Global Insights: Columbia Block Week Exchange Experience

By Daria Boiko (EMBADS2024)

Embarking on an educational journey that spans continents can be a transformative experience, offering a unique opportunity to gain insights from diverse perspectives and cultures. In this blog, one of our current EMBA-Dubai students, Daria Boiko delves into the Columbia Block Week Exchange, where boundaries blur, and learning transcends geographical constraints.

How did your experience at Columbia Business School differ from your experiences at London Business School? Were there any unexpected similarities or differences?

[DB]: Overall, the experience at Columbia Business School was quite similar to the one at LBS. The same class format, delivery and atmosphere in class made me feel at home. What was different though, and that is one of the reasons I’ve always wanted to go for an exchange week at CBS, is the fact that the course gave me a glimpse of a different perspective and a different way of getting things done. With all the variety that LBS offers, we rarely get to look at topics through the American lens. At CBS, however, being an “outsider” was beneficial from the learning point of view as well as allowed me to bring some diversity to the class offering a different approach and triggering fruitful discussions on cultural differences.

Were there any specific courses or topics that stood out to you as particularly relevant or impactful for your career goals and interests?

[DB]: I took the Power and Influence course which is a topic that excites many and is relevant at any stage in our careers as well as in our day-to-day lives. Understanding that it is common and absolutely natural to exert influence in a workplace and realising that everybody does to a certain extent (even though subconsciously at times) made an impact on how I approach my business interactions and manage intra-company dynamics. Not only have the learnings from the course proven to be useful and immediately applicable in my career progression, but I am also sure that they will come in handy on different occasions in future.

Did your interactions with faculty and peers at Columbia Business School provide you with new perspectives or insights that you hadn’t considered before? If so, could you elaborate on any notable examples?

[DB]: I believe that the term “The New World” exists for a reason. Despite globalisation and an abundance of cross-border business interactions, things are still done quite differently on opposite sides of the Atlantic. The opportunity to sit in a classroom with dozens of America’s brightest minds, allowed me to delve deeper into how things work in the US and take some of those tactics back with me to incorporate into my routine. Given the global nature of the industry that I am in, the insights I have gained are truly priceless and I can benefit from the ability to adapt to various cultural backgrounds easily bridging the gap between continents more effectively.

How do you plan to leverage the networks and connections you made during your time to enhance your professional endeavours, both locally in Dubai and globally?

[DB]: Undoubtedly, one of the benefits of business education is the networks that we gain. Attending a course at CBS enlarged my network, and this definitely came as one of the highlights of the exchange week. Later on, I met some of my classmates from CBS in London where they were doing their exchange weeks at LBS, and I believe that this is one of the gifts that we receive throughout our EMBA journey: the ability to meet people in various parts of the world and gain a collective experience through learning from each other as much as we learn from the faculty. During the week in New York, I heard from a couple of my classmates that they were considering moving to the UAE, and I am happy that I can offer them some of my regional expertise, or possibly some job opportunities. A couple of my classmates from CBS founded a business together even though living in totally different countries. This global outreach and acquaintances all over the world make our life post-EMBA much more diverse and rich in experiences.

Reflecting on your overall experience, what advice would you offer to future Executive MBA students considering participating in international exchange programs like the one you completed?

[DB]: One major piece of advice that I can give is: Definitely go for it. Even though, London Business School will remain our alma mater, a chance of getting to study in another prestigious school, open up your mind to new perspectives, make new connections and simply enjoy a week away in a different location, is something that is not a given. Our EMBA programme offers us this unique opportunity to go on international study trips, so I certainly recommend seizing it. The courses that are offered through exchange weeks are diverse, so everyone can find something that interests them the most. They are also offered in different terms, so it is possible to fit it into the busy schedule of Executive MBA’s. My decision to participate in the exchange week was based on both topic and schedule, and I definitely do not regret it.

Lastly, how do you envision applying the knowledge and experiences gained from your exchange at Columbia Business School to contribute to the business landscape in Dubai, and how do you see it shaping your future leadership roles?

[DB]: The course that I took was focused on the topics of getting into those leadership roles. And I believe that the learnings gained will help me navigate the path to senior leadership roles. However, one important takeaway from the course is that we are all part of communities and networks. Nobody can do it all alone, and it is the relationships and reputation that you build that help you in the long run. No matter where we are in our career, we will always be surrounded by people who serve as our mentors, advocates or opponents at times. It is important to nurture the relationships we build and reciprocate the favours we get in our lives. One more thing to consider when it comes to giving back is mentoring younger professionals and helping them shape their career trajectories, advocating for those who have talent and passion but might lack power and influence and make an impact rather than just lead. After all, our life, whether professional or personal, is all about people.

For more information about our EMBA-Dubai learning experience click here.

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