The power of word of mouth: CEIBS Global EMBA alumni and students fuel admissions
For the most recent Global EMBA student intake – the Global EMBA 2021 class – a full 60% of its membership were referred to the programme by active CEIBS students and alumni. This statistically significant proportion underlines what marketing academics have already known for a long time – that word of mouth is often the most powerful marketing tool you can have in your arsenal.
But why is word of mouth so important to applicants when it comes to deciding when and where to apply for a Global EMBA? We asked the current Director of the CEIBS Global EMBA Programme Bala Ramasamy, as well as various Global EMBA class members and the alumni who referred them.
No substitute for personal experience
Prof. Bala Ramasamy
Professor of Economics, Associate Dean,
Director of the Global EMBA Programme, CEIBS
“The endorsement of a current student, or a member of the alumni community, is a thousand times more impactive than practically anything that we, the school, might say ourselves. These are the people who understand this programme as it is meant to be understood; they have lived it, breathed it, engaged with it and, between them, they have gleaned everything it has to offer. It is designed to be extremely challenging, that is what makes it so deeply rewarding, and nobody is better placed to explain the reality of this dynamic than the students and alumni who have experienced it. For anyone who is interested to understand the real-life impact and importance of this programme, they cannot do better than to talk directly with a Global EMBA student or alum. It’s as simple as that.”
Prof. Ramasamy highlights the fact that deciding to take on an EMBA in any business school is an intensely personal decision. By the very nature of their position, executives already have sizeable professional commitments to consider, on top of those in their personal lives. Signing up to a two-year academic programme like the CEIBS Global EMBA means regularly allocating hours and days of one’s time around an already hectic lifestyle, which is no easy task.
These considerations make it even more crucial to get the perspective of fellow executives who have experienced the programme first-hand. In the next section, we follow some specific examples of Global EMBA students who were encouraged to join by those who know exactly what it entails.
Words of wisdom passed on from class to class
The following five pairs of applicants and recommenders are indicative of the wide-ranging connections that each new class of Global EMBA students maintains with the alumni community and other active classes. They are personal friends, company colleagues, and there’s even a husband-and-wife Global EMBA duo!
In each case, the recommender has provided the applicant with the personal insights and first-hand knowledge necessary to help them decide that joining Global EMBA was the right move for them to make.
The Two Davids
“As an architect, it took me a long time to decide if I should do the Global EMBA programme, as I did not see myself as the kind of major business executive that I imagined my classmates would be. However, David Sancho helped me realise that this programme is designed to bring together all manner of people to add value to each other’s knowledge and capability. He said that your class is like a company boardroom, and every member is there to bring their best to the table and help everyone succeed collectively. That’s exactly how it felt to me, except that our class felt like a family as well as a boardroom.”
Global EMBA 2017
Shanghai General Manager, Omio Architecture Studio
“Even if you have good intuition, good instincts and a good head for business, there are fundamental skills and techniques you simply must have to compete effectively, especially when it comes to leadership. Equally importantly, if you are surrounded by bright, exceptional people who can help put these skills and their wider teachings into perspective, you become infinitely better equipped to handle whatever comes your way. This is what I told David Moreno, because we both come from a highly technical background, and I reassured him that CEIBS Global EMBA programme would be the right place to gain this kind of knowledge and insight.”
Global EMBA 2012
Co-Founder & CSO, Re-Hub
The Wife/Husband Dream Team
“In a family office, it’s often important that you are capable of handling various tasks across different knowledge areas, especially when doing M&As. I majored in law but that’s insufficient for understanding and concluding M&A deals as a whole. I knew from Mario (my husband) that the CEIBS Global EMBA programme could help me fill the gap. The experience has given me a comprehensive understanding of entrepreneurship through my classes, classmates and lectures, events and the wider activities organised by the school and my peers. This comprehensive understanding makes me more courageous in terms of accepting and facing tough tasks, and confidence is a natural result of these two elements.”
Global EMBA 2018
The Nikos Tsikriktsis Award for Academic Excellence winner in 2021
Senior Vice President, Fang Brothers (China)
“There is no better business school in China than CEIBS, that’s why I recommended it to Sophia (my wife). CEIBS Global EMBA provides you with the unique opportunity to learn in a multicultural environment how both global and local business works. And, of course, it teaches you the skills and tools you need to be successful in your own business career.”
Global EMBA 2009
Head of German Desk, DeBund Law Offices
The Pharma Futurists
“When you study with international peers, your exposure to culture shock allows you to better understand and deal with problems in cross-cultural management practices. It is also beneficial for a manager to develop a global vision and more flexible strategic thinking. Company executives need to change their perspective quickly to adapt to the uncertainty brought by the pandemic. The Global EMBA programme provides you with an opportunity to push aside daily routines, reflect on your experience in a great academic atmosphere, which will help participants to think differently and inspire them through communication with their classmates.”
