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Survival By Relentless Prioritizing For Duke MBA And Oil Company Exec

US-born Timothy Krysiek is Advisor to the CEO of Norwegian oil firm Statoil while also doing the Duke Cross Continent MBA

Working full-time while studying for an MBA is no easy feat. Throw in a programme that’s delivered via a mixture of online distance learning and residencies in Dubai, New Delhi, St. Petersburg, Kunshan, and in Durham, North Carolina and we start to think you’re superhuman!

To double check that students on the  Duke Fuqua Cross Continent MBA are actually flesh and bone, we chatted to Timothy Krysiek, a current Cross Continent MBA student and CEO Advisor at Statoil, Norway's publicly owned oil company.

The Duke Fuqua Cross Continent program is designed to allow full-time working professionals earn a world-class MBA in 16 months, and to build a “culturally-diverse peer network across the globe”.

Timothy explained that doing the Cross Continent MBA is not for the faint-hearted, but for the right type of professional and student, it has a lot of benefits. He was on holiday during our conversation so we know for a fact that they do get some down time too!

After graduating with a BA in Intelligence Studies, Russian and Post-Soviet Studies and International Politics from Mercyhurst College, USA, in 2005, Tim gained an MLitt. in Middle East and Central Asian Security Studies from St. Andrews University in the UK in 2006, and then an MSc. in International Relations and Business from the University of Oxford in 2007.

He went on the MBA because he wanted to improve his quantitative skills and increase his business knowledge. He chose the Duke Cross Continent MBA because the format of learning allowed him to continue without taking a break from his career or having to relocate just for a few months.

Tim considers himself a well-travelled guy but the residencies give him a chance to engage in the cultural dimensions of business. “The residencies are more than extended corporate trips or academic tourism. They are sincere engagements with colleagues”, he said

To get into the swing of things in each new location, Tim says it helps to have a look at English versions of the local newspapers a week or two prior to departure. It’s also useful to have a good grasp of the exchange rates and to make sure you get credit card and ATM cards that don’t charge you for using them abroad. All this helps build your confidence and “prevents you from being that guy stuck in the Ritz Carlton ordering room service”.

In addition, a colleague who is conversant with the local language is pretty handy if you want to take in a good amount of the local culture, and this shouldn’t be a problem considering that there are at least 25 different nationalities on the programme.

We asked Tim how he manages to balance time with family and friends and he said it’s all about clear communication and relentless prioritizing. “You have to be honest with yourself that you can’t manage your life the way you did before. I have to squeeze in an hour or two of study after work and dedicate most weekends to study and because this is all new to me, I dedicate a significant chunk of my time.”

Those closest to you, including your employers have to be supportive of your decision. In fact, getting employers on board is a criterion of the programme, Tim said. He switched jobs in the middle of the programme and also relocated from London to Oslo as part of the process; and speaking frankly with his new manager during the interview process about time requirements as well as the added value he would bring to the company was crucial to making the move.

Relentless prioritizing also includes considering carefully what to stress about, Tim explained. “If something is worth 5% of the grade, view it as such”. Furthermore, “Parking emails and desisting from the Pavlovian response to get to each email as soon as it gets in is extremely distracting and could prevent you from getting to the objectives that you’ve set down for the day”.

It’s also bears reminding yourself about what excites you about the programme and why you are on it, said Tim. For him, this is easy because he quite often gets a chance to build on his knowledge of business concepts and contribute more to the company by asking the right kind of questions and making the right decisions in his current role. 

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Wednesday 8th August 2012, 08.52 (UTC)

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stuck in the ritz carlton with CNN for company - that's me

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