“Continuing education – the conscious everyday life of a modern manager” Elena Serbina

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    Elena Serbina, director of the Strategy MBA Center, told us about whether it is possible to become a successful entrepreneur without a quality business education, how to choose a school for yourself, and what are the current trends in business education.

    Hello! Our guest today is Elena Serbina, Director of the Strategy MBA Center.

    Elena, what are the main requests for training from the business community now? Is there a demand?

    – I want to say a few words about what our company does. We have been working in Kharkov for 18 years. Introducing the UK Open University Program. This is education for adult working people who have significant practical experience and are in need of some new knowledge. In answer to your question about the main demands that exist today, the business situation is constantly changing. For example, earlier, even before March of this year, we talked about the fact that modern managers work in conditions:

    • very dynamic external environment,
    • uncertainty and rapid change in strategic priorities,
    • lack of time, information, human, financial resources.

    What characterizes the business environment today? Probably, almost all companies are characterized by a drop in sales, an increase in debt, and customer preferences have changed. Our consumers exhibit completely different behavior. Fairly frequent failures in working with suppliers, staff experience a state of demotivation. And, probably, the most important thing is the lack of reliable forecasts for business. Therefore, all these above factors make the company’s leaders think that today everyone has to do something that they have never done before. And for this we do not always apply previous experience. New knowledge is needed to help find ways to preserve and develop the company. The question then is where to get this knowledge? Of course, you can say that there is a huge amount of business literature. Without a doubt, but reading the literature will not give the system of knowledge about your organization that is needed today. The second option is to study the experience of other companies in your industry and try to act in a similar way. But here the difficulty lies in the fact that each company is unique, possessing only its inherent set of resources and abilities. So what works for others doesn’t necessarily work for you. Therefore, it is not always worth copying the experience of a competitor. Well, then it turns out that the third way is an opportunity to get a business education.

    You can study in the MBA program, because here the experience of so many companies has already been analyzed and various response options have been developed based on previous crises.

    As a rule, interest in quality management education is growing, because business is in need of a quick understanding of the situation and the search for new opportunities and solutions.

    – Is there a statement that it is not necessary for managers to receive a business education? Do you agree? If not, why not?

    – By the logic of the question, one can also ask, “Is it necessary to get an education to become an engineer, doctor, teacher, architect?” After all, this is not in doubt with us. Of course you need!

    Елена Сербина

    What is the difference between managing a company? This is a separate professional activity that requires certain knowledge about managing people, finances, consumers, and information. Of course, many universities today offer business administration and management training programs, but these programs provide students with only theoretical knowledge, which is often fundamentally divorced from real business life. The training program at the business school is primarily aimed at developing the skills to apply theoretical models and tools for the life of an existing business. At universities, knowledge is transferred from a teacher to students, and at a business school, each student is an active participant in the process and he can learn only what he is really interested in and vitally important for his company. He will not waste time studying what is irrelevant to him. As a rule, academic teachers teach at the university, people who rarely know anything about the realities of the company and business. Therefore, in a business school, a mandatory requirement is that teachers who are managers themselves with extensive management experience and a solid store of knowledge teach. But an important difference between a business school is that one of the main sources of knowledge for those who study on the program is the exchange of practical experience with their group colleagues. Therefore, there are a number of strict requirements for admission. It is mandatory to have management experience of about four to five years. Therefore, here is just this watershed of difference between MBA programs and master’s programs at the university.

    Well, one more thing can be said that the programs of business schools are constantly changing and improving in order to comply with changes in the business environment and provide up-to-date knowledge. Therefore, in order for companies to change quickly and flexibly in response to changing external environments, their leaders must have the appropriate knowledge and skills to manage and develop successful strategies. These are the requirements that apply to modern business and education in a business school. Today, of course, this is not a diploma on the wall in the office at all. This is the ability to analyze, critically solve problems, realize creative ambitions, innovative ideas. And just all these skills can be obtained on the program.

    – MBA education is expensive or it seems to me?

    Quality programs cannot be free or cheap, because they are the safest investments in our troubled world. This is an investment in your own development, your intellect, your entrepreneurial talent and leadership potential. It is an integral part of the manager’s personality.

    More recently, a study was published according to which 87% of managers? applicants for MBA programs are primarily guided by the quality of the program, 89% by its prestige, and not at all by the moderation of the price.

    Елена Сербина

    In absolute terms, how expensive it is to educate people in Ukraine today, the cost of MBA programs in Ukraine ranges from $10,000 to $35,000. That is, on the one hand, we say that this is an investment in yourself, on the other hand, with what can such a cost be compared? Well, maybe an MBA could compete with buying a new car, maybe an extended family vacation. Therefore, it is better to talk about how expensive these programs are and whether they are worth this money with our employees, graduates, with those people who have received a certain incentive in managing their companies. I want to note that, unfortunately, today, along with high-quality MBA programs, there is a rapidly growing market for various programs that have nothing to do with it, but use this name for their marketing purposes. Usually these are rather primitive methods, programs consisting of individual management trainings and short courses. Here they just offer to simplify and reduce the cost of everything.

    But there is a so-called management paradox in the form of a triad, where any two of the three parts can be easily implemented, but all three parts at the same time never!

    And then quickly, cheaply and with high quality – all three parts can never be combined, it never happens!

    – Is there a difference in schools that provide MBA education?

    Without a doubt, in order to determine to a potential student of the program where he should invest his money and what result he wants to get, for this it is necessary to conduct some analysis of the program market.

