How I used electives to tailor my Executive MBA and support career development

26 August 2021

Hear how Executive MBA participant Maria Zhukova used the flexibility of the programme to suit and support her career plans. 

I made a decision to study an MBA back in summer 2019 when I worked with a finance team. My career has changed since then and now I work within a Strategy & Sustainability team.

For many years I have performed different roles within a finance function, whether in accounting, commercial or corporate finance. On one hand, I have enjoyed my finance career and was keen to continue using my finance expertise in my day-to-day job. On the other hand, over time I realised that I wanted to make decisions not only looking at business through a financial lens but seeing the wider perspective.

So, I started my MBA journey. I chose the Executive MBA programme to balance my full-time job with part-time study. In my development plan I identified business operations, strategy and sales as areas of my interest. However, at the beginning of my MBA journey I wasn’t certain whether the list was full and kept my options open.

One of the reasons I chose the Executive MBA with Warwick Business School (WBS) was the flexibility of the programme and the ability to tailor the programme by choosing a combination of modules that would be best fit for my career plans.

The programme comprises of eight core and four elective modules. The latter cover many areas and allowed me to delve deeper when studying modules of interest. I chose my elective modules a few months after I started the MBA. This way I got a flavour of core modules before choosing electives that helped to decide what I really wanted to explore further.

The core Strategic Advantage module came naturally. This is when I knew I would like to study strategy in depth, and I added the Strategy and Practice module to my programme. 

My interest in sustainability meant focusing on its importance in developing corporate and business strategy. I chose the International Business and Sustainability module in Vancouver. At that time, it was held in London due to travel restrictions, with online sessions from UBC Sauder School of Business. It was an invaluable experience and I gained a lot of new knowledge that is vital for my current role.

I also chose sustainability as a topic for my dissertation. The elective provided me with base knowledge and a good list of literature to start with. 
The other piece of my career development puzzle was enhancing leadership skills. In addition to the core Leadership module, I chose Leadership and the Art of Judgement elective.

At the same time, I moved into a strategy role and was confident that my MBA programme will help me to succeed with strategy related knowledge and soft skills of leading the projects.

With the new role came an understanding that I need to start transforming the way I look at business. I added the Entrepreneurship & New Venture Creation elective module to my programme to become more open-minded, think outside the box and learn to operate in uncertain settings. All of the above could be applicable to strategic decision making required in my new role.

From my experience of using electives to tailor the Executive MBA, I would advise future students to consider the following:
•    Understand your future career plans and what outcome an MBA can help you to achieve in both short and long term
•    Analyse where there are gaps of knowledge that electives can address
•    Consider addressing both hard and soft skills with electives of your choice
•    Get a flavour of a couple of core modules to decide on electives
•    Choose electives to support your dissertation
•    Finally, make the most out of the chosen electives and enjoy your travel for the international module.

I would say that electives have made my MBA journey unique and have already helped in my career plans. I hope you will get the most out of them, too. Good luck!

Find out more about our MBA courses at Warwick Business School.