If you want to advance your global professional career, then the IESE Global Executive MBA program is for you. Through a rigorous curriculum, participants learn how to make effective management decisions. They learn from world-class faculty and diverse classmates, international executives who enrich the classroom experience in Europe, Asia, and North and South America.
Govert Vroom is the Academic Director of the GEMBA and Nico Van den Brink is the program’s Admissions Director.
There are many Executive MBA programs around the world. Who is a typical participant and who is the IESE GEMBA program targeting?
Govert Vroom: The participants generally have 10-15 years’ work experience — most of the time in leadership and managerial roles. We also have people who are owners or managers of their own companies. Everybody who comes here is in some sense looking for a transformation; they want to change their careers.
How is the program structured?
Nico Van den Brink: It’s a modular program that allows people to combine an international career with their MBA. There are six modules with five courses in each module. The program is taught across the world: you take modules in New York, Barcelona, Sao Paulo and Shanghai, among other locations. You will be on campus for two weeks every two months.
Vroom: But there is continuity: when you’re not on campus you are still in touch with your teammates, fellow students and faculty, through online sessions and simulation, or simply through email and Google Docs.
Vroom: The learning takes place not just through professors, but also through discussions among students. Everybody is there to learn and they are willing to contribute. As a consequence of the intensity of the program, there is a sharing of ideas and the students challenge each other.
The GEMBA goes beyond theory
Van den Brink: And your teammates are from around the world. They are accustomed to working across time zones to deliver assignments. The beauty of the course is that it goes beyond theory. Instead of learning about how to do business in China from a classroom in New York, you go to a classroom in China and visit Chinese companies. You can do the same in Europe, in the US, and potentially in Latin America, Africa or Southeast Asia, if you take electives there.
GEMBA is a cutting-edge program. How does it put new technology and blended learning into practice?
Van den Brink: We were the first program to have blended learning: a seamless combination of in-person and distance learning. It allows people to continue their professional life while they learn. We keep looking at new technologies and ways of transmitting learning, but we strongly believe in the value of face-to-face discussion. Technology is just the enabler.
Vroom: It’s not about using 3D presentations or holograms; it’s about making the discussions we have — whether in-person or virtual — the most valuable, informed, challenging and insightful they can be.
“Students take decisions on real business problems. It’s action-based learning”
What learning methodologies does the program use?
Van den Brink: The case method, which attacks a real business problem in a class discussion. Instead of focusing just on the theory, case studies require students to take a decision on a real business problem. And by discussing that problem with senior people from different functional and geographical backgrounds, they get a deeper understanding of the problem — from multiple perspectives.
Vroom: It’s action-based learning. During the program, participants create a business plan and, separately, complete a final, in-company project. In self-formed groups of three-to-five, students select a company to work with — their own company or it could be a startup — and develop a challenge and a solution to that challenge.
Van den Brink: This is where the whole course comes together. It’s a real-life consulting project. The students are brought in as external consultants and they will present their project to the board or management team as well as the professors. It has to be academically relevant and supported by the professors, and it has to be relevant to the company. The students are applying everything they have learned throughout the MBA. In many cases one of the students is working in that company. It can make or break their career. It’s a good way of rounding off the MBA and bringing into practice everything the students have learned during the program.
“An ethical focus makes IESE students stand out as leaders”
What makes the GEMBA at IESE stand out?
Van den Brink: Besides the fact that we are a top-ranked business school focused on academic rigour, the thing that makes IESE truly stand out is our humanistic views. People are at the center of what we do. Companies are made of people. If you just look at the technical part and forget about the people, you won’t be able to execute. The class sizes are small, everybody knows each other; the professors know the students by name and know what everybody’s background is. The whole experience is about each individual student. Also, the program is based on our mission and values — we believe you can be a good professional and a good person at the same time. That’s what makes IESE students stand out as leaders — an ethical focus.
What relationships do the students have with each other and the school once they graduate?
Van den Brink: Because the MBA is so intense, you become part of one big family. The professors are truly interested in the students. It’s very common to contact a professor out of the blue 10 years after the program, and they will remember you, and will have time for lunch or a quick discussion and will give you tips or put you in contact with somebody or offer you a consulting project. Those relationships between alumni, and especially with professors, are special