In 2022 alone, an estimated 120,000 tech workers were dismissed from some of the biggest employers in tech, including Meta, Amazon and Netflix. Combined with an impending recession on the horizon, it’s no surprise that tech professionals are going back into higher education to pursue other avenues. \r\n\r\nWe spoke to Dean Mark Nelson and EMBA Director Dr Manoj Thomas, faculty members at Cornell University’s SC Johnson College of Business, to learn more about the value of an EMBA education during periods of economic uncertainty. \r\n\r\nBroadening your skill-set \r\n\r\nContrary to what some might think, a challenging job market is precisely the best time to upskill, especially as expertise required from employers is constantly evolving. \r\n\r\nDean Mark Nelson said: “On occasion, we’ll come across a tech professional on our EMBA programmes who got promoted to managing teams and products. While they’re an excellent individual contributor and an expert in the field, they don’t have much knowledge of accounting, finance, or marketing, and yet they’re expected to make those decisions.” \r\n\r\n“If senior leaders in a company need to make decisions about who stays or goes, studying an EMBA is a clear indication that you’re willing to invest in yourself and your capabilities in helping the organisation succeed” he adds. \r\n\r\nOn the flip side of the coin, an EMBA degree can aid tech professionals in pivoting to different industries. “We also have students from a tech background who decide they want to change direction. When you have someone with managerial experience and you add an EMBA qualification and a Cornell network of almost 300,000 alumni, it’s a great position to be in if you want to move up or change industry,” Mark said. \r\n\r\nA dynamic and diverse environment \r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nThe allure of an EMBA education stems from exposure to a diverse network and working with professionals from a range of industries and countries. \r\n\r\nAmong the four variants of the executive MBA is the Americas programme which features physically distributed classrooms, (which Cornell first pioneered with Queen’s University in 2005 ahead of the invention of Zoom) meaning that cohorts across different cities in the US can interact with each other as well as students based in countries across South America. \r\n\r\nDr Manoj Thomas says the school’s pedagogy is largely focused on team-based learning. “One interesting thing to note is that the majority of our students are busy executives with families and careers, so if they haven’t done an excellent job on an individual assignment, they can live with that.” \r\n\r\n“However, when it comes to team-based assignments, the dynamic completely changes because they recognise the responsibility of representing their team members and are more inclined to perform their very best,” he said. \r\n\r\n“It’s the perfect recipe for executive education because it’s not just top-down where the lecturer is teaching content but is facilitating learning in a team instead.” \r\n\r\nAnother way in which team-based learning can enrich skill sets is by raising awareness on topics such as diversity and inclusion. Dr Thomas said: “We’ve realised that a lot of sensitivities about diversity issues come up in team-based activities. \r\n\r\n“Unlike a corporate setting, students are assigned to a team and are working together all day, often in shorter, intense periods. If a team member says that they feel excluded, that becomes a very powerful way of giving feedback to the rest of the team to reflect on why that person may feel that way. That type of experiential learning is valuable when it comes to recognising issues on diversity and inclusion in the workplace.” \r\n\r\nImmediate return on investment \r\n\r\nMost EMBA programmes at top-ranked institutions promise a high ROI in terms of future earnings, but another major benefit is being able to apply your knowledge at work the next day. \r\n\r\nMark said: “Students can tailor the programme to meet their unique needs because they’re able to use their assignments to address some of their own challenges in their current roles. As a result, you end up having a private consulting arm, where faculty and students are helping you become successful during the programme, which is really impactful in a challenging economy.” \r\n\r\n“We know that many of our students will go on to have very successful careers that come with promotions, but the day-to-day learning is unique in the sense that you’re able to apply your knowledge on the spot and have that immediate effect.” \r\n\r\nStudying in dedicated tech hubs \r\n\r\nIf you’re committed to finding different opportunities within the tech industry, some institutions provide dedicated spaces to facilitate innovation. Cornell University’s Tech campus in Roosevelt Island, New York City offers students a unique opportunity to collaborate with classmates, faculty, experts, and employers in an ecosystem focused on tech. \r\n\r\n“All of our EMBA programmes have residential sessions that take place at the Tech campus, which means you’re connected to a hub created for the digital economy. Students can interact with their peers on the Tech MBA programme, taking part in hackathons for example, and work towards becoming pioneering leaders for the digital age” Mark said.