An investment into the future




London Business School has recently launched its inaugural Executive MBA International Assignment in the UAE. Designed under the theme of “Creating a Modern City”, the International Assignment aims to explore the economic, business and social development of Dubai and Abu Dhabi and its possible future direction. In this exclusive interview, Amelia Whitelaw, Director, Global Experiences, London Business School gives us more details about this program and how it helps EMBA students gain a greater understanding of the UAE’s economic development.




What was the objective of the Executive MBA International Assignment in the UAE?


The outside world is changing and we, who are developing today’s and tomorrow’s business leaders, need to think about how to respond to these changes in a way that best equips our students. London Business School’s vision is to have a profound impact on the way the world does business. We prepare students to be business managers who are ethical and competent and able to operate in a wide range of situations. Students therefore need to gain an international perspective through exposure to global faculty and internationally diverse classmates, as well as a first-hand experience of market dynamism. 


The week-long International Assignment, which runs in one of five international locations, is a program requirement for the London Business School EMBA. This was the first time we ran an International Assignment in the UAE with the objective of understanding the economic, business and social development of Dubai and Abu Dhabi and it possible future direction. The theme behind the week was Creating a Modern City.


Both Dubai and Abu Dhabi have seen extraordinary rates of development in recent decades and are clearly consciously aiming to build modern cities. A striking feature of recent economic growth is the emergence of key cities and hubs. Our International Assignment was to not only understand the development in the UAE but also gauge its impact in other nations in the Gulf and beyond. 


The program was also a great opportunity to try and develop further relationships between the School and the region and bring more of London to the UAE. 



How did you customize it to fit the Middle East’s needs?


The week-long International Assignment was especially designed to explore the factors behind the growth and development in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Students really value the opportunity to learn in the field.


The week was structured in the format of a broad business experience; during which we visited a number of public and private organizations in the UAE. Our alumni play an integral role in the development of each International Assignment, providing guidance on regional trends and insight into the individuals influencing key economic sectors.  We identified organizations and individuals who showcase the region’s ambition. The sessions were structured to allow our hosts (often from C-suite level) and students the opportunity to really engage with each other. Students visited in small groups and as opposed to lengthy PowerPoint presentations or long speeches, we had short presentations followed by interactive Q&A sessions. This allowed for some great debates and insights to be shared.



What are the challenges that you encounter in this part of the world?


The International Assignment engaged with leaders of influential organizations in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Students were involved in candid conversations with C-Suite level executives and were therefore able to draw their own conclusions about the possible challenges one may encounter when undertaking business in this region. Interestingly, after the week, our student group rigorously debated amongst themselves whether doing business in the UAE is in essence different from doing business anywhere else in the world. Common threads of conversation throughout the week included whether Dubai’s economic growth plan is a model that can be exported to other regions outside the GCC and if the UAE’s growth model is environmentally sustainable.

Which techniques allow you to help leaders in this region prosper and contribute to the economic developments of their countries?


London Business School is committed to training executives in the Middle East, providing our students with the knowledge, skills and tools to become effective business leaders. As a top global business school with a strong presence in the region, we provide professionals in the region with a world class education, which is key to economic growth in the UAE and the wider Middle East.


Our Executive MBA-Dubai program is led by world-class faculty and our graduates enjoy high employability and career progression. The opportunity to study in a truly global environment also enhances their overall learning experience, with students developing ‘soft’ or cultural skills that are invaluable in the region’s fast-paced and transient business landscape.


The School also offers customized leadership development programs to Middle East business leaders through our Executive Education program. We work with some of the region’s largest employers to build up their talent pipelines by providing bespoke training solutions designed to match the specific strategic challenges facing individuals and organizations. We also offer open enrolment programs, a quarter of which are undertaken by GCC-based executives.



Which sectors in the UAE hold opportunities for business leaders?


If I draw on the insights gained over the International Assignment week, I believe there is great potential across many sectors including tourism, retail, real estate and financial services where our students had a particularly insightful experience during the International Assignment. I was left with an impression that Dubai and the UAE are preparing for great growth ahead of and following the World Expo in 2020.



How do you assess Emiratisation in the country?


In order to effectively approach the Emiratisation process, corporations and governments should focus on building strong educational foundations throughout different stages of professional progression.



What would be your advice to EMBA students striving to become a success story?


As I always tell our students, a London Business School EMBA is an investment into their future. They have already taken the initial steps to ensure professional success by enrolling in a program that allows them to gain world-class business education. They also have first-hand access to faculty who are not only global thought leaders, but offer an unparalleled level of insight and expertise in the region.


London Business School graduates are recognized as being some of the best in the world and many have gone on to lead the region’s top performing and most reputed companies.

In addition to focussing on academic learning, I also encourage our EMBA candidates to interact with and benefit from the rich network of fellow students and alumni they develop over the course of the program. We have more than 39,000 alumni, who can testify that classroom colleagues can, and do, become lifetime friends, business partners and stakeholders, which is particularly useful in the regional business environment.


Moreover, students should actively participate in the regular thought-leadership forums we organize at our Dubai Centre, where some of the region’s top corporate leaders open up discussions about the most prominent trends in the GCC market. For instance, regional recruitment experts came together to discuss talent attraction and retention challenges at London Business School’s Middle East Management Forum. Students also benefit from the guest speaker sessions held at the School. We regularly invite expert guest speakers to share key learnings and insights about doing business, giving students enhanced understanding about both Gulf-specific issues as well as the global business environment. Last year, for example, H.E. Amr Al Dabbagh, Chairman and CEO of a well-known Saudi family conglomerate spoke to students about ‘governpreneurship’ and the strategies to accelerate business success in the Gulf.


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