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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » August 26, 2010
MBA Puts Business Graduates on the Fast Track
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MBA Puts Business Graduates on the Fast Track
August 26, 2010   
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In the past two decades, migrant workers from Poland were usually associated with a cheap labor force as plumbers, house painters and construction workers flooded the European markets. On the other hand, Polish companies were often managed by foreign executives, who were rich in experience that their Polish colleagues did not have. This is now beginning to change, as business graduates enter the market, showing the standards of and the real potential behind the Polish educational system. The leading universities in Poland have offered Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs, often in cooperation with American institutions, for 20 years now and the effects are visible. The oldest among them is the Warsaw-Illinois MBA program, founded in 1991 at the University of Warsaw in cooperation with the College of Business of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

MBA studies are becoming more of a must for people wanting to pursue a career in business. Designed to give an insight into the practical side of management, strategic planning, corporate finance, and other crucial fields of business knowledge, the programs focus on case studies and adopt a practical approach to business administration. The students have to learn the ropes of accounting, economics, logistics and marketing before they can specialize in one of the fields. This basics-first approach is intended to make sure that MBA graduates receive a complementary education that will brace them for work in a business environment. Major MBA programs in Poland have a minimum work experience requirement of two to four years, which helps the participants to relate their own experience to the knowledge they are about to acquire during their studies. Many graduates admit that the decision to enroll for an MBA program was a life-changing move and they describe the course itself as an eye-opening experience. Another common observation is that the studies take up all students’ free time—in a typical program, they have 500 to 600 hours of classroom instruction and still need to devote a lot of time at home to prepare for meetings.

The time spent pays off. Twenty years after the start of the transition to a market economy in Poland, the supply of managers is growing rapidly and candidates with an MBA diploma are better off in the recruitment process. Managers are aware of that fact and many of them, especially top executives, decide to take up MBA studies to further increase their market edge. “Forty percent of candidates for the Warsaw-Illinois Executive MBA program are top-level managers,” said professor Krzysztof Obłój, the director of the International Management Center at the Faculty of Management, University of Warsaw, in an interview for Rzeczpospolita daily.

Polish branches of multinationals are often just the first step for executive managers, whose skills and experience are beginning to be recognized in Europe. Former country-level directors have moved abroad, to work as directors for the whole of Eastern Europe or in neighboring countries. This is true specially of the banking sector and IT companies, such as Intel, Microsoft or British Telecom, to name just a few. Ryszard Malinowski, Vice President at the Intel Architecture Group, left Poland in the 1980s and earned his MBA diploma at the University of California, Davis campus, in 1998, a decision which Malinowski called one of the most important in his life. “I didn’t do it only for my managerial career,” Malinowski said in an interview for Onet. “I just knew that my electrical engineering education would not be enough in the long run. I believe that you should always look for opportunities to learn something, otherwise you’re bound to fall into complacency.”

Many commentators and managers stress that Polish business graduates are taught to work in a dynamic and innovative environment. With MBA programs, available at Poland’s most prestigious universities, in the foreseeable future they have a big chance of becoming Poland’s new trademark, experts say. Krzysztof Nowakowski, head of Korn/Ferry International, is confident and optimistic. “It is just a matter of time before our managers start shaping the European economy”, he told the Rzeczpospolita daily.

Krzysztof Rowiński
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