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Why a MBA / Leadership Development Program (vs. direct hire)?
Compared to a direct hire, the MBA/ Leadership Development Program offers a rotational experience which provides an opportunity to build broader business acumen of the organization. This rotational feature also allows me to explore different divisions that I could potentially choose as my ultimate destination after the program. Finally, an MBA/Leadership Development Program provides the tools, resources, training, and access to leadership that will help me navigate my career during and after the program.

What are the key advantages / disadvantages of being on a MBA / Leadership Development Program?
The key advantage of being on a MBA/Leadership Development Program is the discipline behind the program. I believe that for a MBA/Leadership Program to attract top talent, there needs to be a lot of resources dedicated by the organization, not only on the development of the participants, but also on the program design.

The other key advantage is the exposure to senior staff/leadership. The program invests in the participants to be the future leaders of the organization and exposure to senior leaders is vital. Exposure can come in different forms, each of which has its own benefit. It can take the form of a key initiative/project that senior leaders are involved in. It can also come from mentorship programs that match participants to a senior leader.

The only key disadvantage that I can think of is that with the key advantages that I described, there is a high level of expectation that the organization places on participants, which the participant has to accept. An example may be the pace at which participants are expected to overcome a learning curve, or that you are required to make business decisions that may have a big impact to the broader organization. At times, it may feel daunting, but I believe itís part of leadership development and gives the participant the experience of what senior leadership is all about.

How does the MBA / Leadership Development Program fit in your career goals?
If you are interested in leadership, the MBA/Leadership Program is a great way to help refine your leadership skills. For my shorter term career goal, I was interested in taking my leadership skills to the next level.

My long term career goal was to look for a company that I can growth with. The MBA/Leadership Program, I believe, offers a good spring board to launch from.

How strongly did you weight the location of the program?
In my case, location was extremely important. By the time I graduated from business school, I had already moved my family 2 times. I was very sensitive to their needs and I wanted to make sure that they were happy with the location of the program.

Luckily for me, I was able to explore the location of the program because my MBA/Leadership Program offered a summer internship which was a feeder into the full time program. I had my family with me a couple of weekends to give them an opportunity to explore the location. The internship provided me and my family a chance to experience what it was like to live in the area.

What to look for in a MBA / Leadership Development Program?
The two main things that I would look for in a MBA/Leadership Development Program are: what is offered from a development stand point, and where have the graduates of the program been placed in the organization.

First, what sets a MBA/Leadership Development Program apart are offerings such as executive coaching and corporate mentorships. I would suggest finding out what the program offers and how the participantís development is managed.

Second, understanding where past participants have been placed in the organization will provide you a good picture of the programís network. It also informs you on how well past participants have done after the program.

Can you summarize the recruiting process you went through and how long it took?
My experience may be unique; the MBA/Development Program that I pursued offered a summer internship, which is a feeder system into the full time program. I was able to explore what it would be like to be in the program, work for the organization, and live in the area. From the organizationís standpoint, the program manager got to see if I was a great fit for the program. At the end of my summer internship, I felt good about the program and the organization. The organization, in turn, felt that I was a good fit for the program and I received an offer several weeks later. The whole recruiting process probably took around 4-5 months in total if you include the internship as part of the process.

What were the required skillsets and prior experience and how were they evaluated (behavioral interviews, case studies, assessment center, panel interview, etc)?
The skillsets that the program looks for are: flexibility, the ability to deal with ambiguity, strong conceptual thinking, excellent relationship management skills, and the ability to learn fast.

In my experience, the program did not look for any specific type of experience, rather, they want to see that you have taken more responsibility as your career progressed and that you demonstrate successes in those roles. They also want you to articulate how you were able to be successful and if there were any key learning moments that influenced you most.

What advice and tips can you share with those interested in MBA Development Programs?
It seems almost silly, but my advice is to do your homework. First, is this an organization that you would really want to work for? What does the company stand for? How do they treat their employees and what is the culture like?

Finally, find out about the reputation of the program. What does the program offer from a developmental standpoint? Where have past participants been placed? Does the program provide opportunity for exposure to interesting work and senior leadership?