I have often heard about MBA programmes during my professional career but thought they were not for me. The prospect of going back to school was daunting; I was enjoying my position, my company, and my family life. But in 2002, it became clear that I would not stay in my firm for long. I was on the brink of leaping into the job market, which was devastated. Suddenly, studying for an MBA emerged as a possible option.

I started researching the MBA market and discovered an unexpectedly large range of education programmes. I was 43, married, with a large family, and I realised that only a few of the French MBA programmes were fitting my needs.

I visited an MBA forum and learned about executive education programmes at institutions such as the University of Chicago GSB, IMD Lausanne, and the Sloan Masters at London Business School, which definitely looked more attractive. It was late February already and I realised that I had to hurry up if I were to meet the application deadlines.

The best thing I did was to select a coach who I met at the MBA forum and who helped me become more disciplined.

What followed was one of the most hectic periods of my life: juggling between the obligations of my job, the school application deadlines, and the preparation for the admissions tests. Thanks to fifteen years of international exposure, the TOEFL proved to be easy, but I must admit the GMAT was quite a challenge. My advice is: don’t be caught by surprise, give yourself a timeframe long enough to prepare for your tests, and then you can genuinely reflect on what education programme best suits your needs.

By May, I had submitted two applications: one to the University of Chicago and another one to London Business School. The applications triggered interviews with the deans in Barcelona and London, which I thought was an achievement in itself. Another advice: Don’t try to sex up your essays by writing what you think the admission committee would like to read. They want to know whether you truly took your time deliberating on yourself, your contribution to the school, and the reasons why their programme fits your needs.

The admission committees were attracted by my international experience and by my essays featuring true and personal stories. I gained admission to both schools. I was, however, placed in a difficult situation of having to answer to Barcelona prior to receiving London’s response.

I took the risk of declining the offer from Barcelona because London Business School’s programme takes less time to complete and because it is located in London, closer to my family. In addition, the average age and experience of Sloan fellows was closer to mine.

On September 8, 2003 I enrolled in the Sloan Masters programme at London Business School. I was swiftly introduced to concepts I had never been exposed to during my professional career and had to analyse the financial reports of two of the world’s largest companies – quite a shock for me.

Although the school is very explicit about the overwhelming nature of the first term, I felt like “drinking from a fire hose”, to quote a fellow student.

The end of the first term culminated in a trip to Buenos Aires with my fellow students, our Professor of Macroeconomics and our Dean. It was a very interesting mix of classes and visits to local companies and official bodies such as the Central Bank, which helped me understand the shock that had recently hit the Argentinean economy.

To put it shortly, these are some of the surprises I had during my business school education. However, all in all, it was definitely an experience worthwhile. Needless to say I would do it all over again, if I could go back!

About Etienne Roux

  • London Business School MBA student
  • Diploma from the Paris Graduate School of Management (formerly ESG), Paris 1982
  • Reading at the Sloan Masters at London Business School
  • Sales Director - 20 years’ experience
  • Headed multinational sales teams for packaging materials with application in the cosmetics and the pharmaceuticals industries
  • Established and developed sales offices in India, China, and South America, managed the Japanese sales operation
  • Created and successfully implemented the key account management function in Europe