Earning your MBA while still working full-time might sound like an insurmountable challenge. It's a challenge, true, but it's also incredibly rewarding and can be pivotal to career progression.
Mary Fisher, Director of the National Academy of Design, a non-profit arts organization in New York.
Photo: Mary (centre) with other Executive MBA students
What are your hopes for the study week?
For the upcoming study week, we are doing finance, accounting and managing organizational change – each of which I use daily at my job and it is invaluable to be working through these topics with amazing professors and experienced peers. We covered a number of finance cases to prepare for this week, and I am looking forward to going through the explanations. Some of the cases address topics that I can apply immediately to my job, and through these exercises we are learning best practices.
What do you think you will find challenging?
I do not have an academic background in finance so this course and subject matter is inherently challenging.
The weekend before:
I flew in on Saturday morning and after getting settled in, I met up with a former colleague from France and a few fellow MBA students to explore the food festival at Kungsträdgården. The first day back in Stockholm and reconnecting with my classmates is always exciting.
On Sunday I was invited to have a BBQ in the garden of my classmate who has just moved to Sweden from China. We are both taking the program for a career change and it was great to catch up outside of class and chat about what we expect in the week to come.
Photo: Mary and her classmates enjoying a BBQ before study week four
Each Monday opens with a look back on what we covered in the last program week. After a few weeks of intense work between being together in person, for both my job and also the program, this moment gives us a chance to reflect. It is valuable to hear the key takeaways from the group.
Most of the day we focused on company valuations and after a casual dinner together, we gathered with our groups and leadership coaches to practice some techniques to be more effective managers. We discussed our working styles, and because we have been working so closely together for the last six months, we were able to speak candidly, productively, and really discuss what we do well as professionals and how we can enhance our skills. We also worked together on an exercise to put our team communication skills to the test. Our group came in third and had a few laughs.
Photo: Day one of the fourth study week at SSE
Today we began the organizational change module and it was a nice compliment to the more math-based topics. During lunch, we learned more about our trip in October to San Francisco and how we should organize our company visits. One of the best aspects of the program is that during lunch or at breaks, everyone is always friendly and up for a coffee and a chat.
We ended the day with Corporate Social Responsibility and sustainable investing; a representative from AP7, was our guest lecturer. This topic is especially critical because, working in a non-profit, it is necessary to put sustainability at the forefront of our processes. It is very interesting to hear how all sorts of companies and organizations achieve sustainability goals. A classmate works at an art organization in Stockholm and it was incredibly helpful to compare institutional processes.
On day three we kicked off with finance and before the week we work with HBS cases to learn the foundations of corporate finance. The way finance is taught here is key because both experienced CFOs and people new to the topic are learning how to use it as a better management tool. Engineers, scientists, doctors, and CEOs work together through real-life financial cases and make decisions.
For lunch we network with the students we don’t often get to work with in class. After lunch we were introduced to the coaches who will facilitate our Change Live projects. This module is incredibly valuable because over the next year, I am creating the strategic plan for my organization and I am thrilled that my coach’s research aligns very well with the changes I need to execute. The other seven students in my group come from varying sectors, fields and countries, so the input is critical and rich. My board is looking forward to seeing the results of this project implemented. Next, a 2018 MBA student spoke with the class and explained how he successfully improved processes at Ericsson.
Photo: Mary (back right) and her classmates during a trip to Fjäderholmarna
Each week one group plans a social activity for the MBA group. At the end of the day we caught the boat to Fjäderholmarna where we had dinner and some fresh air. It was a beautiful trip and I learned about the archipelago from my Swedish colleagues and made plans with some others to meet up over the summer for a day out of the city.
This was the most intense day; we worked on the finance cases. The teamwork is key here as all of the students have used finance differently at work and we can learn from each other’s real-world processes. I was sitting next to a classmate from England and it was beneficial to discuss the differences in process in our countries and businesses.
At the end of the day we had an introduction to the Innovation and Entrepreneurship concentration. For the program we each chose between a concentration in either Finance & Accounting or Innovation & Entrepreneurship. It is a difficult choice!
We wrapped up the week and the Finance module. A colleague from LA was in Stockholm for the weekend and she joined the group for happy hour at a classmate’s apartment and dinner as a group.
On my first day back at work in New York, I was able to continue the fun of the program. A 2018 MBA student based in the city and an SSE Program Advisor who was in town, joined me at my club for lunch. It’s great to see that we have these connections internationally.
Pavel Tatyanin, Global eCommerce Cluster Leader at Schneider Electric, Sweden.