    If we talk about Ukrainian programs, today there are about 23 business schools, just the main number (20 schools) are located in Kyiv. Two schools are located in Lviv and our program is presented in Kharkov.

    Our program is a program of an open university in Great Britain, but it is in Russian, and thanks to just the technology, which I can talk about further, it has become possible to receive a European education in Kharkov without leaving Ukraine.

    What should you pay attention to when choosing a program for yourself?

    First of all, of course, people who choose to study are guided by the experience of their acquaintances, but the important criteria that distinguish a business school are, first of all, international accreditation.

    What is international accreditation? These are expert systems, which include representatives of business and business education. They evaluate the program, the work of the business school, and if this school and the program meet the requirements of the standards that are set in Europe, then this school receives accreditation. Today in Ukraine only the International Institute of Business, the International Institute of Management and we have programs that have one of the most important international accreditations.

    What does this mean for students? This, of course, is a guarantee of the quality of the program, it is a guarantee that the knowledge they receive is relevant, that high-level teachers will work with them, and that the diplomas that students receive will be recognized in the European community.

    Still, of course, we did not talk about the cost of programs. Prices range from $10,000 to $35,000. The Kiev-Mohyla Business School has the most expensive program, but each MBA program also has its own structure and content, and the language of instruction is different. Therefore, when choosing a program, of course, you need to pay attention and understand very clearly what result you want to get from this training. In addition, no doubt, all working managers are very busy and therefore we need to evaluate how much it is possible for you to spend time on regular trips to Kyiv, because each business school has a different format.

    It can also be a format when classes are held for several days once a month. You still need to break away from work and go to Kyiv. If we talk about Western programs, many managers are considering getting an education in Europe, primarily in the UK or America. But in this case, it will be training, when you need to leave for one and a half to two years, leave your main business and devote all this time to training. Therefore, you need to evaluate your capabilities, both temporary and financial.

    – What are the current educational trends in general? Tell us more about blended learning.

    The situation with the pandemic has had a very strong impact on all businesses without exception, including the education industry. But we can say that the open university even canceled exams around the world, which usually take place in the month of April. And even to our surprise, the students, and these are adult working managers, were upset. Instead of being happy that they don’t have to take exams, adults show a completely different behavior in getting an education. Because there are completely different criteria here, it is important what skills you first of all get in this training.

    If we talk about trends, I want to note first of all that today the development of technology and the reduction of the life cycle of a profession have led to a classical model of education. It was replaced by the concept of lifelong learning. In the West, this concept has been implemented for a long time. At least they have been living this way for the last 70 years. The essence of the very concept of lifelong learning is well conveyed by a quote from the American futurist Alvin Toffler: “The illiterate in the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn “.

    What follows from this?

    It follows from this that the main competence that management should have today is, first of all, the ability to learn constantly. Education today cannot be completed at any stage. Therefore, continuous education is today a conscious everyday life of a modern person.

    Back in 2016, the World Economic Forum in Davos identified a whole set of business requirements that companies must meet by 2020. First of all, this

    • complex problem solving
    • the ability to solve problems that do not belong to one professional area, but have consequences at the level of the entire organization.
    • critical thinking, that is, it is the ability to build causal relationships and process large amounts of information,
    • national Interest,
    • the ability to work and influence other people,
    • the ability to manage oneself to achieve common goals,
    • mobility and flexibility
    • creativity and creativity,
    • readiness for constant change.

    All these requirements are classified as soft requirements. Needless to say, we are talking about the fact that knowledge about the management of an organization, people management, finance, marketing are mandatory.

    This is another set of skills that managers should possess.

    Already this year, the question has become the question, where can they be obtained? How to develop them? Just one of the possible options is just studying in MBA programs, because it’s all built into the teaching methodology.

    It is this continuity of education that is the main trend for today.

    I also want to say a few words about educational technology, because after the forced quarantine, many business schools state that online learning does not give the desired result and deprive the student of a very important element – the opportunity to communicate with their teachers, colleagues in the study group. And this is one of the main distinguishing features of studying at a business school.

    Many business schools have tried online learning today and have come to the conclusion that the future of modern learning is blended learning. We have been working with this technology in Kharkov for 18 years. That is, for us, this is not news at all and not the future, because it was the open university that created this technology and has been using it for quite a long time to enable people all over the world to get an education.

    What are the features of this technology? They consist in the fact that students have the opportunity to study independently with educational materials, but at the same time, a prerequisite is just training sessions with an audience and classes in order to ensure this very exchange of experience and networking with other students.

    And here, just in this technology, in addition to independent study of textbooks, educational literature, the content of the program, there is the implementation of the project and the implementation of tasks. This is all what is called practice-oriented learning, because it is impossible for an adult to learn only by receiving theoretical information. The main difference is the ability to apply theoretical materials to your business. Therefore, the format implies a certain degree of student freedom, there is independent work, and at the same time, a prerequisite is the training of managers in the classroom in order to ensure contact with other students and teachers.

    Separately, I want to say a few words about the teachers, because those people who work on our programs (and this is a prerequisite), firstly, of course, know the theoretical part of the program, have extensive managerial experience both in international companies and in Ukrainian companies . And one more obligatory condition – they also undergo methodological training programs in order to be able to work with groups of students. Therefore, the future of business education in the face of the constraints we are facing is not only online learning, which is probably some way out of this situation, but at the same time, the future for training managers is still a blended learning format.

    – Elena, thank you so much for such a meaningful interview and all the best to you.

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