A fresh start

Three ex­perts re­flect on their ex­pe­ri­ence of pur­su­ing a man­age­ment de­vel­op­ment course and how it re­shaped their jour­ney.

The Smart Manager - - Contents - AMBI MG PARAMESWARAN IS FOUNDER OF BRAND-BUILD­ING.COM, A BRAND STRATE­GIST, AND THE AU­THOR OF EIGHT BOOKS IN­CLUD­ING THE LATEST NAWABS NUDES NOO­DLES – IN­DIA THROUGH 50 YEARS OF AD­VER­TIS­ING. (Ambi MG Parameswaran at­tended the Ad­vanced Man­age­ment Pro­gram at H

Three in­dus­try ex­perts share their ex­pe­ri­ence of pur­su­ing MDPs and how it veered the course of their ca­reer.

There is an old Bri­tish Air­ways ad that had the head­line, ‘have you ever won­dered why chil­dren walk to school but al­ways run out?’; many of us as chil­dren ex­hib­ited that be­hav­ior. Some­times it was the bor­ing physics class or the chem­i­cal unit op­er­a­tions class or the tax­a­tion case. We have felt like run­ning out of class. Equally there have been oc­ca­sions when we have felt that may be, just may be, we should go back to school for a re­fresher.

I de­cided to go back to busi­ness school a few years ago as I was tran­si­tion­ing my role at my old or­ga­ni­za­tion and get­ting ready to build a longer run­way for my own growth. My tim­ing may not be ap­pli­ca­ble to all of you. So the first ques­tion you need to ask is: when? And there is no per­fect time to go back to school. The de­ci­sion may de­pend on the in­dus­try, your own ca­reer progress, the skill gap you have iden­ti­fied, etc.

The next ques­tion that comes up is ‘what?’. In my case, it was the Har­vard Busi­ness School’s Ad­vanced Man­age­ment Pro­gram (AMP). I had heard of it from sev­eral of my friends and was keen that I should take an eight-week break to do the pro­gram. Yes, at eight weeks it is long, but ap­par­ently it was de­signed by HBS to help re­turn­ing World War II veterans to get back into cor­po­rate jobs. It was orig­i­nally an 18-week course that over time has been re­duced to eight weeks. Even at eight weeks, it is pretty packed and heavy, es­pe­cially for those ex­ec­u­tives who are not used to read­ing 100 pages of data (and in­for­ma­tion) ev­ery night.

What do you get from a course like AMP? The first big learn­ing is that you are no longer the ‘boss’. You are in a room where all are equals. Soon, you re­al­ize that many in the class run far big­ger com­pa­nies and teams than you have done. The di­ver­sity of the class lends a great amount to the learn­ing. In my class of 160, we had men and women from over fifty coun­tries and from di­verse in­dus­tries.

Which­ever pro­gram you go to, this will be played out in its own way. The class will be a mix of peo­ple and each of you will have the same share of voice.

The class is just the start of the learn­ing that we went through. The fact that the par­tic­i­pants were all housed in the same res­i­den­tial fa­cil­ity, the cre­ation of unique Living Groups added to the learn­ing. In each Learn­ing Group of eight there were peo­ple drawn from dif­fer­ent parts of the world and from diver­gent back­grounds.

The ped­a­gogy at HBS AMP was in­deed highly var­ied though the case method dom­i­nated the process. In the pro­gram, we got to lis­ten to many busi­ness lead­ers in­clud­ing Jack Welch. Many busi­ness schools have built in in­dus­try in­ter­ac­tion into their MDP sched­ule. And the learn­ing is fur­ther en­hanced with these great per­son­al­i­ties and their own sto­ries. I got as much out of the class as I got out­side it. The dis­cus­sion with fel­low par­tic­i­pants over lunch and din­ner was a class in it­self.

As you pick an MDP to go to, you need to do some home­work on what you want out of it. Is it just a ‘tag’ you want to dis­play? Or is it go­ing to be just an­other op­por­tu­nity to ‘net­work’? Or are you look­ing at en­hanc­ing your skills and be­come a bet­ter leader and a bet­ter man­ager?

If you are will­ing to put in that ex­tra into the MDP you go to, you will get all the above and more. I en­joyed the HBS AMP ex­pe­ri­ence. Learnt about a lot of new man­age­ment con­cepts (I was back in a B School al­most after 35 years). Un­der­stood the com­plex­i­ties of di­verse coun­tries and in­dus­tries. Given my in­ter­est in man­age­ment ed­u­ca­tion, saw the best teach­ers of man­age­ment in close ac­tion. And im­por­tantly, made some very good friends from around the globe. I think go­ing back to school was fun. I did not def­i­nitely run out of this school. ■

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