Photo: Pavel with his leadership coach
What are your hopes for the study week?
Time flies and I’m already preparing to start the fourth study week of the Executive MBA. So far, it has been an exciting journey where I’ve had the chance not only to start learning new things but also meet amazing people in my class.
I’m looking forward to deepening my knowledge in Finance, Accounting and CSR, getting new insights about Group Work & Team Effectiveness during the LeadershipLive session and am curious to start the Managing Organizational Change subject. I believe this experience will be relevant in my current role and help me gain new skills to better manage the team and organization in the future.
What do you think you will find challenging?
As I already learned by now the most challenging thing is to manage to be away and 100 percent focused on the studies despite things happening both in your professional and private life. At the same time, you value this opportunity to invest the time in your development and interact with classmates while expanding your network and knowledge.
We started the first day with a reflection session of the previous week and it was insightful to discover how classmates have been applying the knowledge obtained so far in their professional life. Personally, I already see that this study gives me the ability to question things more and broaden my perspective. The main part of the day was dedicated to accounting where it was useful to learn about company evaluation and challenge my understanding of how tech companies are valued today.
During the evening, we had a group coaching session which started with an open discussion with my peers around group work and team efficiency and finished with team building - a marshmallow challenge! In 20 minutes working as a team we managed to build the highest tower and win the main prize! It was a long and insightful day and I’m looking forward to tomorrow!
The marshmallow challenge in action.
The day was built around three main subjects: Introduction to Managing Organisational Change, Finance, where we analysed one of Warren’s Buffett smart investment cases, and CSR. I was impressed by the skills of our finance teacher to spark genuine interest and live discussions around capital structure.
During the CSR session we had a guest speaker: Johan Floren, who is the head of communication & ESG at Sweden’s largest pension fund AP7. I was surprised to learn about AP7 Active ownership tools that aim to influence and improve various aspects of CSR through sustainable investment and blacklist companies that ignore it. Living in Sweden and paying my taxes here, I’m proud that AP7 takes an active lead and sets the direction not only for Sweden but Europe in general to make our planet better for future generations.
It was an intensive day with 12 hours in class - even lunchtime was turned into a meeting to learn about upcoming trip to San Francisco. A lot of information to process and put together in perspective with previous learnings!
Photo: Pavel with fellow students
The day started with a morning session on the finance diving in the Marriott case. Beyond the theory and math behind it I was excited to learn about Marriott’s business model with a strong link to capital structure. In the afternoon, we met with our coach Andy to review several ChangeLive projects and get recommendations on how to question the scope to ensure that we address real company needs and make the most of this project. I was interested to see that my classmates were addressing the real pain points of the target companies and value they hope to bring.
We finished the afternoon with a presentation of one of the most successful ChangeLive projects from last year which was done in Ericsson. I like that fact that school is building the community of alumni from different years who are happy to come and share their experiences.
We finished the day with a boat trip and dinner at Fjaderholmarna and reflection with my fellow classmates in front of iconic Swedish archipelago.
Photo: Pavel and classmates in the Stockholm archipelago
This morning, we were joined by several students who may join the MBA program next year. I remember last year I was one of them - curious to see live class sessions and pick up on ‘the studying vibes’ in the room. Our day was dedicated to the finance cases where we learned about valuation techniques and the nature of private equity business. At the end of the lectures we had a guest speaker from Carneo share his experience and feed our curiosity about alternative investment. It was interesting to hear what exactly he considers ‘alternative investments’ and discover the current trend in private and public markets.
Photo: Intro to Innovation & Entrepreneurship
During the summer we are supposed to make a big choice and pick a specialisation from either Finance or Innovation & Entrepreneurship for a deep dive. By now we already have a pretty good understanding and foundation around finance and to help the class with the choice SSE have organised a special introduction session on Innovation & Entrepreneurship. The introduction has smoothly transitioned into dinner where we had a chance to discuss and ask questions about this specialisation directly to the teachers and guests from the previous class. Both areas of specialisation are exciting and promising and it’s going to be a hard choice to make for many of us.
Last day of the week I have started with short bicycle ride to SSE to get some fresh air before we continued with the finance topic. In the morning, we deep dived on the Capital Asset Pricing Model in Yale University Investment’s case and IPO for L'Occitane en Provence with a short break for lunch with classmates. Nowadays, we often hear about companies going public but this case gave an opportunity to understand the pros and cons related to this decision.
After the short wrap up and sharing plans we were ready to kick off the weekend! But the studies do not stop here and this summer is going to be special as we have a long list of assignments to complete prior to the next face-to-face week at the end of the August.
This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by SSE.