A wise investment of time and money: a self-paid MBA in a year

Joanna Sinclair

In January 2014 David Schär set out to achieve a courageous quest. His plan was to obtain an MBA at Aalto University Executive Education in record schedule and finish 20 modules in 12 study months – and pick up the bill for his own studies. Schär reached his goal studying side by side with three different cohorts: the Part-time MBAs of 2013 and 2014, as well as the EMBA class of 2013.

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Schär has roots in both Switzerland and Finland. Although his life is based in Switzerland, he is thoroughly familiar with the Finnish education system as well. He asserts that getting his MBA at Aalto University Executive Education in Helsinki was an easy choice.

“I always knew I wanted an MBA at some stage, the only question was timing. I also knew I definitely wanted to get the MBA in Finland. Finnish education is renowned for its high quality for a very good reason, I know this first hand. I was born and raised in Switzerland, but I went to high school in Finland and obtained my first Master’s degree from the Helsinki University of Technology, one of the founding schools of Aalto University,” Schär describes.

“The Aalto MBA is Scandinavia’s best program. Looking back, I am highly pleased with my choice. Aalto’s MBA program was exceptionally good,” affirms Schär, who paid for the program himself. He underlines that from start to finish, his MBA took 14 months: twelve months of full-time studies interrupted by two month-long vacations.

Reaching far out of your comfort zone

Schär has a background as a manager and specialist working near R&D and manufacturing. He has experience from versatile fields, for example medical device business and energy business. One of his main reasons for pursuing an MBA was to add business knowledge to his technical competence to help him move up the corporate ladder.

Time management was a key prerequisite to Schär completing 20 modules in 12 study months. He emphasizes that a key reason he was able to achieve his goal and keep to his demanding schedule was the utmost support he had from his fiancée all through the journey.

“While fast-tracking was extremely hectic and demanding, I cannot help but think that perhaps I got even more out of the studies than my fellow students did?” Schär ponders and explains that although his peers who worked alongside their studies could immediately take everything they learned into practice, his full-time schedule allowed him to read every book carefully, give the program his full attention and make sure he got the best possible return on his investment.

“I whole-heartedly recommend the Aalto MBA to anyone considering the idea. Aalto EE’s mix of domestic and international top experts as teachers was excellent, as was the quality in every aspect of the program. Everything ran like clockwork. The MBA is a tremendously rewarding journey and it gives you a unique connection with the people you share the experience with. I had the added bonus of building a network with peers from three MBA groups–I know I made many life-long friends,” Schär highlights.

“If you are privileged in the sense that you are able to take time off work and concentrate fully on the MBA, I am happy to recommend a fast-track schedule, as long as you do not take the challenge on lightly. Completing the program in twelve study months does not leave room for failing a single exam,” reminds Schär, who ended up finishing his degree with very good grades.

Schär stresses that the MBA takes participants out of their comfort zones. “The personal development process opens your eyes to individual shortcomings you should work on, and the demanding studies force you to prove yourself time and again–I also believe that studying side-by-side with such driven and talented peers pushes everyone to work even harder.”

“The MBA gave me new perspective. I feel this was the most substantial reward: I now look at business and see the big picture. Aalto’s MBA gave me a new level of confidence. I have grown as a person, and I am equipped with a considerable array of useful tools. I am confident I can now benefit an employer on an entirely new level with my ability to crunch numbers, analyze business opportunities and make decisions.”

A tangible return on investment

After finishing the Aalto MBA in March 2015 Schär was invited to join ebeam Technologies at COMET AG as Director of Equipment Engineering. Schär describes his new position as highly motivating and as a very tangible example of the MBA’s return on investment.

“My new job is exactly what I set out to achieve with the MBA. COMET Group is a Public Limited Company with over a thousand employees. The headquarters are in Flamatt, Switzerland and its stock is listed on the SIX Swiss Exchange as COMET HOLDING AG. As a result of its very strong core products and robust market position, the company is undergoing rapid growth. This allows it to seek for new and attractive growth segments and expansions into new businesses. I work directly with this new side of the business.”

“In Switzerland as in Central Europe in general wage costs are high and innovation is essential. We now have proof from the market for our innovative technology and we are moving forward with considerable scale-up, setting up a new factory. I am putting my new skills and knowledge to use on a daily basis and enjoying the challenge immensely,” Schär affirms and mentions the MBA’s entrepreneurial courses as especially beneficial to his new work.

“The entrepreneurial electives at Aalto EE were a personal favorite of mine and I am fortunate to now be in a position to make the most out of what I learned. The courses were very hands-on, including visits to startups which combined theory to practice in a marvelous way.”

Schär underlines that achieving an MBA was a personal goal he is happy to have reached, but that his appetite for learning is far from satiated. “I enjoy challenging myself. Right now, I am fascinated by the prospects I can achieve at work–but I must confess that I have registered as a doctoral student at Aalto University as well. Time will tell if I take that path.”

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