In this interview, Vibhu Kapoor—a recent graduate of the Executive Program in General Management (EPGM) and an Advanced Certificate for Executives in Management, Innovation & Technology (ACE) holder—shares his thoughts about continuous learning at MIT Sloan.
Where are you from and what brought you to the U.S.?
I was born, brought up, and have lived most of my life in India, where I received my MBA in 2000. In 2003, I made a career move to Dubai and have been there for the last 16 years working for different organizations.
Can you tell us about your professional experience and your role at your current company?
For the last four years, I have worked for Infor a multinational firm that offers software services and business applications to various organizations. Our corporate headquarters are in New York City but I work out of the Dubai office. I am a media spokesperson for our company and Director of Alliances and Channels Ecosystem. As such, I build partnerships with Fortune 500 companies that resell or provide consulting services which are industry specific—ERP, CRM, and the like. My focus is at the strategic level and my goal is to get companies to partner with us and determine what we should do for each ecosystem. Regionally, I work in India, Africa, and the Middle East. I work in strategy, business development, marketing, and sales areas. (Previously, Kapoor worked for SAP and Microsoft.)
What prompted you to pursue executive education at MIT?
I wanted to get into an executive education program that would suit my lifestyle and supplement what I had learned earlier in my MBA. Also, I was feeling a little disconnected and wanted to grasp the reality of what millennials are doing these days. I also needed a program that would suit my current work and travel schedule, as well as my family’s needs and location. The option was a U.S. education. Although I have always studied at top schools in India, I have barely worked there. I have always worked for American firms, but never had a U.S. education. I wanted to find a U.S. location and if you have the choice to pick the best, then why not? I couldn’t think of any place else that had done as much in information technology, AI, and business investing. During my research I found that MIT also had the best to offer in terms of courses, subjects, and logistically, and it resonated with me. MIT was the best school so it was an easy decision.
Were there specific challenges you were trying to address, or a specific set of skills you were seeking?
I need to be at the front of what is happening around the world. I realized over time that I needed to discover how companies build strategy and primarily how they build a good platform strategy. That is what prompted me to look into the entrepreneurship, innovation, and start-up cultures. Learning how to take the ball forward was key for me. My main course was the Executive Program in General Management (EPGM), and as part of the program, I also received an Advanced Certificate for Executives in Management, Innovation & Technology (ACE).
How does the EPGM differ from other executive education programs you have taken? I’ve not taken another executive course since my MBA so I can only compare it to that experience. The MIT experience was much more condensed, conclusive, and hands on. EPGM gave us practical life examples of the corporate world. What helped me the most was taking the program at this stage and time in my life. The information is so relevant and very much applicable to what I have been doing professionally all my life, and what I am doing today.
What courses did you find the most helpful?
All of the courses were great, but one that left a mark on me was the Entrepreneurship Development Program (EDP) with Bill Aulet, which was awesome. Another was Implementing Improvement Strategies: Dynamic Work Design. I work for a big firm but we are in start-up mode most of the time. During these courses, we learned how to look at an organization from the top level, as well as how to manage teams across the board.
The Revitalizing Your Digital Business Model course (as part of the ACE component) was great, too. My company currently is all about the digital transformation of our end user. This course in particular helped me to understand the process from an end user perspective and to bridge the disconnect between the sales people and the actual end user. At my company, we are the ones who sell solutions to do that; we are always trying to bridge the gap between what we are trying to do and what the customer wants. Another helpful course was Platform Strategy: Building and Thriving in a Vibrant Ecosystem, with Pierre Azoulay. The course is something that has stayed with me and helped me to understand how a startup works and how to use platform strategy in an organization.
Are there takeaways/key benefits from the programs that you were able to apply at your workplace?
My company is very innovative, but these courses were more about building and leading a sustainable organization. We are innovative, but sometimes are not doing what we are supposed to do and our teams can be disconnected. During the program, we did an exercise that explored synergies and how to build a high velocity team. Because we don’t sell to the U.S., we can be disconnected from the corporate office. The EPGM program helped me learn how to apply practices within a wider organization.
In addition, some of the benefits from my experiences at MIT can be applied outside my work environment. I’ve been having a lot of discussions with peers and friend groups. We’ve been working on some start-up opportunities and have made some headway. In fact, we recently presented to MIT and won the best project award for one of our ideas and that particular project is now taking shape.
Were you able to make connections with other participants? Were the connections beneficial? Absolutely! There were 60 or so in our group from a variety of backgrounds. It gave me an opportunity to hear different perspectives and helped me come out of my own shell. I still speak to many of my classmates today. I travel a lot for work so am able to make connections. I try to have mini MIT reunions in coffee shops when I can—in London, Mumbai, South Africa. The journey hasn’t stopped.
What surprised you most about your experience at MIT?
My experience has been pleasantly happy, but not really surprising. My expectations for the program were pretty grounded, and in many cases they have been exceeded. In addition, a big plus point and extra benefit was the opportunity to understand the whole MIT culture through the campus tour and the Cambridge Innovation Center. I met a lot of people who were into venture funding. That’s when you realize the power of being in such an environment. MIT has a fantastic brand name; we had the chance to go beyond ACE and EPGM and see the overall power of the campus and surrounding area.
Would you recommend MIT courses to colleagues? Do you plan to return to campus for additional courses? I have already recommended the program to colleagues and friends. I do intend to take more courses myself and would love to return for a longer engagement, which allows for invaluable networking, seeing the campus, making connections, and utilizing those connections.
Learn more about EPGM—a unique program designed for executives in emerging markets who are looking to reinforce their strengths, learn new skills, connect to other high-achieving managers from around the world, and prepare for the next phase of their career.