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Business people arguing at a table. From photos.com (Marcin Balcerzak/Getty Images)
Business people arguing at a table. From photos.com (Marcin Balcerzak/Getty Images)

EMBA: Why straying from comfort works Add to ...

Sandy (Sandra) Dias is Group Marketing Manager for L’Oreal Canada’s Kiehl's Since 1851 brand. While doing a Kellogg-Schulich Executive MBA, she wrote a blog for The Globe and Mail’s Business Education hub.

One of the advantages of the Kellogg-Schulich EMBA program is the ability for Canadian students to complete electives at the Kellogg School of Management at the Northwestern University campus in Evanston, Ill.

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The Canadian cohort chooses four electives, taken over six alternate class weekends (January-March) with the American cohorts. These 12 weeks are an unbelievable opportunity to work (and network) with an entirely new group of students.

The atmosphere of living on campus is conducive to developing and deepening relationships forged over the 12 weeks – and I strongly encourage future cohorts to step away from their comfort zone and try to maximize these new connections. It’s human nature to gravitate to your Canadian peers, but I speak from experience when I say that some of my best memories were of nights spent getting to know a whole new set of classmates, over a glass of wine at evening lounge, over dinners in the dining room and over beers in Evanston.

The students at Kellogg are an impressive mix of talent and experience: surgeons, entrepreneurs, human resource/talent specialists, non-profit directors, school teachers, crisis management experts, consultants ... the list goes on. The scope and depth of experience is larger than the Canadian cohort, if for no other reason than the sheer size of the classes (150-plus students).

A focus on teams and shifting circumstances makes the Kellogg network so valuable. We are not allowed to get too comfortable or complacent, reflecting the real world and our current jobs. It’s rare we have a perfectly effective team in our work environments, and through this program we develop a solid skill set to manoeuvre through tough and stressful situations in an effective way. We are lucky if we make a few trusted relationships in our career; the challenge is learning to work with those we don’t see eye to eye with. Different goals and motivations can put an otherwise high-potential team at risk – ask any doctor, business manager or contractor.

There’s also the privilege of being taught by some spectacular professors. Amongst them: Advanced Negotiations with Dr. Victoria Medvec. Dr. Medvec has a vibrant and engaging teaching style and profound expertise in negotiation strategy. Advanced Negotiations builds on the Negotiations elective taken in the summer by improving students' skills in all phases of negotiation. The course is based on a series of simulated negotiations in a variety of contexts, which help bring to life the frameworks taught in class.

Another elective (which I didn’t choose) that comes highly recommended is Entrepreneurial Finance with Prof. Steven Rogers. This teaches prospective entrepreneurs the fundamentals of entrepreneurship with a focus on finance. Topics include pro-forma development and review, business valuation models, cash flow analysis and raising capital.

Jason Edwards, a successful real estate entrepreneur for 10 years and a fellow EMBA student from the Kellogg program, said he received a world-class educational experience from a top professor who challenged him to compare his own personal entrepreneurial expectations against the Kellogg model. After just one session, Mr. Edwards realized how many opportunities he’d missed in his own business over the past 10 years.

“This class was the vehicle which took lofty, global marketing strategies, and transformed them from theory to tools to change our personal financial lives, not just the shareholders that most of us work for,” he said.

Next up for me: a trip to Brazil and Chile – another elective I chose called Global Initiatives in Management (GIM) – South America. It promises to be a great learning adventure.

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