My EMBA experience

Words by Arturo Opsetmoen Amador, BI Executive MBA class of 2020.

Prologue

Eighteen years ago, just after the summer of 2002, I started a very exciting journey into the world of Artificial Intelligence. I remember the day as it was yesterday. A bright Monday morning at 07:00 on August 19th, 2002, I attended my first class in the Faculty of Physics and Artificial Intelligence of the University of Veracruz.

Then fast forward to September 24th 2020, I concluded my Executive MBA at BI Norwegian Business School. Eighteen years and one month after that first lecture in Veracruz I have earned a Bachelor in Science, a Master in Science, a Doctoral degree, and an Executive MBA. I can tell you that learning is a never-ending journey.

 

Perhaps you are considering taking an Executive MBA, too?

I’ll be honest: You set a part of your life on pause, you don’t have as much time to see your friends, you sacrifice some of the time you could spend with your family. 

But it is so worth it, I would do it all over again!

If you are considering taking an EMBA at BI, go for it! You won’t regret it.

A first warning about time management

During the admission interview, I was asked about the way I managed my time and stress. I don’t remember exactly what I replied but I remember very well that they told me that one of the learnings after the MBA was going to be how to better manage and optimize my time and the way I handled stress.

During the welcome ceremony, they told us about the immediate impact that the EMBA program was going to have in our available time and the way we distribute it. The warning was that, as we suspected, the EMBA was going to take a large chunk of our time. And indeed, it did!

The results of learning how to better work

The chart below shows how much of my free time was taken by the EMBA. In my life, as in the figure, it was evident that my family was affected the most. Of course, the distribution illustrated in the chart represents an average over the duration of the programme.

After leaving one of the most intense periods of work in my life, I have to say I am super happy with the results of learning how to better manage my time. After the program is done, one of the immediate differences I see in my time management is that as a friend from the program pointed out, it really feels like my «time pie» is larger!

Illustration-EMBA-testimonial_web.jpg

The green outer circle represents the feeling of extra time gained in the day by learning better time management during the EMBA.


After 18 very intensive months, we have learned to optimize the use of our time. It really feels like the day has more than 24 hours.

The Executive MBA at BI Norwegian Business School

A German friend in the program referred to the EMBA at BI as a hidden gem (in the context of education for a German). I totally agree, the EMBA at BI is a gem.

The programme that I followed had a specialization in Leading and Developing Digital Enterprises. This specialisation has since then been replaced by customisation through the elective courses. The program has components related to the «traditional MBA» program with topics such as:

- Accounting
- Corporate finance
- Economy
- Managerial accounting
- Strategy
- Marketing
- Ethics
- Final consultancy project

However, for me, the topics that made the programme extra interesting were those related to the digitalization part:

- Digital marketing
- Design thinking
- Big data and machine learning for executives
- Entre/intra-preneurship program
- Leadership program (in the digital context)
- Digital business models

But it was not only a list of great topics that made the learning incredible…

One of the greatest learning experiences of my life

We were a programme composed of a group of professionals from 14 different countries! Our experience put together made up somewhere in the order of 100s of years of experience combined!

The learning experience, the discussions that we shared during class, and during our work was one of the greatest learning experiences in my life.

Learn who you are to become who you truly are!

The EMBA programme includes a great leadership program. As part of this, we took a series of personality tests, in addition to asking previous bosses (sometimes leaders, sometimes bosses), co-workers, and people I’ve managed, to fill a survey about the way we perform as leaders at work.

After gathering a lot of data, BI facilitated a session with a leadership specialist at BI. During this meeting, that felt a lot like therapy, the leadership specialist provided us feedback that helped us understand ourselves better, and to learn how we could exponentiate our leadership skills.

Mentorship

A very, very valuable component of this leadership programme was the facilitation of a mentor to helped us in our path to become better leaders. My mentor was a super nice person with a lot of experience in managerial and CxO level positions. If he reads this, thanks a lot for your awesome guidance!

