Grooming business leaders for ASEAN’s challenges – AIM

Reading Time: 8 minutes

AIM staffThe Asian Institute of Management (AIM) is a private graduate school in Makati City, Manila. AIM is the first school in Southeast Asia to achieve accreditation from the US-based Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) based on the world’s highest international standards.  AIM was established in partnership with Harvard Business School in 1968. Investvine spoke to AIM President Steven J. DeKrey about the latest developments.

Imran Saddique (Investvine): Mr. DeKrey, how large is AIM’s student population and what are the most sought-after programs?

Steven DeKrey: We have three schools:  the Washington SyCip Graduate School of Business, The Stephen Zuellig Graduate School of Development Management, and the Executive Education for Lifelong Learning Center (EXCELL).

Under the Washington SyCip Graduate School of Business, we currently offer two programs, the Master in Business Administration and the EMBA. The current MBA batch has 58 full-time students in the 16-month MBA program. Most of them live on-campus.

We used to have two sections for the MBA program, but to align with our goals of becoming one of the best schools in Asia, we decided to increase selectivity and go for quality, diversity, and employability. We raised the admission standards by having only one section in the new cohort. Not only did all the applicants have to take the GMAT, which is a first time for AIM, but they were also interviewed by a panel of one alumnus, one Career Services officer, and one professor. Actually, the students’ graduation speeches from last December are a great example of their caliber. All the speeches are uploaded on Youtube (Graduation Speech). The students of each class picked a speaker, so we had three student speakers. Our commencement speaker was the President of BDO Unibank, Inc, and an AIM Trustee.

The EMBA program, meanwhile, has a total of 64 students, separated into two classes. This program is geared towards those with extensive managerial experience, and those who wish to remain fully employed while studying. Students are able to apply what they learn real-time, with concentrations in finance, marketing, and entrepreneurship.

In the Zuellig School, we offer the Master in Development Management (MDM) program. The current batch has 53 students. Our students come from very diverse backgrounds, ranging from Bhutan, Afghanistan, India, China, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Lao PDR, to name a few. Work experiences of students span government, the military, non-profit organizations, religious orders, and the private sector. The MDM is an 11-month intensive and practitioner-oriented graduate degree program designed to prepare development executives to manage and lead public agencies, civil society organizations, and private companies engaged in public services delivery.

The Zuellig also has Development Executive Programs, which are short non-degree programs that focus on specialized topics for development workers. In a given month, there could be about 40 enrollees in these courses.

EXCELL programs offered regularly throughout the year are the Basic Management Program, Management Development Program, and the Top Management Program.  The last run of these programs had about 102 participants. We also customize programs for organizations.

Imran Saddique: With the EMBA programs to start in January 2015, what has been the response?

dekrey2
AIM President Steven J. DeKrey

Steven DeKrey: The response has been very positive. We were able to meet our target goals for enrollment, and we are able to differentiate this program from the full-time MBA program. The EMBA draws students from various industries.

Our classes are geared towards those who want to maximize their time and their potential by being able to work and study at the same time. The general qualifications are that students need at least four years of full-time work experience, and at least two years in a managerial position. We are very optimistic with this new batch of EMBA students who just started this January.

Imran Saddique: What role does innovation and entrepreneurship play at AIM?

Steven DeKrey: Innovation is part of the AIM DNA. It’s an interesting concept because we believe that it should be everywhere – it’s not just high tech processes that should be innovated. Leadership should also be innovative. It’s about being creative, and being able to implement problem-solving in a novel way.

Our professors embrace innovation in much broader terms. It’s not limited to a technological angle, because we are not a tech school or an engineering school. We are a business school that encourages entrepreneurship, and that is where engineering, technology, finance, and marketing come together.

Last July, we even hosted a series of big data events. One was from a development management perspective, where we had an expert come in to discuss the implications and opportunities for international organizations in using big data. We also co-hosted big data forums in partnership with IBM, as its Country General Manager , Mariels Almeda-Winhoffer, is an AIM Trustee.

At AIM, we understand that progress and growth happen at fast speeds. We take it upon ourselves to train future leaders in ensuring that the gains of the ASEAN region are sustained and that communities experience long-lasting development. We at AIM are attuned to the evolving needs of the region, and are working to create leaders with vision and fortitude to pursue some of the most important work of our time.

dekrey5
Imran Saddique, Investvine (left) talks with AIM President Steven J. DeKrey

Imran Saddique: Do you think with the ASEAN Economic Community kicking off by the end of 2015 will change things?

