Articles from The Globe and Mail

Are MBAs for losers?

If you decide to return to school to gain an MBA, it seems like a declaration of ambition to grow. But Penelope Trunk views it differently: An admission you are failing at your work. With admission deadlines for many schools coming up, she urges you to withdraw your application or stop working on it. “Because you should not go to business school. If you want to start a company, you should start a company. And if you want to climb the corporate ladder you should do that. An MBA does not help you with either of those goals,” the provocative careers blogger insists. For many people, the MBA is a path to middle management. But she argues if you’re a strong performer you’ll get into middle management faster by working than taking two years off for studies. And if you think you need to go to MBA school to become an entrepreneur, she says you’re clearly not cut out to be one. She sketches out various types of performers who take MBAs, including: People who work with morons: After all, if you were working with talented people they would want you to stay alongside them. “If you are due for a promotion and your boss says you need an MBA to move up, your first thought should be ‘My company sucks.’ Because an MBA doesn’t teach you anything you can’t learn on the job or teach yourself as needed. If you absolutely have to get an MBA to move up at your company then get a mail-order MBA from a terrible school that requires very little effort,” she writes. People who can’t close in the job chase: They hate job hunting, so they hope the MBA will land them...

What MBA programs must do to stay relevant

A globally competitive, fast-changing MBA market – as is the case today – puts pressure on business schools to be flexible, responsive and innovative to prosper in uncertain times. “Tomorrow’s MBA is being disrupted,” concludes a new report on business education by London-based consultants CarringtonCrisp and the non-profit European Foundation for Management Development, citing shifting demands by students, rising expectations of employers and advances in technology. “For business schools wanting a strong MBA offer, innovation is likely to be a necessity, because sticking with the past could mean missing out on tomorrow’s MBA.” Study author Andrew Crisp envisages “a couple of different paths” for MBAs of the future. On one front, top-ranked schools will modify content and delivery but look much as they do today, he predicts, while others will embark on “all sorts of experimentation” to secure their footing in an evolving market. “Very much out of necessity, there is a drive to innovate,” he says. This year, for the first time, the annual study of 1,500 prospective MBA students from 75 countries (including Canada) found a slight preference for the full-time, one-year MBA over traditional two-year programs. As well, what students want to study has changed since the first survey conducted seven years ago. Today, one in four students (no matter their ultimate career) wants to study entrepreneurship, up from one in five just a year ago. Project management, technology management and data analytics are newcomers to the current top-10 list of popular content, joining entrepreneurship as an already-hot topic. Canadian business school leaders say the study’s findings ring true for their circumstances. Whether old hands or newly-minted deans, they see escalating pressure to stay relevant with new content, new modes of delivery, additional degree offerings and...

How business schools help stressed-out MBAs

There’s no denying that the world of business can come with intense pressure and immense stress. For those with an MBA or executive MBA to their name, the strain can start on campus. The workload in such programs is tremendous. EMBA students at Smith School of Business at Queen’s University, for example, can expect to put in about 25 hours a week on top of their work and family obligations, according to Elspeth Murray, the school’s associate dean of MBA and master programs. If those external demands aren’t enough, many place intense pressure on themselves to excel or outdo their classmates. “These are students coming from a variety of fields who are usually top in their class,” adds Michael Maier, associate dean of master programs at the University of Alberta’s business school. “They may be getting Bs when they’re used to getting all As. It’s humbling.” Although figures don’t exist for Canadian institutions, research by the Higher Education Statistics Agency in Britain shows that mental-health conditions among higher education students – which include undergraduates, postgraduates and MBAs – rose to 35,500 in 2015 from 13,060 in 2010. Dropout rates among these same learners more than tripled during the same period. In 2016, the London-based Association of MBAs found that, from among more than 2,000 member business schools from 104 countries, stress-management skills were included in 37 per cent of MBA programs because of rising mental-health challenges at the graduate level. With universities increasingly sensitive to mental health, especially as the subject gains greater awareness through initiatives like this month’s Bell Let’s Talk day on Jan. 31, several business schools across Canada are taking steps to address related challenges among its MBA and EMBA students. While all students at the...

It’s time to reinvent the MBA

Are MBA programs still viable? Are their graduates still valued by employers? Despite these questions, demand for MBA programs is growing: 84 per cent of companies worldwide plan to add new MBAs to their work force in 2015 – up from 74 per cent in 2014 and 62 per cent five years ago, according to a global survey of employers published by the U.S.-based Graduate Management Admission Council. The MBA is hardly dying, and certainly far from dead. But it needs an overhaul. When MBA programs originated in the United States in the early 20th century, the country had industrialized and companies wanted more scientific approaches to management. Today, most MBA programs – about 10,000 and growing – still use pedagogical approaches designed to legitimize management as a science, lecturing in classrooms and teaching cases on topics derived from disciplinary silos. This is true of even the most established and prestigious MBA programs. The boom of new programs around the world, and increasing competition for the brightest students, ought to spur innovation in curricula. The complex challenges confronting contemporary society, such as addressing climate change, reducing inequality and ensuring the sustainability of health systems, demand it. As leaders of organizations who today employ MBAs around the world, and MBA graduates ourselves, we have insights into what this innovation should look like to ensure MBA programs fulfill their responsibility to prepare leaders able to meet these challenges and have positive impacts on their organizations, communities and society more broadly. At a recent conference celebrating 50 years of the MBA at McGill University’s Desautels Faculty of Management in Montreal, we listened to and learned from more than 200 successful MBA alumni, professors and students from around the world in order to...

