By Janani Mittal, EMBAD 2024
Once you have taken the crucial decision of starting an executive MBA, convinced yourself, your family, your support system and yourself again about the importance of it for your personal growth, comes the daunting step of deciding how to finance your education. This decision could be a make or break factor for you depending on your personal situation. As a working professional, sponsorship from your employer not only eases the financial burden but can also serve as a validation of the importance your employer places on you and your executive education.
Depending on your situation, the company you work for, the support from your manager etc, you may need to adopt different methodologies, but I will list below some of the common things to think about, what worked for me and what learnings I had.
Do the research.
First and most important factor is to understand the company policies and precedence. Has your company sponsored others? How frequently do they sponsor employees? Do they have any upper limits on financial sponsorship? What criteria do you need to satisfy to be eligible? Is there a bond involved, how many years, what happens if you break it etc? And if you can, do reach out to those who have been sponsored before and understand how they approached the request, what worked for them, what challenges did they face and how did they overcome it. My company has very clear policies and plenty of precedence, so that was easy to navigate for me, but might not be the same for others. You can also talk to senior leader mentors and sponsors in your company. Understand from them, what would make them/made them sponsor employees in their teams. These discussions with my mentors and other senior stakeholders turned out to be very helpful for me to build an overall support network and I will come to that later.
Think both short and long term
Make a holistic business case for the sponsorship. Think about why the MBA important for your growth – reflect on feedback received, development actions you have identified and functional & leadership gaps you want to close. Connect this to what the benefit would be for your current team and what learnings you can apply today. Equally, think about long term benefits, if you were to stay with the same company, what is your trajectory of growth and how would the MBA help you be a successful leader in the future. In this thinking, we often focus on the functional & leadership skills, but forget the benefit that the LBS network provides. For me, I had worked in the same company for my entire career, so one of the key gains was the exposure to a diverse set of external views which is critical in current times. Think of this as an investment that gives you immediate short term gains but also a sustainable long term benefit.
Know/develop your cheerleaders.
Your manager may already be supportive of your MBA plans but might not be the decision making authority. However he/she can become your most important cheerleader. Once my manager was convinced of my business case, he championed my cause and with that lent his authority to my voice. This adds greater credibility to your case and makes it easier to convince the decision makers. This is also where my mentors came in. One of my mentors played the crucial role of openly voicing her belief in my career potential to the decision makers, tipping the decision in favour of my sponsorship.
Know your BATNA
Depending on your personal situation, you maybe willing to take up the EMBA with or without financial support. Conversations around financial support is a negotiation, be clear in your head what you are willing to walk away with. As a (future)leader in your company, use this opportunity to also be thoughtful about the company’s financial situation, can they afford full sponsorship, what level of financial support would be more acceptable for both of you etc.
I cannot overemphasize the importance of this and it is one of my biggest learnings. Remember that conversations around financial sponsorship is iterative and can take months. Start early, be patient and use the time in between to cultivate new cheerleaders, explore alternate financing options and to identify opportunities to strengthen your business case. And remember that even after you have gotten the confirmation of sponsorship, the administration processes involved in processing the payment in your company can be from a few weeks to several months, so start early!!
Finally, think about both time and money when it comes to sponsorship. Doing the EMBA requires a time commitment of 44 working days (Mon-Fri) in the first year if you are doing it from the Dubai campus and 22 for the London campus. This is a huge time commitment from both you and your employer and ensure that you have a clear & open conversation with your employer on how you are going to manage your time (company leave, personal leave etc) upfront to avoid misalignment of expectations.
Find out more about Executive MBA Dubai fees, scholarships and company sponsorships here.
If you would like to know more about my experience, feel free to reach out to me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, I’m happy to help!