Earlier this month I graduated from the University of Utah’s Executive MBA program. My graduate studies started in May 2011 when I took a college algebra class to qualify to enroll in the U’s Executive MBA program.
The program kicked-off mid-August 2011 with five days of class and 10-12 hours of programming each day at the beautiful Snowbird resort. After that, it was a year of meeting either on Friday or Saturday each week and completing various five- or 10-week classes. The next August we went back to Snowbird as second-years (I felt like I was in Harry Potter for a moment) to complete two more classes in five days. Then we were back to our Friday/Saturday schedule through mid-April 2013. In all, the U’s Executive MBA program takes 21 months.
The program culminated with a two-week international trip. Our class visited with business executives and government leaders in Berlin and Istanbul the last two weeks of April. The trip was great (more about that below).
A key component of the U’s top-ranked EMBA program is working in teams. I was fortunate enough to be on a team with seven others. In 2011 at Snowbird we committed to each other that we’d do whatever it took for all of us to get through the program. We learned to draw upon each other’s strengths and operate as an efficient team. And I’m happy to report that all of us graduated.
Each one of us pulled his or her own weight, contributing where individual knowledge, skills and abilities were strongest. Other teams in our class either divided the work equally or all did all the work then collaborated to come up with their best, combined work. Perhaps there were also some approaches that were combinations of those three approaches. For the record, I appreciate the way my team approached the work.
Looking back on the past two years, there are a few program highlights I’d like to share.
The network and relationships I now have with 67 other executives and a couple dozen faculty have already proven to be personally and professionally helpful and rewarding. The experience was invaluable in this respect. And now I’m part of an alumni group that’s strong and vibrant and generally looks out for one another.
The international travel with introductions to impressive international business and government leaders was thought provoking and just a whole lot of fun. The trip included several afternoons and weekend days spent traveling and exploring in Germany and Turkey. It was a blast; a great capstone to the hundreds of hours we spent together as a class.
While maximizing shareholder value is important, it’s also important to define and understand your own ethics and leadership style. Work is truly rewarding only when your personal values align with those of your organization or employer. This may seem obvious, but the realization came to me over the course of many weeks in several different classes. This concept deals with finding the right fit between you and your work. And for me, money is an ancillary part of this good fit.
I still don’t like math. While I did the hard work in accounting, statistics, economics and finance classes (it seems like there were too many finance classes to number them), I’m not completely transformed and on a trajectory to become CFO (although I know of other MBA students that did change careers to focus on finance during and after their experience). Rather, I’m a more well-rounded communication counselor with an enhanced vocabulary and understanding of financial issues and decisions faced by business leaders.
My ability to think strategically and to read has been enhanced. The program introduced me to methods of evaluating situations and reinforced my ability to identify strategies and employ effective tactics. Although I never was able to make it through all of the assigned reading material, I am a whole lot more efficient at consuming content. (And I do admire those who are able to complete 100% of assigned reading. That’s just not me. Sorry, professors.)
Perseverance and hard work really does pay off. Over and over I kept thinking: just make it through this week, or just get through this next assignment. If you take it one day at a time, it’s amazing what you can accomplish in 21 months (24 in my case).
It was September 2012, after a particularly difficult time in graduate school, when I wrote this article about being enough. And I still believe it. Regardless of the challenges and struggles I experience, I am good enough and capable enough to not just survive, but to excel. We all are.
Thank you to the administrators and program staff of the University of Utah Executive MBA program. The service you perform goes above and beyond expectations. Although the experience was difficult — I’d say the most difficult thing I’ve ever done — I can’t imagine going back to school for an MBA in any other program.
My degree came at great personal and family sacrifice. It wasn’t easy. It was expensive — the most expensive thing I’ve ever purchased except a home.
Like my father-in-law said during the program: “If it was easy, everyone would do it.”
Because of my experience working toward an MBA degree I believe I’m a better person, a more skilled worker, and even a better husband and father — which is what matters most to me.
Here I am presenting during our last day of class.
And here I am, below, on graduation day.