Steven DeKrey: I’m hopeful that AIM can carve a niche in the ASEAN Economic Community. We wanted to pick a specialty where we can excel, and ASEAN makes the most sense because it’s a developing network of countries and it requires management knowledge. Also, it’s happening right in our own neighborhood.

There are very few accredited schools in ASEAN – we can count them on two hands, maybe even one. We are the only one in the Philippines so there’s quality that we bring to the table. That makes a difference. We are also expanding as we’ve really picked ASEAN as our focal point. However, whether the ASEAN integration will allow cross border human resource flow as it is intended to, will have to be seen.

Wouldn’t it be great if accredited MBA graduates had visa free access to all ten countries? Wouldn’t that expand the growth of business opportunities if you could send management across the region? Either way, the skills that our students are trained at in AIM will enable them to think and act across borders. The 40,000 alumni that we’ve graduated and who have their way to the top of the world’s leading companies are proof of that.

Imran Saddique: How was the experience of hosting ‘Geeks on a plane’ and are there plans to do something similar in the future?

Steven DeKrey: Well, first of all I have to give credit to how it unfolded. It was an MBA student, Shunsuke Ishimoto, who built the connection and made it happen. I don’t believe it would have happened without him bringing it to our attention and offering the opportunity to do the ‘Geeks on the Plane’ event. About 500 people came to AIM that day, and people were buzzing about it for weeks on end.

We also had a great time hosting a group of established entrepreneurs and investors. We even had a Speed Dating event that followed the tech summit, where students were able to meet with these investors and they are able to get feedback on their respective ventures.

Imran Saddique: What do you think are the most important skills for business leaders in the upcoming competitive environment of ASEAN?

Steven DeKrey: It’s about global leadership, not ASEAN leadership or even Philippine leadership. I’m a generalist, but not naive enough to think that you can actually generalize what you do at the top level and then contextualize those so those skills are going to vary on the ground.

When I talk about general qualities, one of the first things I have to point out is receptivity and flexibility. If you’re going to cross borders and deal with unique cultures, you need to be open-minded and listen more than you speak.

There’s a word in leadership development called sense-making. The first thing you do when you enter a market or enter a room is to figure out what’s going on – people who have the ability to do that are not all that common. Being able to quiet your mind and focus on people is a legitimate talent.

There are four main characteristics and they apply to your question; one is integrity, stable-mindedness and – the most important one – is forward thinking.

So what does that mean? A business has to know where things are headed or someone else will figure it out. That’s why there are a lot of businesses that fail. It’s not easy to predict the future, but true leadership is about being a step ahead of the curve. It’s able to make sense of the changing tides of the business landscape, and being able to strategize accordingly.

Imran Saddique: How do you train that?

dekrey6Steven DeKrey: What we do at AIM is the case method way of learning. Case studies introduce our students to actual business and management situations that they must analyze. We discuss the cases in class, and predict whether it could be a failure or a success based on available information. But either way, for the students it means vicarious learning, with multiple decisions that they have to make and then watch it evolve in the real world. That’s one way to teach that skill but it’s still experimental.

70 per cent of leadership development comes from experience, 20 per cent comes from mentoring, i.e. good supervision and from a role model, and 10 per cent comes from formal education. That 10 per cent is why I am in this business, because that 10 per cent informs the other 90 per cent about frameworks, vocabulary and analytics.

Imran Saddique: Tech embraces failure. One learns from his mistakes through somebody else’s – but how does that work with the cultural differences in Asia?

Steven DeKrey: That is a very good issue to bring up. Think of your own life: You have probably learned most from the mistakes you’ve made, and that emotional engagement is part of teaching. Emotional engagement is more powerful and – believe it or not – when you make a mistake, it’s an emotional and teaching moment at the same time. Naturally you think back to the mistakes or the miscalculations, and you learn from them.

I wrote a book once called ‘Learning from Mistakes’ although I did not publish it. I used it in a class where I had the MBA program. I shared it because you need to build a mistake-allowing culture in your company; a leader needs to allow that to happen. You do have to be careful, though, as it requires controlled decision making that involves some risk, but with this belief it is going to yield.

The classroom is one of the best places to make mistakes. I tell students from the beginning, let’s hear from you, what do you think? You’re in a laboratory. The classroom is one of the few places in the world where you can have that freedom because we’re all in this together.

