The SMU EMBA edge: Understanding Asian businesses with a global perspective

It offers an innovative curriculum designed with input from over 100 corporate leaders.

With various firms across multiple industries around the globe taking steps to amp up its competitiveness and respective digital journeys, senior executives need to constantly innovate and widen their perspectives to keep up with changing customer demands and business practices. This is where Singapore Management University’s (SMU) Executive MBA (EMBA) programme steps in to present distinctive advantages for those looking to get an edge in today’s fast-evolving markets, resources and capabilities across Asia - just as it did for Julio Bellota, Cheng Lie Navigation Co.’s (CNC) managing director.

“The programme is extremely complete, in terms of Asia deep management business knowledge, where I have developed my  international career for the last 10 years,” Julio said, after graduating from the programme in January 2022. “On top of the EMBA model being based on The Wharton University (University of Pennsylvania), it’s a great way to combine new learnings applied to my day-to-day business.”

Boasting an intensive curriculum designed with inputs from over 100 corporate leaders across Asia, SMU’s EMBA possesses distinctive modules, such as corporate strategy, crisis management and communication, innovation and growth management, and leadership in digital transformation. The curriculum, comprising eight segments, is revamped periodically to cover topics on current trends, as well as include individual coaching and blended learning for electives to augment the learning experience.

Learning opportunities

For Julio, the leadership, crisis management, financial modules and data analytics of the programme was extremely beneficial for his current role. 

“The most memorable aspects of the programme were the real-life application exercises, like the crisis communication final  exam, where reporters were brought in to confront us as the management team of an airline which faced a recent plane crash,” he highlighted, adding that the start-up and negotiation simulators were also memorable thanks to its real-world applications.

The accelerated programme is delivered in intense one-week sessions spread across the year, wherein students will spend about six weeks at SMU in Singapore, as well as a week each at The Wharton School in Pennsylvania, the Sasin School of Management in Thailand, and the Antai School of Economics & Management (Shanghai Jiao Tong University) in China in order to provide students a global perspective with a focus on Asian businesses.

According to SMU, its EMBA students come from over 13 countries such as Australia, France, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Austria, and Mexico, and over half the class of each cohort is comprised of C-suite executives with 18 years of experience on average. “Special care is taken in forming the class of each cohort as a big part of learning in the EMBA comes from learning from each other,” the institution said.

Julio added that the experience in his cohort and level of positions from the alumni was beneficial for the undersigned to learn not only from the faculty but from his colleagues in class as well.

Providing wider perspective

Given the curriculum’s intensity and immersiveness, which is structured to fit the busy schedule of senior executives, taking the graduate programme does not come without its challenges - which for Julio posed as a great learning experience and taught him how to adapt to new environments.

“Some major challenges were aligning the thinking and objectives with different people from different industries, as well as aligning 
the time management with them when working on projects,” he explained. “However, they were overcome through being open, listening and humbly accepting all types of thinking, which brought me to success and a deeper knowledge of new industries and styles of leadership.”

As well, Julio credits the support from his family and management, which allowed him to efficiently juggle his work and graduate studies. “Key communication, and planning with all the stakeholders around my work and personal life, were key to my success,” he explained, highlighting how his team’s preparation, which included possible crisis and action anticipation, allowed them to run smooth day-to-day activities whilst Julio attended his graduate studies activities

Overall, Julio underscored how SMU’s EMBA programme gave him a wider perspective in managing transversal functions and bigger responsibilities. “It has been fundamental, giving me the confidence to take higher positions, as I am doing today. It also helped me to have a clear process of design thinking and creating new strategies in facing the new challenges in my current organisation,” he explained.

“If you are ready to be out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself to take on a real lifetime commitment, then I highly suggest taking the SMU EMBA.” 

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