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First week of EMBA: a bit like The Apprentice

Sandy (Sandra) Dias is doing a Kellogg-Schulich Executive MBA. She has more than 10 years of sales experience and has spent the past six years working for L'Oréal Canada. She is both a national key account manager and a district manager for Quebec and Ontario boutiques for the luxury brand, Kiehl's Since 1851.

So you make the decision to go to Kellogg-Schulich for your EMBA, and are told your first week will be a live-in week. What should you expect? I joked it was like living an episode of The Apprentice, and it wasn't too far from the truth.

The first expectation is that you stay on campus for the whole week, encouraging you to be 100-per-cent focused. The welcome letter even reminds you to say goodbye to your husband or wife, girlfriend or boyfriend, child and pet. You will stay at the lovely EMBA residence, and settle in for a very full and intense week. The week is made up of two full classes, communication seminars, evening meets and greets and finishes with a dinner event where students invite a guest. I recommend taking the week off from work if you can. Some students had no choice but to juggle both, and it was unfortunate that they felt split throughout the week.

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The biggest portion of the week centres on your Home Team. Team-based learning is an over-arching theme of the EMBA. How you learn to work, lead, and manoeuvre and negotiate with a team is crucial to both the team and your own success. Group work is almost always a part of the classes you will take, and the expectation is that you learn to work efficiently and successfully with your team members.

How your team is chosen seems to be a combination of experience, background expertise and communication style. At Kellogg-Schulich they use the Insights program to determine your preferred communication style. Students are asked to complete an assessment prior to starting the program and are delivered the report during the first week. Participants are always surprised at how accurate the program is, and it provides some valuable insight - insight that you very quickly see play out in the first group assignment.

The meet and greets allow a more casual environment for mingling with your new peers, meeting future professors and allowing some downtime to ask questions. it encourages networking and sets the tone for how important networking will become throughout your EMBA experience. The dinner where you can invite a guest is a wonderful opportunity to share your experience with a loved one, mentor or colleague, and introduce them to the world you have just entered into.

The two classes we took (and completed) that week were: Leadership in Turbulent Times and Managing Globally. Leadership in Turbulent Times challenged us to think outside the box when working with teams. It encouraged us to look at our own team environments at work, and find ways to influence change. It provided techniques to analyze current situations and gave us frameworks to draw to on to create change. The second class, Managing Globally, was an engaging case-based class which drew on historical cases to examine the challenges facing global companies today. It provided contexts from which to examine the viability of going global, and pitfalls if these frameworks were ignored.

The classes were made up of lectures, group work and presentations and the final essays/take-home exams expected shortly after the week finished. It was intense; you're forced immediately to dive into your team dynamic and produce solid work. The class work is well balanced, but right from a start the team needs to make a plan and work the plan.

Expect long hours this first week. It's a time-crunch right from the start, and everyone experiences sleep deprivation, adrenalin, anger, happiness, frustration, satisfaction, pride and curiosity. It will either confirm your thoughts about the program or redefine them. Either way, you gain insight into the personalities of your team and some of the potential threats to your team (loafers, dominant team members, opposing personalities, complimentary work styles etc), and expectations on the calibre of work you need to deliver on.

Most importantly, you come away with a good sense of what the program will entail, have an opportunity to ask questions and understand what is expected of you. It's a powerful week and the necessity of that week resonates far beyond it. Two months in, I am still being reminded of the key learnings I took away from residence week.

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About the Author
MBA Diary

Sandy (Sandra) Dias is doing a Kellogg-Schulich Executive MBA. She has more than 10 years of sales experience and has spent the past six years working for L’Oréal Canada. She is Product Manager for Shu Uemura Canada. More

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