Fahim Saddiqui is the executive vice president of product and operations for New York technology firm Intralinks Holdings Inc. and an alumnus of the IE Brown Executive MBA program, a partnership between Brown University and the IE Business School in Madrid, Spain.
Saddiqui spoke with Providence Business News about the program and the implications of integrating business and liberal arts education in a globalized world.
PBN: What is the IE Brown Executive MBA, and how did you first become involved in the program?
SADDIQUI: This is a young, innovative Executive MBA offered jointly by Brown University and the top-ranked IE Business School from Madrid, Spain. This program uniquely combines the traditional MBA curriculum from IE with a “Beyond Business” curriculum from Brown. As I was seeking executive education for career growth, I was instantly drawn to this very unique combination of liberal arts and business education which extended the scope of learning from basic business skills to deeper exploration of leadership and management by exploring their basis in psychology, philosophy and the fine arts.
This program further offered the flexibility of blended learning through a very effective mix of classroom and online learning. I enrolled in the first cohort for the 2011-12 session and completed the program with 22 other cohort members, who came from more than 12 different countries to participate in the program.
PBN: Students in the IE Brown EMBA program average 14 years of work experience. At such a critical point in their careers, how can people reinvent their careers?
SADDIQUI: We are living in an unprecedented era of global competition. As professionals enter the mid-stage of their careers, they are frequently asked to look beyond their professional areas of expertise, to take on expanded responsibilities, and are often challenged to have a holistic view of the business and local/global environments. This often requires professionals to transition into general managers with sound grasp of the strategic, financial, marketing and broader economic dimensions of the business.
The EMBA curriculum prepares a professional to develop the tools and perspective required for such a successful transition. In a sense, the MBA offers a gateway towards the evolution of a successful professional into a connected leader with the appropriate preparation and perspective, required for success in a competitive global economy.
PBN: How did integrating liberal arts and the humanities into a business curriculum help you gain a broader perspective of global business, especially in such a technologically focused role?
SADDIQUI: Business opportunities are usually rooted in wider cultural and socio-economic trends, and recognizing these trends requires one to have a broader context driving the conversation in our communities and businesses. Just last year, “selfie” was accepted as a word in the dictionary and a cultural activity enticing Pope and presidents alike. But there is a deeper phenomenon of each of us being attached to our fully connected devices, at home and at work. These devices have, in turn, redefined the corporate technology boundaries, with corporate data and “selfies” often co-residing on the same devices.
With additional concern around data privacy and information leakage control, one can discern several interesting technology opportunities that are driven by the “selfie” but rooted in the deeper pragmatic concern for information control and security in a corporation balanced with the need for productivity. What may appear as a pop trend or a cultural phenomenon could often be a bigger opportunity requiring “Beyond Business” perspective for successful identification and value creation.
PBN: What do you believe to be the biggest misconception about a liberal arts education? Are students who choose “traditional” MBA programs missing out?
SADDIQUI: At times people might feel that liberal arts education is disconnected from the process of value creation in a business setting. However, liberal arts education often helps us recognize the wider context in which our businesses operate and the drivers that motivate various stakeholders in their relationship with the businesses. When you study business strategy in a business class, often you are best served by developing a perspective of strategy in geopolitical context over the millennia. Corporations today exist across national boundaries and leaders are well advised to understand the cultural and historical sensibilities of their customers, partners and suppliers.
PBN: How can technology companies like Intralinks learn to meet the shifting demands of global business?
SADDIQUI: Intralinks was founded 16 years ago to facilitate business, leveraging the internet across enterprise and geographical boundaries while providing highest level of security and compliance. In this context, we have to be ever-vigilant in terms of anticipating global business trends and responding with innovation that continues to deliver on our value proposition. For instance, last year we introduced Intralinks Via that gives an employee the flexibility of accessing their corporate documents securely from their devices while providing the enterprise information and security professionals the control over the lifecycle of this content. This product was brought to life through our vigilant scanning of cultural trends and constant dialogue with our global corporate customer base to fill an emerging white space.