The Courage of Starting an EMBA During COVID-19

Massimo Passamonti

I started my Executive MBA (EMBA) in a pre-COVID-19 world.

During the months leading to our first day on campus, we created a WhatsApp group and we exchanged many messages before we met in person. But the communication was a pre-COVID-19 communication. We mingled and we joked, but it was a virtual 'icebreaker' in view of our first day on campus. You might ask yourself how this can be, in any way, different from the post-COVID-19 communication.

Well, it is radically different.

As the new batch of EMBA participants are about to embark on their journey, they will know each other deeply, well before they meet on campus. If COVID-19 has taught us something it is that we don’t need to be physically together to bond. The new participants have already met on Zoom several times, they have set up study groups to help each other with pre-readings, they have organised online social sessions to talk about themselves, what they do and where they live.

With new lockdowns across the world, they will have to adapt fast to a different start of their EMBA.

Some will attend classes via zoom and create virtual study groups. They will work on group assignments remotely. They will network online but also in-person locally and in small groups wherever possible. They will try to meet in COVID-19 free locations to maximise their networking. But most importantly, they will find innovative and creative ways to make this a valuable professional and personal growth experience.

As surprising as it might sound, COVID-19 could enhance their EMBA experience instead of hindering it.

It will equip them with new collaboration tools, teach them new team dynamics, and broaden their resilience in times of uncertainty. Some will inevitably have second thoughts, maybe even change their minds and put everything on hold, but those who will go through it will have a life-changing experience. They will be seen as those who started an EMBA during the ‘COVID-19 times’.

This shared adventure will strengthen their relationship, and this crisis will make the bonds even stronger as their journey unfolds throughout 2021. It will reinforce the friendship amongst participants and make the EMBA an unrepeatable life experience. The camaraderie will be unique and the journey unforgettable. They will capture, even before they all meet in-person, the essence of the EMBA, which is not just about the content of the courses or the quality of the learning, but first and foremost about the quality of the network.

There is one other major point though. Whoever decided to start an EMBA in 2020 chose to do so in the midst of the most significant pandemic that we have experienced in the last century.

They did so by adding uncertainty on top of an already uncertain personal and professional life.

This is remarkable to say the least and I admire those who had the courage to start their EMBA during COVID-19.