Imran Saddique: How do you think things will progress?

Steven DeKrey: We have new Institutional plans that are bound to take shape soon. Our dream is to be a leader in the ASEAN and to have the capability to produce the top talent for the region. For that, we need to continue to build the brand, as well as improve our faculty and facilities.

We need to do a lot of things, and I know we’re on our way to achieving a lot of them. I am hopeful, but that means producing the top talent that people want to hire, and having multiple job offers for multiple candidates.

I’m also happy about the appointment of our new dean, Dr. Jikyeong Kang. She was previously the Doctor of Business Administration Program Director at the Manchester Business School, and was instrumental in propelling its Financial Times rankings to the top in 2007.  Her arrival at AIM comes at a time when the ASEAN region is moving toward greater economic integration, and this signals changes for us at AIM as well—that we are a school that has become increasingly diverse through the years, from the composition of our faculty to our student body. This diversity will help us facilitate the exchange of ideas and experiences, especially as we prepare leaders who will thrive in a dynamic environment.

The great news is that the professors recognize her talent and voted for her against other people including candidates from within. My dream, of course, is that we’d be not only a highly reputable school, but also a wealthy school. We’re currently doing a fundraising campaign, and it honestly makes a big difference in a business school to have resource activity because that gives room for improvement for the Institute.

Imran Saddique: From your personal experience: Now it’s been two and a half years since I’ve last met you. Do you have plans to stay beyond your contract?

DeKrey AIMSteven DeKrey: Well, I don’t know, maybe a five-year renegotiation will come to pass, and we will decide whether I should continue or not. I’m committed to the impact we want to have here. I’ve been pleased with the welcoming culture of the Philippines, it’s a very friendly, hospitable place.

Makati is a wonderful city and our facilities are very well-designed, although they might need some upgrading. We have the space here where we can do the things we want to do. We are functioning quite well. The ground floor has just been upgraded, and the faculties have helped to move along with it. I personally think there’s a better balance here than there was in Hong Kong. There’s a very pleasant balance also with family life. I think it is part of what’s embedded in this culture – caring for each other.

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Reading Time: 8 minutes

The Asian Institute of Management (AIM) is a private graduate school in Makati City, Manila. AIM is the first school in Southeast Asia to achieve accreditation from the US-based Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) based on the world’s highest international standards.  AIM was established in partnership with Harvard Business School in 1968. Investvine spoke to AIM President Steven J. DeKrey about the latest developments.

Reading Time: 8 minutes

AIM staffThe Asian Institute of Management (AIM) is a private graduate school in Makati City, Manila. AIM is the first school in Southeast Asia to achieve accreditation from the US-based Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) based on the world’s highest international standards.  AIM was established in partnership with Harvard Business School in 1968. Investvine spoke to AIM President Steven J. DeKrey about the latest developments.

Imran Saddique (Investvine): Mr. DeKrey, how large is AIM’s student population and what are the most sought-after programs?

Steven DeKrey: We have three schools:  the Washington SyCip Graduate School of Business, The Stephen Zuellig Graduate School of Development Management, and the Executive Education for Lifelong Learning Center (EXCELL).

Under the Washington SyCip Graduate School of Business, we currently offer two programs, the Master in Business Administration and the EMBA. The current MBA batch has 58 full-time students in the 16-month MBA program. Most of them live on-campus.

We used to have two sections for the MBA program, but to align with our goals of becoming one of the best schools in Asia, we decided to increase selectivity and go for quality, diversity, and employability. We raised the admission standards by having only one section in the new cohort. Not only did all the applicants have to take the GMAT, which is a first time for AIM, but they were also interviewed by a panel of one alumnus, one Career Services officer, and one professor. Actually, the students’ graduation speeches from last December are a great example of their caliber. All the speeches are uploaded on Youtube (Graduation Speech). The students of each class picked a speaker, so we had three student speakers. Our commencement speaker was the President of BDO Unibank, Inc, and an AIM Trustee.

The EMBA program, meanwhile, has a total of 64 students, separated into two classes. This program is geared towards those with extensive managerial experience, and those who wish to remain fully employed while studying. Students are able to apply what they learn real-time, with concentrations in finance, marketing, and entrepreneurship.

