But even the most senior members of staff can benefit from increasing their knowledge and embarking on a new experience.
CEOs are responsible for managing every section of a company, from finance to marketing. This requires a broad understanding of business—that’s why every year CEOs from across the globe enroll in Executive MBA programs.
Dehui Gao is CEO of SDTR Marine, a leading shipping company based in Singapore. A veteran of the shipping industry with 17 years of experience, Dehui's career began after he graduated from his history degree when he landed roles as a grain trader and futures trader.
Later, he spent time in several jobs within the shipping industry, including ship broker, ship operator, and ship owner. Dehui enrolled in the Tsinghua-INSEAD Executive MBA (TIEMBA) in 2022 to develop his skills.
BusinessBecause caught up with Dehui to find out why he has chosen to go back to school. He identifies three core reasons why CEOs should enroll in EMBA degrees.
1. Develop a well-rounded business acumen
CEOs are responsible for the day-to-day running of their business. While not necessarily directly managing each area, as CEO you’re required to understand the various sections that comprise your business.
This requires a broad business knowledge spanning key areas like human resources, accounting, finance, and organizational strategy. Competency across these areas ensures you can manage effectively.
For Dehui, hailing from a highly technical background meant there were gaps in his knowledge. He decided an EMBA would help to develop a more rounded business acumen.
“The company grew quickly and we were getting bigger and bigger, so I needed to systematically learn more about management, finance, HR and so on,” he says.
Dehui chose the TIEMBA as one of the world's three highest-ranked EMBA programs. As a degree offered by leading business schools in both Europe and Asia, he also felt the program would help him gain an understanding of both Eastern and Western cultures.
"In this program, you have classes focused on China and you have a lot of Chinese classmates. You learn why the Chinese economy grew up so quickly and what will happen in the future with China. You also gain connections with Europe," he explains.
The TIEMBA curriculum includes core business courses along with a selection of elective modules and a leadership development program. Currently in the early stages of his degree, Dehui feels the TIEMBA is helping him fill in the gaps.
“We’re systematically learning new knowledge, which I think is quite helpful as it makes us think about the connection with our own company,” he explains.
2. Interact with other business leaders, CEOs, and entrepreneurs
Programs such as the TIEMBA offer a unique opportunity to connect with other like-minded professionals who are at similar stages in their career.
In 2022, the TIEMBA cohort comprises 35 individuals from 10 different countries. Each has an average of 15 years of work experience across a variety of industries. Dehui felt studying in this environment would develop his cultural understanding while allowing him to gain fresh insights from business leaders in other sectors.
“My first objective was to exchange perspectives with other entrepreneurs to learn new ideas on how to manage a company,” he explains. “I’ve met a lot of classmates who are really energetic, it’s been wonderful to share our perspectives and personal experiences.”
Dehui’s role as CEO of SDTR involves dealing with stakeholders from across the globe including shipping manufacturers in Asia and importing bodies in Europe. Developing his cultural understanding within a diverse cohort can help manage these relationships, he feels.
“Because we work in shipping and it’s an international industry, every day I need to be able to communicate with different people from across the globe.”
3. Become a better leader for your company
Providing a solid knowledge of business fundamentals and a network of individuals from diverse backgrounds sharing different ideas, enrolling in an EMBA can help guide you to have a greater impact on the direction of your company.
Executive programs are taught part-time, allowing you to continue working while you study. This means you can recognize the benefits of your learning in real-time: implementing new strategies and transforming fresh perspectives into company initiatives.
For Dehui, the program is helping shape his plans for SDTR’s future during a critical period for the shipping industry. The pandemic wrought a global shortage of personnel across the sector, creating a need to digitalize using technology such as automation and robotics to make the industry more resilient.
Amid a global push for decarbonization, there’s also pressure on the industry to reduce its impact on the environment—shipping currently accounts for around a billion tons of greenhouse gases per year.
Dehui is hoping his newfound knowledge and ideas can help chart a course through these changes. He is currently incorporating his learning while working on an ambitious project to have the world’s first carbon neutral fleet of vessels.
"SDTR strives to continuously upgrade and innovate its fleet to improve energy usage efficiency and use sustainable energy to play a part towards the decarbonization of the shipping industry," he says.
"Recently SDTR is planning to built the world's first Methanol fuel dry bulk vessel, we aim to build a net-zero emission fleet by 2050," he adds.
“In this project I need lots of new knowledge, so I think it’s very useful for me to open my mind to understand our industry."