Wow, we are in Term 4 already and excited about the coveted graduation which is now in sight.

A little insight for those of you who might join future Weekend Executive MBA classes—this is my favorite term so far. The cases for our marketing and strategy courses are so interesting that you will enjoy reading them like a novel and not just a required reading. Don’t forget to highlight and take notes though, so you can summarize the key insights.

At this point, I think I can share some more specific wisdom in terms of expectations, time management, and overall how to make the best of this program. If you have just begun or are looking at starting in the future, I am sure you have some nervousness and open questions—probably just as we did a year or two ago at the same point in our MBA journey.

Time Management:

  • Carve out 2-3 hours for preparation (required readings, assignments, etc.) for each day leading up to your next class. It sounds easy but will take a good amount of discipline to implement, so you need to stay determined and set expectations with your family members (very important). This required time might go up and down depending on the term you are in and familiarity with the respective courses.
  • A visible “to do” list, which can be updated periodically helps as well, e.g. a marker or big calendar. Place it in the most visible area possible and update it as much as you can, so you can track progress. Or phone/email reminders could work as per your preference. Basically, a big picture of what is due when, and what needs to be prepared or submitted and when, will help guide your appropriate actions and avoid missing key course requirements, specifically exams, assignment submissions, etc.
  • A lot of the course material is online so it makes it easy to read while traveling or during other free time where you cannot access physical books.
  • If you are not a caffeine drinker, you might want to make some exception during this program if it fits your health requirements.
  • Duke Fuqua Weekend Executive MBA students eating lunch at the Fox Center
    Our class eating lunch at Fuqua’s Fox Center

    A lot of concepts from the GMAT will apply throughout the program, e.g. timers to ensure you are on track for timed exams, summarizing readings and cases for insights as mentioned earlier, and how you approach questions in time-bound exams.

  • There is a lot of material and some of you might get overwhelmed. There are two ways to tackle this issue:
    • Prioritize material in terms of what is required for assignments and class discussions and what is optional or supplemental.
    • Get over the “starting problem.” This will essentially put you on hold indefinitely and make alternative tasks such as cleaning seem more achievable. “Just start” with the prioritized material and you will be surprised at the progress you make and how that furthers your motivation to continue.
  • Do not rest on your laurels after an exam or residency because that is just one of the steps to complete. It is easier and less stressful to stay on a steady, disciplined track than to fall behind and try play catch up.
  • Installing the apps for your Duke email account on your laptop (Outlook preferred) and phone will help you track and manage any new information, meetings, assignment submissions, etc.

Relationship Management:

  • The Weekend Executive MBA is a very diverse group of students, faculty and staff, so approach each individual without any bias and remember that one person’s joke could be someone else’s insult. You will soon figure out the preferences and sensitivities of different individuals in the group and use that—instead of over analyzing—as a guide for further interaction styles.
  • Being representatives of the Fuqua brand, a good step forward (being prepared, formal and courteous) is expected in interactions with staff, alumni, presenters and recruiters alike.

Maximizing value from the program:

  • First, realize that this is an executive MBA program, so a lot of studying and preparation responsibility is on your shoulders. Being prepared before every class is very important, or else you might be a little lost in the class and miss out on contributing and asking or understanding questions from faculty and classmates. Being prepared applies to your internal study team meetings as well.
  • Network as much as you can—your class will be from various geographies and professional backgrounds, and you will be surprised how much you can learn from them and their perspectives. In addition you will have the opportunity to network with students in other programs through periodic Fuqua events.
  • Duke Fuqua Weekend Executive MBA '13 alumni give career advice to current students
    We had a Friday evening career panel featuring Weekend Executive MBA ’13 alumni

    The Career Management Center (CMC) does a good job guiding students and has valuable panels and events which you can attend in addition to other Fuqua-sponsored events. For example, a couple of weeks back we had two great sessions: “Introduction to Structured Query Language (SQL)” and “Entrepreneurship.” Leverage the CMC as much as possible.

  • Fuqua has a lot of clubs driven by Daytime MBA students that cater to specific industries like technology and consulting. They can provide a lot of valuable industry-specific material and some training materials such as interview case preparation too. Also, during the program you will have access to various databases and articles to supplement your core program material and career objectives.
  • In summary, leverage all the resources Fuqua has to offer—the network, databases, sector information, CMC—as much as possible.
  • Last but not the least, albeit a cliché, have fun! Yes, you will study a lot and associate yourselves with a prestigious institution, but you will have ample time for your family, hobbies, to have fun with your classmates, and make friends and memories for life.

Good luck and Godspeed!