In the Zuellig School, we offer the Master in Development Management (MDM) program. The current batch has 53 students. Our students come from very diverse backgrounds, ranging from Bhutan, Afghanistan, India, China, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Lao PDR, to name a few. Work experiences of students span government, the military, non-profit organizations, religious orders, and the private sector. The MDM is an 11-month intensive and practitioner-oriented graduate degree program designed to prepare development executives to manage and lead public agencies, civil society organizations, and private companies engaged in public services delivery.

The Zuellig also has Development Executive Programs, which are short non-degree programs that focus on specialized topics for development workers. In a given month, there could be about 40 enrollees in these courses.

EXCELL programs offered regularly throughout the year are the Basic Management Program, Management Development Program, and the Top Management Program.  The last run of these programs had about 102 participants. We also customize programs for organizations.

Imran Saddique: With the EMBA programs to start in January 2015, what has been the response?

dekrey2
AIM President Steven J. DeKrey

Steven DeKrey: The response has been very positive. We were able to meet our target goals for enrollment, and we are able to differentiate this program from the full-time MBA program. The EMBA draws students from various industries.

Our classes are geared towards those who want to maximize their time and their potential by being able to work and study at the same time. The general qualifications are that students need at least four years of full-time work experience, and at least two years in a managerial position. We are very optimistic with this new batch of EMBA students who just started this January.

Imran Saddique: What role does innovation and entrepreneurship play at AIM?

Steven DeKrey: Innovation is part of the AIM DNA. It’s an interesting concept because we believe that it should be everywhere – it’s not just high tech processes that should be innovated. Leadership should also be innovative. It’s about being creative, and being able to implement problem-solving in a novel way.

Our professors embrace innovation in much broader terms. It’s not limited to a technological angle, because we are not a tech school or an engineering school. We are a business school that encourages entrepreneurship, and that is where engineering, technology, finance, and marketing come together.

Last July, we even hosted a series of big data events. One was from a development management perspective, where we had an expert come in to discuss the implications and opportunities for international organizations in using big data. We also co-hosted big data forums in partnership with IBM, as its Country General Manager , Mariels Almeda-Winhoffer, is an AIM Trustee.

At AIM, we understand that progress and growth happen at fast speeds. We take it upon ourselves to train future leaders in ensuring that the gains of the ASEAN region are sustained and that communities experience long-lasting development. We at AIM are attuned to the evolving needs of the region, and are working to create leaders with vision and fortitude to pursue some of the most important work of our time.

dekrey5
Imran Saddique, Investvine (left) talks with AIM President Steven J. DeKrey

Imran Saddique: Do you think with the ASEAN Economic Community kicking off by the end of 2015 will change things?

Steven DeKrey: I’m hopeful that AIM can carve a niche in the ASEAN Economic Community. We wanted to pick a specialty where we can excel, and ASEAN makes the most sense because it’s a developing network of countries and it requires management knowledge. Also, it’s happening right in our own neighborhood.

There are very few accredited schools in ASEAN – we can count them on two hands, maybe even one. We are the only one in the Philippines so there’s quality that we bring to the table. That makes a difference. We are also expanding as we’ve really picked ASEAN as our focal point. However, whether the ASEAN integration will allow cross border human resource flow as it is intended to, will have to be seen.

Wouldn’t it be great if accredited MBA graduates had visa free access to all ten countries? Wouldn’t that expand the growth of business opportunities if you could send management across the region? Either way, the skills that our students are trained at in AIM will enable them to think and act across borders. The 40,000 alumni that we’ve graduated and who have their way to the top of the world’s leading companies are proof of that.

Imran Saddique: How was the experience of hosting ‘Geeks on a plane’ and are there plans to do something similar in the future?

Steven DeKrey: Well, first of all I have to give credit to how it unfolded. It was an MBA student, Shunsuke Ishimoto, who built the connection and made it happen. I don’t believe it would have happened without him bringing it to our attention and offering the opportunity to do the ‘Geeks on the Plane’ event. About 500 people came to AIM that day, and people were buzzing about it for weeks on end.

We also had a great time hosting a group of established entrepreneurs and investors. We even had a Speed Dating event that followed the tech summit, where students were able to meet with these investors and they are able to get feedback on their respective ventures.

Imran Saddique: What do you think are the most important skills for business leaders in the upcoming competitive environment of ASEAN?

Steven DeKrey: It’s about global leadership, not ASEAN leadership or even Philippine leadership. I’m a generalist, but not naive enough to think that you can actually generalize what you do at the top level and then contextualize those so those skills are going to vary on the ground.

