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Why a MBA / Leadership Development Program (vs. direct hire)?
A leadership development program provides very broad exposure across multiple functions in a shorter time span and allows for true on-the-job training and application of theories and competencies learned in business school. It's really an ideal program for someone who hasn't yet decided on the most suitable functional role after business school.

What are the key advantages / disadvantages of being on a MBA / Leadership Development Program?
The advantages of a leadership development program are copious. In addition to exposure across functions, sometimes there is exposure across geographic areas as well. Professional development is much more emphasized in this type of program in addition to network-building, as the program is typically championed internally. The difficulties, however, are that it can be personally difficult to uproot and move roles on a short-term basis.

How does the MBA / Leadership Development Program fit in your career goals?
My leadership development program is a true general management program that really provided me with experience in functional areas that were only theoretical in business school (finance, marketing, etc.) Through my different assignments, I have been able to build up a set of core competencies that gives me a deeper matrixed understanding of how business elements play together and how commercial and operational levers drive the top and bottom line (total enterprise performance.) In general, it's made me much more well-rounded for a future managerial role.

How strongly did you weight the location of the program?
I wanted to be able to have different international experiences and embraced the fact that I would be moving to various locations. It is a personal choice to make.

What to look for in a MBA / Leadership Development Program?
Look for a program that is well-established and has internal champions in multiple departments. Also, assess where program graduates have landed after finishing and see if that is aligned with future career goals.

Can you summarize the recruiting process you went through and how long it took?
The recruiting process for MeadWestvaco's Leadership Associate program started with on-campus face-to-face interviews with HR individuals and later a two-day assessment center at European headquarters in Geneva. These included panel interviews, group case study, networking, one-on-one interviews with senior leaders and a developmental coach, and critical reasoning and personality profiles prior to the assessment center. There was also a networking reception in dinner where informal interviewing took place. All in all, it took approximately two months.

What advice and tips can you share with those interested in MBA Development Programs?
Prepare quantifiable examples of leadership and action-driven results. Understand where you have developed competencies and skills that can be translated to other functions and group settings. Understand your personality and how you can affect change in an organizational setting. Be comfortable with having conversations with people at different levels in an organization.