A well-accredited program

BI Norwegian Business School is the best business school in Norway according to the Financial Times and ranked among the best internationally. BI Norwegian Business School has a triple crown accreditation.

Part of the programme was taught at the Hasson Plattner institute, the powerhouse for design thinking globally. The entre-/intrapreneurship program was taught at the Haas School of Business, University of California Berkeley.

Berkeley’s leadership principles

There is something magical about California, San Francisco, Berkeley, and the Silicon Valley. I went around constantly getting the «nerd chills». The Berkeley trip was one of the best experiences in my life.

We got two very intense weeks of lectures from John Danner and Mark Coopersmith. We learned a lot about entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship and about the “Other F word: How Smart Leaders, Teams, and Entrepreneurs Put Failure to Work”.

Something that marked me for life after my experience at Berkeley, was their four leadership principles. As extracted from their statement, these principles are:

  • Question the status quo. We thrive at the Epicenter of innovation. We make progress by speaking our minds even when it challenges convention. We lead by championing bold ideas and taking intelligent risks.
  • Confidence without attitude. We make decisions based on evidence and analysis, giving us the confidence to act with humility. We foster collaboration by building a foundation of empathy, inclusion, and trust.
  • Student always. We are a community designed to support curiosity. We actively seek out diverse perspectives as part of our lifelong pursuit of personal and intellectual growth. There is always more to learn.
  • Beyond yourself. We shape our world by leading ethically and responsibly. As stewards of our enterprises, we take the longer view in our decisions and actions. This often means putting the collective good above our own interests.

Learning design thinking from the design thinking powerhouse

My journey with Design Thinking started during my work at Telenor. The core of my responsibilities involved the creation of a new digital service and because of this, I was part of the «first wave» receiving training from Professor Nathan Furr on design thinking.

After this, we have been using the tool with different customers in the projects I have had the chance to work with. I have been doing design thinking for a while… or so I thought.

I thought I knew design thinking. How wrong I was!  

Learning design thinking from the design thinking power house is a totally different story. We were immersed into a full-day, hands-on workshop on design thinking. We interviewed strangers on the campus hallways, we built prototypes, and we tested them, we iterated… we used post-it’s … lots of them!

Working with wonderful people: The value of true diversity

During our design thinking module at Potsdam, we had the great chance to work together with the EMBA students from BI-Fudan. During our work with our Chinese friends, I learned the value of working with a group of people very different from oneself.

And the thing that stroke me the hardest was a phrase said by one of my Chinese friends when we were wrapping up the module: «I didn’t want to share my ideas because I thought they were so silly».

This was so wrong! The ideas that my Chinese friends brought to the table were so insanely innovative and different from anything we could think of. Luckily, we created an environment of trust that allowed us to share our ideas with people that were, at least in the beginning, practically strangers.

«Concluding» the program with a Consultancy Project

The most important part of the programme, and the part that is also given the most weight in credits, is the final project: a consultancy project. This is a project that takes several months to be completed. In this project, we combine our experiences to solve a real-life business problem that a (sponsor) company is facing.

In the case of my team, we worked on creating new digital business models in one of the most conservative industries in Norway (perhaps globally). We used a combination of frameworks (design thinking, agile, and lean) to understand the industry, the customers in the industry, and the macro-tendencies.

This allowed us to create digital business model prototypes and a business plan explaining how to disrupt this conservative industry, and create profitability and business advantages from the industry’s inefficiencies.

I want to thank all the professors I had the chance to meet and from which I had the great opportunity of learning during the program. And I want to give a special mention and thanks to Professor Hanno Roberts who was the supervisor for our consultancy project. He was always engaged and helped us with his insanely great knowledge in so many areas.

I believe learning and personal development is a never-ending journey. 

Now, I am looking for ways to apply all the new commercial and business knowledge that I have acquired from BI and my friends in the Executive MBA. 

I will keep exploring ways in which we can combine business with technology knowledge to create value.