Many business schools today position themselves as “global” institutions. Most of them Western or American-based, they anchor their claim on the basis that a good number of their graduates end up working for Western multinationals, which in turn send them to manage in many of their overseas subsidiaries.
But what about managers in Asia, who would also wish to embark on a global management career? Is their choice of a business school necessarily limited to American or European institutions?
As a project finance analyst - many years back - working for one of the leading partners of multilateral agencies such as the International Finance Corporation and the Asian Development Bank, I was fairly confident that I already possessed the technical skills necessary for a functional career in finance, which would be my path to eventually get into general management. After all, I had trained and worked with some of the best accountants, economists and financial wizards in the region. But deep down inside I knew that functional competence alone would never be enough to see me through my ambition.
And so it was with a desire to fill this gap in my skill set that I decided to pursue an MBA. And I will admit quite candidly that having decided on this course, my early choice was to do it in America.
So how come I chose AIM in the end?
Well, I ended up being accepted in a couple of American schools that I applied for, and was just counting the days until the fall semester start of classes when one day, a friend of mine invited me to a recruitment event that was sponsored by AIM. There I had the chance to hear testimonials from former graduates. It did not take me very long after that day to decide that AIM was the business school I wanted to be in.
So why, you may ask, would one give up a place in a US school, to go to another within the region? Two words readily come to mind – excellence, and relevance.
The Asian Institute of Management has always been the best school of management in Asia, full stop. No other institution even comes close. Even to a well-prepared and professionally competent student like I was then, AIM was still one daunting challenge.
The rigorous and exacting case study method that AIM alone has perfected in Asia is to my mind one of the best ways to prepare aspiring managers for real life management situations. Every session is like a contentious management meeting, to which one has to come fully prepared.
Imagine having four or five of those meetings every day, for two whole years, and you get a pretty good sense of just what preparation this entails. Of course you will have to work hard. Of course you will have to spend late nights discussing with your teammates group projects.
But there is nothing in this discipline's demand for prioritization that is divergent from real-life career situations. In fact the beauty of this method is that it mirrors exactly what happens in the workplace, with unadulterated and true-to-life realism.
For the past 14 years I have worked and managed in over a dozen countries, across almost all continents of the world. I have also had the privilege of working with colleagues and partners coming from esteemed institutions like Harvard, Wharton, the London Business School and INSEAD. I can proudly say that not one single day in those last 14 did I ever feel inadequate or out of place.
Our excellence and relevance as an institute is now officially acknowledged by our peers, as evidenced by the seals of approval from both the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) of the United States, and the European Foundation for Management Development’s Quality Improvement System (EFMD-EQUIS).
Deciding to pursue an MBA, especially a full-time one, is one of the biggest commitments one will ever make in his or her life. It is one that should be made with considerable thought and with a great deal of soul searching. I cannot make that choice for anybody, in the same way that nobody made the decision for me back then.
I can only tell you that whether it is a career in Jakarta that you wish for, or a job in Singapore, Hongkong, New York, London, Frankfurt or Amsterdam that strikes your fancy, an MBA from AIM will be the best preparation you can ever give to yourself.
Published in the AIM Manager, June 2005