My Executive MBA Journey: 10 things I learned in AIM

Written by: Jon Robert F. Emlano, EMBA 2020

“…If you can dream and not make dreams your master;
If you can think and not make thoughts your aim…
…If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!…”

(‘Brother Square-Toes’—Rewards and Fairies)

May 2018. Our first learning team brainstorming session for the Systems Thinking course. This is the point when I felt I was in it for real

Since my two-year journey comes to a close, the AIM EMBA experience is one for the books and something that I really enjoyed. And in the interest of paying it forward, here are 10 things I’ve learned along the way:

  1. AIM is the best business school in the country (no arguments, and it’s not even close — really). Ask around. If you don’t have access or capacity to get an MBA abroad, AIM is the BEST option. It took me over a decade to prepare myself financially and professionally (experience is key).
  2. Your cohort, batch-mates, classmates are as important as your professors. Ask for the cohort details, key stats, etc. The discussions will only be as strong and valuable as the actors and players participating in it. Part of the strength of AIM is it theoretically accepts the best business minds in the country.
  3. This is grad school, there is no spoon-feeding here. In number 1, I said experience is key — I can’t emphasize this enough, EXPERIENCE is key. Make sure you have the number of years as experience, it will prove valuable in situations where the cases are too technical (or lengthy) and you only have your experience to rely on.
  4. Focus on your journey, it’s you that’s paying for it. There will come a point in time wherein the readings pile up and the amount of work seems impossible — then you are tempted to compare yourself with others. They have more time, fewer responsibilities at work, and at home. At this point, you need to stop and focus on your own journey.
  5. You are in the Executive MBA, working student (not student working) is the appropriate description. But this doesn’t excuse you from doing school work. You wanted this, so deal with it. The whole premise of the Executive MBA program requiring more years of experience is that you know how to deal with pressure. So DEAL WITH IT.
  6. Be helpful and be thankful. Since the program encompasses a wide spectrum of business concepts, from finance to leadership, technical skills to social and management skills — expertise on ALL courses is unlikely. If you have mastery of a certain course, help your classmates out. If you need help, ask, and listen. Pro tip: this is a great way to make real friends. Those that you help and will help you will surely be your friends in the long run. Extra pro tip: don’t expect everyone to be thankful, that’s alright — at the end of the day, both parties know who carried who.
  7. People will tell you to find stability at work first then take your MBA. Don’t listen to these people. If you have the opportunity to move to an early stage start-up, go ahead and take risks. The best decision I made was to move to Bukas while doing my AIM EMBA. Yes, it wasn’t easy, but I had a real-time / apply as I learn a model of learning. In the classroom, there’s a difference between theory and practice — in the real world, there’s just practice.
  8. Grades are good but not everything. This is grad school (constant reminder). Not to discount the work put in by honor graduates, but learning should be your priority — don’t be comPETTYtive (shout out to J and J!). Focus on learning. If you are keen on focusing on grades (grade conscious); if you want to be competitive then be conscious about your grade on your final capstone (thesis). That in itself should really be the test of what you’ve learned in the classroom (somewhat). Your final GPA will not define your success nor is it a measure of your capacity to learn. (in the interest of full disclosure I had a 4.0 GPA on a 5 point scale)
  9. (Personal opinion) The true strength of the AIM EMBA program is the “Leadership Suite” — made up of multiple courses from personal leadership to leading organizations and communities. Leadership is from ME to WE. Leadership is transformative. Leadership is about transformation, from personal vision to collective action.
  10. This is a collective decision. Although I mentioned in item 4 that this is your journey, you should be experienced enough to realize that this is NOT a personal decision. The program will take a lot of your time, so before diving in — talk to your inner circle. Family, friends, social circles — everyone will lose their normal time spent with you. This is inevitable with you balancing work and school. I purposely placed this as the last item so you won’t be discouraged because you shouldn’t. A lot of people have gone through and finished the program, including myself, so there is no reason (excuse) for you not to start and eventually finish.
Bonus tip: on financing your program — there are a lot of options. $27,500 is not cheap, but there are options. Do your research. Don’t make excuses.

This article was originally published at Medium by the author. To check the original post, you can visit this link: https://medium.com/@jrfemlano/my-executive-mba-journey-10-things-i-learned-in-aim-ef4504d11af0

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