After Working 30 Years, I Got My EMBA – And Was Recognized as a 2020 Coles Outstanding Student at Kennesaw State
Earning an Executive Master’s degree in Business Administration (EMBA) has been my goal ever since receiving my undergraduate degree from Spelman College more than 30 years ago. However, as I managed my career and family, I couldn’t find time to return to school. But before my father passed away in January 2018, I promised him I would earn that degree. He was a lifelong learner and educator. And, I wanted to set an example for my college-age children. I also felt that the EMBA would boost my career and contributions in the work I do at MSM and beyond.
In May 2020, I not only earned my Executive MBA at Kennesaw State. I graduated with a 4.0 GPA, while being recognized as a 2020 Coles Outstanding Student for the program and an invitation to join Beta Gamma Sigma Honors Society.
As part of Kennesaw State’s EMBA program, I was paired with an executive mentor during my second semester. And I got a good one.
Zahir Ladhini is the managing partner for Velocity Strategic Consulting, which helps develop chief executives and their teams. And he’s also a mentor with CEO Netweavers, a nonprofit organization made up of current and former executives.
While initially, I did not understand the methodology of our mentor/mentee pairing, Zahir turned out to be just what I needed. He became engaged with my education, wanting to know about my school assignments and became generally interested in my degree and professional development.
As a former CEO, he was extremely knowledgeable and provided me with advice and innovative ideas that directly tied to the work taught in the classes focused on managing my career.
Fortunately, I knew a little bit about Zahir before we started the mentorship program. He was a guest lecturer on corporate strategy during my initial semester before we were paired up. Once that happened, we met in person once each month. He always asked me tough questions about my career and its direction. But he also made time for other aspects of my life, saying it was important to be well-rounded. He wanted to make certain my personal, financial and physical well-being were intact.
Here are a few of the lessons I learned from my mentor:
One-Page Personal Plan (OPPP). One of the first items we tackled in our coaching partnership was establishing personal goals focusing on important areas such as faith, family, finances, and a few more. This exercise certainly forced me to think through my direction for these areas and align them with my personal goals.
Get Buy-In from My Team. Zahir emphasized the importance of including my managers and business team in key decisions. This advice gave me a different perspective going forward, reminding me the job was often more about the team than me.
As a result, I followed his guidance and began routinely asking more questions and listening to responses in my decision making, rather than immediately providing a solution. It not only makes the team more cohesive and productive, but I bring more value as a leader.
Career Advice. He provided needed advice on my three-year plan and strategic goals. To achieve these goals, I often refer to his diagram on the “career sweet spot”. The convergence of 3 areas, 1) work that you are passionate about, 2) work that you are good at, and 3) work that does good in the world.