Neil Vyner is not your average EMBA student. He started the Richard Ivey EMBA at the age of 31, having thought about taking an executive education programme for a number of years.
'I had been wrestling with the idea for some time, trying to decide if it was too early for me and if I should hang on a few more years to get some more experience,' says Dell's global account manager, global accounts, Asia-Pacific and Japan.
He explains that in his organisation it is pretty much a prerequisite that people at the executive level have some form of executive education behind them, and he wanted to 'future-proof' himself at Dell.
With the average age of students in his class being 38, Vyner was uneasy about starting the programme so early, but he soon realised that he was able to contribute as well as the older students. 'I had no problem at all,' he says. 'I had been working for more than 10 years in Australia, Singapore, Britain and the United States in a combination of individual and management roles, and found that my experience was the important factor, not my age.'
His reasons for choosing the Ivey EMBA were varied, not least of which was the recommendation from a colleague who had previously studied at Ivey. 'He explained that he thought the Ivey pedagogy was perfect for my style of working. It isn't a purely theory-based degree and focuses on general management, so it was perfect for me.'
Vyner ran a team of nine people while on the course and often had to deal with the financial controller, and other people at his organisation about whose jobs he only had a superficial knowledge. 'The course really helped me to understand cross-functional teams and gave me more credibility when working across functions - it meant I could go toe-to-toe with those guys a lot better,' he says.
He suggests that early to mid-30s is the 'sweet spot' for starting an EMBA, but only for those who already have solid management experience behind them. 'Also, make sure you aren't doing an EMBA just to get the letters. An EMBA is about the whole package, the contact in class, the professors, the projects, the networking and the experience you gain from others.'