Joe reveals some of the benefits and struggles of beginning an EMBA instead of an MBA, and how military experience has facilitated his move to a professional services function.
You’ve been in the RAF for 17 years – what is your background and what encouraged you to begin an EMBA?
I leave the RAF in three months, and to leave having completed the MBA was a major part of my planning for a transition to the civilian sector. The RAF is a great organisation, and it has developed many skills and competences in me that I will need to draw upon.
My Henley MBA learning was all about putting my knowledge and experience into a more fitting context for what lies ahead.
What were the main factors associated with choosing an EMBA over an MBA?
There were two main reasons: first, I wanted to learn alongside colleagues whose diversity would be an instructive experience in itself. My EMBA cohort included a broad range of people from the public, private, and third sectors, and insights into their knowledge, so fundamental on an EMBA program, made my own learning experience so much richer.
Second, the collaborative nature of the Henley EMBA work, with so much group activity throughout the 21-month course, really appealed to me. It’s the way I work, contribute and learn best.
Why did Henley Business School stand out from the others?
Henley is a really special place. My evidence for this is the combination of what it offers physically; its stunning location, excellent facilities, and supremely credible faculty – and also more subtly in its conceptual approach to the MBA.
Central to Henley’s core value is personal development, which coupled with some reflection time is equally as important as enhancing business knowledge and competences. To attempt to achieve one without the other would be an incomplete experience.
Do you find it hard to juggle your career with an EMBA?
There were times when I struggled with getting the balance right. We all did. You have to constantly remind yourself of the goal at the end. From a diary perspective, assignment deadlines loomed large, and they had an uncanny knack of being juxtaposed with work deadlines, too.
We invariably achieved both, with mutual support from cohort colleagues and our nearest and dearest. The committed student knows these things, and makes allowances for them. But the unbelievable feeling of reaching the end is palpably shared with all who helped us get there; family, friends and work colleagues. The Henley EMBA is not a solitary journey.
What were the key skills you were hoping to achieve while on the EMBA?
I wanted to validate all my military learning and experience accrued from leading teams and projects in some far-flung, often inhospitable places. Leading with authority is the military way, and I came to the conclusion that we rely on rank to achieve objectives. But rank obscures authentic leadership ability.
My transition to the private sector – in which my EMBA has played a huge part – has so far been about making sense of my military achievements. The EMBA has helped me articulate them to potential employers.
What do you plan to do with your EMBA degree?
There's not time to relax. I completed the final phase, the Management Challenge dissertation, whilst deployed in the Middle East. I return home at the end of August, and I will start looking for a new role immediately.
I would like to forge a new career in management consultancy. I think my military experience will stand me in good stead; we communicate well, we think on our feet and we forge rapport confidently and easily.
Leaving the RAF is an exciting prospect, but also slightly daunting at the same time.