Why the interview is the most important part of an MBA application...

Sitting across from one or two people knowing your future is on the line can be a nerve-racking experience. For those interested in earning an MBA at nearly all the business schools across Canada, an interview is a vital part of the selection process. “It terrifies people. The tone of the interview makes them feel pressure,” explains Shai Dubey, director of the MBA program at Queen’s University in Kingston. But it’s not meant to be that way. It’s supposed to be a part of the grander selection process to determine whether a prospect makes a good candidate for an MBA program. “It’s not an interview, really,” Prof. Dubey says. “It’s a conversation. If it is a conversation, then we’ve done a good job.” For many schools, the interview completes a prospect’s application – along with his or her transcript, graduate management admission test (GMAT) scores and usually a personal essay or résumé, and Prof. Dubey says it’s a crucial process. “When you think about getting a résumé from someone, it’s a high-level sketch that they want to tell you. Résumés are usually polished, while an interview is raw,” he says. “There’s no voice for them [résumés] – it’s black ink on white paper. We still don’t know the personality of that person. So the interview answers questions that you can’t find out about by looking at numbers.” The MBA interview isn’t meant to trick anyone, contrary to popular belief. A story from Business Insider reports that people who interviewed with Google were once asked, “Why are manhole covers round?” MBA hopefuls might think these are the kind of questions they’ll be greeted with, but it isn’t true. “There are a lot of behavioural questions that are asked – ‘Talk...

Building a network just as valuable as the MBA degree itself...

If I had to choose one takeaway to share as I make the transition from my MBA into the corporate world, it would be that relationships matter. Period. Looking back on my journey submerged in textbooks, case competitions, formulas and all-nighters puts a smile on my face. I acquired a top-calibre education, instilled the proper work habits, refined my teamwork aptitude and, most importantly, expanded my network in all the right ways. Mission accomplished, right? Absolutely. To me, my network is everything. But let’s rewind and unravel this topic further. It’s fascinating how what’s important changes based on immediacy and circumstances – and both graduate school and life thereafter can certainly attest to this. Let me give you an example. As a sales and marketing professional now, my to-do list is far from building pro formas, balancing income statements or calculating the EBITA of a potential investment. But a few months ago this stuff was important and consumed me. It’s incredible how fast-paced and volatile life and business are these days. Having a quality, diverse and expanded network with meaningful relationships can act as your foundation no matter the flavour of the week. A constant and stabilizer, if you will. The old saying “it’s not what you know, but who you know” is fundamentally changing the way we conduct business. I make sure to invest, cultivate and nurture my network every chance I get by keeping up-to-date. There’s really no point in having a network if you only reach out to it when you need something. Relationships take work and attention, and your circle of colleagues and acquaintances is no exception. I jumped into an MBA to gain business acumen and came out with the network, tool set and...

Two-year MBAs still the gold standard

Full-time, two-year MBA programs worldwide edged out their one-year counterparts in terms of growth, according to new application trends for 2014 analyzed by the Graduate Management Admission Council. For the second year in a row, 65 per cent of two-year MBA programs reported increased or stable application volumes compared to flat or declining demand for one-year and specialized graduate offerings. Among one-year programs, 60 per cent reported a decrease in application volumes from last year, according to the council that administers the widely-used entrance exam for graduate business programs. For some students, a two-year MBA has an advantage over shorter-duration programs despite a higher price, says Michelle Sparkman Renz, director of research communication for GMAC. “It might offer additional time with classmates for networking, internships, activities for case competitions or even exchange or study abroad.” According to the survey, students in a majority of programs still expect employer reimbursement of degrees. Based on a record response from 748 programs at 314 universities, the survey highlights the diversification of offerings globally and the growing presence of foreign candidates. International students accounted for 52 per cent of applicants to 135 full-time, two-year MBA programs worldwide in 2014, up from 48 per cent to 115 programs 2009. In 2009, foreign students accounted for 60 per cent of 25 master of finance programs offered in 2009. But by 2014, among 38 programs reporting to GMAC, they represented 82 per cent of applicants worldwide. “It speaks to the internationalization and the international curriculum that an MBA or specialized business master can grant someone,” Ms. Sparkman Renz says. One Canada-specific finding is its 10th spot placement among top destinations for recruiters, according to the survey. China, India and the United States top the list, but...