Reflections on my two-year Exeutive MBA at Cass business school

Arif Harbott
Arif Harbott

All too soon I have finished my two-year Executive MBA at Cass Business School. In this post I try to capture what I have learned and was it worth the large financial investment.

Last year I wrote a summary post of the first year of my MBA and all too quickly I have completed my final year at Cass Business School. I had my final elective last month and then an amazing trip to China to learn about their culture and approach to business.  China was a fitting end to my MBA experience; and like so much of the MBA it was a voyage into the unknown.

First, the good news

The second year of the MBA was nowhere near as intense at the first year but it did pose different challenges and experiences.  The first year was very structured, lectures twice a week, 12 exams and 14 core electives plus the emerging markets consultancy report, a huge volume of teaching.

The second year had seven electives (most running over a long weekend) and a 15,000 word thesis.  Even the content and format of the teaching was different, it was very much about application and consolidating knowledge rather than trying to cram in a huge amount of content like the first year. However only having ad hoc weekend lectures made the periods between lectures harder to carve out time for coursework and preparation for the next elective.

The first year felt like a memory test whereas the second year was more about thinking and applying what you have learned.

The content of the two years of MBA

Here is how the course broke down over the two years:

  • Leadership weekend
  • 14 core electives
  • 12 exams
  • 10 day consultancy trip to Brazil
  • Emerging markets consultancy report (from Brazil)
  • 8 days of professional development (media training, presentation skills etc)
  • 7 electives
  • 15,000 word thesis

The dreaded thesis

For the last couple of months I have been working on my thesis (which I handed in last week), although a very gruelling process in a funny sort of way I really enjoyed it and I genuinely learnt a lot.  The thesis is the culmination of your learning and is a superb way to structure your arguments and research.

Although 15,000 words sounds like a lot it really isn’t and it is very easy to get to 15,000 words. However getting to 15,000 quality words is a whole different matter and takes a lot of crafting.

Here are some of the things I learned from writing my thesis:

  1. Chose a topic you enjoy! You are going to be spending a 100 hours on this project so they might as well be enjoyable.
  2. Pick an advisor that you know and like. My advisor was superb and spent a lot of time with me, other people were not so lucky. I chose one of my lecturers from one of my previous electives so I already had a working relationship with them.
  3. Start early. It is much better to get an early draft that you can hone over time.
  4. Use naive reviewers. My Dad kindly read my thesis for me and it was great to get the perspective of someone who had no context of my paper. If he could understand it then people with knowledge of my topic would too.
  5. Use graphics and design.  There is nothing worse than 15,000 words in a row, make sure you use a good designer to add colour or add graphics and images to make it interesting.
  6. Use layered storytelling. The flow of the document should be like an onion as the reader reads more they should uncover more detail at each level.
  7. You are in charge. Don’t rely on others to drive your project it is yours and you are responsible for the output and timings.

I have posted a blog post on my whole thesis.

What I have learned

This is a hard question as it is difficult to be objective about yourself but overall I have learned a process for investigation, research and gaining knowledge.

I have obviously gained a huge amount of knowledge but the experience has given me a superb lesson is how to debate my views, how to communicate my ideas and a structured way to gain and retain knowledge.

Would I do it again?

There were times where I had my doubts but I would definitely do it again if I had the chance.  The knowledge I have gained, the skills I have learned and the friends I have made were well worth the investment.

Is it worth the huge financial and emotional cost?

I think it is. I have grown a huge amount in the last two years both intellectually and emotionally.  More importantly I was able to secure an amazing job as a direct result of the MBA (see my previous post explaining the  job application for Lloyds Future Executives Programme).

If you are thinking about doing an MBA and have any questions at all please send me a note and I will reply to you as best I can.

Thanks Cass Business School and thanks to all the friends I have made and to all the people who have helped me along the way.

Reflections on my two-year Exeutive MBA at Cass business school

3 thoughts on “Reflections on my two-year Exeutive MBA at Cass business school

  1. Hello Arif,

    I enjoy reading your posts. What’s your impression about the EMBA at Cass starting in March (deliver over one long weekend per month)? Thanks

    1. Hi Perez. The modular MBA, or MEMBA as Cass calls it, is a very different learning experience to the executive MBA, EMBA, delivered over two evenings a week. From what I could see the modular cohorts had a lot more social interaction as they often were away from home in hotels and could therefore spend evenings together. Personally I chose the evening format over the modular format as it gave me more time to absorb concepts and prepare for classes. Having said that some of my electives were delivered over one long weekend and I really enjoyed four full days being immersed in a subject. I am not sure that helps but drop me a line if you want to chat further.

  2. Thanks, It’s very interesting to know that the MEMBA is a very different learning experience to the EMBA. Do you think that students who do the MEMBA come mainly from abroad or within the UK? Thank you

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