Global EMBA 2020
“My need for hard knowledge was not particularly urgent. By doing the CEIBS Global EMBA programme, I’ve improved my soft skills and broadened my horizons. The programme gives you that, and so much more. I’ve recommended the Global EMBA to many of my colleagues from functional departments who are experts in their respective fields. By attending the CEIBS Global EMBA programme, they’ve been able to improve their abilities in the fields of management and strategic planning, and learn to think holistically like an entrepreneur.”
Global EMBA 2010
CFO and Board Secretary, Pharmaron
The Freight Heavyweights
“During these uncertain times, outstanding Chinese private enterprises stand out from the competition with their keen customer insight and agile execution capabilities. To maintain their edge, senior management team members must work together to encourage the enterprise to embark on a long-term sustainable development path, one that requires senior executives not only to have professional functional management knowledge, but to also have broader, strategic and cross-functional perspectives. They also need to be willing to cooperate with other executives on the team to seek wins together. Choosing Global EMBA not only allows professionals to systematically develop the necessary skills of a corporate executive, it also gives them diversified perspectives and cross-cultural leadership opportunities, as they participate in the process of Chinese enterprises going global.”
Global EMBA 2020
CTO of Operation, SF Express Group
“I wanted to recommend CEIBS Global EMBA to Wang Chao because in today’s business world, an outstanding executive should be able to demonstrate not only professional competence, but also a range of sophisticated qualities and skills, including high EQ (Emotional Quotient, otherwise known as Emotional Intelligence). These are things you don’t just pick up by yourself, you need to be in a highly motivated and capable learning environment – that’s exactly what you get at CEIBS.”
CSO, SF Express Group
The Automotive Experts
“I wanted to join the Global EMBA programme to expand my professional network and systematically learn how to run a business. Through advice from Wang Yu, I discovered that the interpersonal connections I gained at CEIBS would teach me as much as the classes. l feel that I’m more open-minded and find it easier to step back and look at the bigger picture, and can put myself in other people’s shoes.”
Global EMBA 2021
Vice General Manager, Rosedale Automotive Engineering
“Every applicant should know that the Global EMBA programme may well help you grow your career and improve your daily work methods. However, the greater reward it offers is that it opens a door to deeper self-discovery that will better prepare you for all of life’s challenges. This is what makes Global EMBA stand out from its competitors – the depth and breadth of experience. That’s why I had no hesitation in recommending it.”
Global EMBA 2016
CEO, Rosedale Automotive Engineering
Sustaining the programme – How do our alumni/students help?
We continue to see the impact of word of mouth has on informing applicants and encouraging them to apply to CEIBS Global EMBA. However, there are many different ways in which Global EMBA alumni and students help spread the word.
- Recommending viable candidates – Referrals and recommendations are a two-way street. Historically, our alumni/students don’t just tell their friends and colleagues about the Global EMBA programme, they also help make introductions of viable candidates to the admissions team. In both cases, they are the bridge between the school and the high-quality candidates looking to join.
- Speaking with applicants in the middle of the admissions process – Alumni and students are an invaluable source of guidance and support for applicants as they progress through their admissions journey. They can help clarify what both sides are looking for, ensuring that successful candidates are a great fit for the programme, and vice versa.
- Speaking at Global EMBA admission events and webinars – As with one-to-one discussions, active students and alumni add a great deal of weight and relevance to any event hosted by the Global EMBA office. Whenever we aim to present the reality of any aspect of the programme, invariably we turn to the people who have experienced it as students to share their views and memories. This paints a clearer picture of what incoming class members can expect.
- Sharing their stories, and ours – Naturally, we are always proud and eager to share the success stories of Global EMBA graduates, and those of the programme itself, with a wider audience. Whenever this is done via WeChat, LinkedIn and other social media channels, alumni and students are always the first to help spread the word, demonstrating once again the strength of the bonds forged between classes and the wider CEIBS community.
To all our students and alumni – Thank you
Prof. Bala Ramasamy
Professor of Economics, Associate Dean,
Director of the Global EMBA Programme, CEIBS
“It’s clear from these few examples of the importance of the connection between applicants and referrers (of which literally hundreds more exist across the CEIBS community) that when it comes to making a major life decision to study a highly demanding two-year course, advice from a former or current student holds great weight. As we look to the future of the Global EMBA programme, we are consistently reminded of the invaluable contribution made by our students and alumni. For this, we thank you, and we hope to count on your continued support in the years to come. Every year, your recommendations, referrals and guidance ensure that the newest Global EMBA class is populated by only the best, brightest and most suitable of candidates. Long may this remain the case.”
We look forward to sharing more stories of the personal connections and friendships between students and alumni soon. There are also future plans in the works to show our deep appreciation and reward those Global EMBA students and alumni who contribute to the programme in this manner. Alongside our annual alumni recognition event, we hope to release new Global EMBA courses open specifically to such ambassadors for the programme. Recent examples include the excellently received Alumni Ambassador Leadership Course led by Professor Jack Wood.
Look out for further news on this front. Until then, remember that as inherently social creatures, we all set great stock in the value of personal experience. Even in an age of increasingly rapid digitalisation, where the world’s smartest machines can provide deeper and more accurate analysis than ever before, simple word of mouth will always resonate.
Writer: Tom Murray Editor: Effy He and Michael Thede