme's highlight is "Management to Leadership". We are looking for a student with leadership potential, who is an expert in their industry. The class profile of our students is very diverse. No one function or industry exceeds more that 15% of the class. We find this diverse set of backgrounds and experiences a necessary component of the Executive MBA experience.