When I talk about general qualities, one of the first things I have to point out is receptivity and flexibility. If you’re going to cross borders and deal with unique cultures, you need to be open-minded and listen more than you speak.

There’s a word in leadership development called sense-making. The first thing you do when you enter a market or enter a room is to figure out what’s going on – people who have the ability to do that are not all that common. Being able to quiet your mind and focus on people is a legitimate talent.

There are four main characteristics and they apply to your question; one is integrity, stable-mindedness and – the most important one – is forward thinking.

So what does that mean? A business has to know where things are headed or someone else will figure it out. That’s why there are a lot of businesses that fail. It’s not easy to predict the future, but true leadership is about being a step ahead of the curve. It’s able to make sense of the changing tides of the business landscape, and being able to strategize accordingly.

Imran Saddique: How do you train that?

dekrey6Steven DeKrey: What we do at AIM is the case method way of learning. Case studies introduce our students to actual business and management situations that they must analyze. We discuss the cases in class, and predict whether it could be a failure or a success based on available information. But either way, for the students it means vicarious learning, with multiple decisions that they have to make and then watch it evolve in the real world. That’s one way to teach that skill but it’s still experimental.

70 per cent of leadership development comes from experience, 20 per cent comes from mentoring, i.e. good supervision and from a role model, and 10 per cent comes from formal education. That 10 per cent is why I am in this business, because that 10 per cent informs the other 90 per cent about frameworks, vocabulary and analytics.

Imran Saddique: Tech embraces failure. One learns from his mistakes through somebody else’s – but how does that work with the cultural differences in Asia?

Steven DeKrey: That is a very good issue to bring up. Think of your own life: You have probably learned most from the mistakes you’ve made, and that emotional engagement is part of teaching. Emotional engagement is more powerful and – believe it or not – when you make a mistake, it’s an emotional and teaching moment at the same time. Naturally you think back to the mistakes or the miscalculations, and you learn from them.

I wrote a book once called ‘Learning from Mistakes’ although I did not publish it. I used it in a class where I had the MBA program. I shared it because you need to build a mistake-allowing culture in your company; a leader needs to allow that to happen. You do have to be careful, though, as it requires controlled decision making that involves some risk, but with this belief it is going to yield.

The classroom is one of the best places to make mistakes. I tell students from the beginning, let’s hear from you, what do you think? You’re in a laboratory. The classroom is one of the few places in the world where you can have that freedom because we’re all in this together.

Imran Saddique: How do you think things will progress?

Steven DeKrey: We have new Institutional plans that are bound to take shape soon. Our dream is to be a leader in the ASEAN and to have the capability to produce the top talent for the region. For that, we need to continue to build the brand, as well as improve our faculty and facilities.

We need to do a lot of things, and I know we’re on our way to achieving a lot of them. I am hopeful, but that means producing the top talent that people want to hire, and having multiple job offers for multiple candidates.

I’m also happy about the appointment of our new dean, Dr. Jikyeong Kang. She was previously the Doctor of Business Administration Program Director at the Manchester Business School, and was instrumental in propelling its Financial Times rankings to the top in 2007.  Her arrival at AIM comes at a time when the ASEAN region is moving toward greater economic integration, and this signals changes for us at AIM as well—that we are a school that has become increasingly diverse through the years, from the composition of our faculty to our student body. This diversity will help us facilitate the exchange of ideas and experiences, especially as we prepare leaders who will thrive in a dynamic environment.

The great news is that the professors recognize her talent and voted for her against other people including candidates from within. My dream, of course, is that we’d be not only a highly reputable school, but also a wealthy school. We’re currently doing a fundraising campaign, and it honestly makes a big difference in a business school to have resource activity because that gives room for improvement for the Institute.

Imran Saddique: From your personal experience: Now it’s been two and a half years since I’ve last met you. Do you have plans to stay beyond your contract?

DeKrey AIMSteven DeKrey: Well, I don’t know, maybe a five-year renegotiation will come to pass, and we will decide whether I should continue or not. I’m committed to the impact we want to have here. I’ve been pleased with the welcoming culture of the Philippines, it’s a very friendly, hospitable place.

Makati is a wonderful city and our facilities are very well-designed, although they might need some upgrading. We have the space here where we can do the things we want to do. We are functioning quite well. The ground floor has just been upgraded, and the faculties have helped to move along with it. I personally think there’s a better balance here than there was in Hong Kong. There’s a very pleasant balance also with family life. I think it is part of what’s embedded in this culture – caring for each other.

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