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Help Sought: Corporate Sponsorship

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Help Sought: Corporate Sponsorship [#permalink] New post 11 Feb 2013, 21:37
Hi All,

I am a regular here and as you will see basis information on the left, I am matriculating at Tuck this fall. Although I am awaiting a final decision from Cornell, unless theres a scholarship involved, my decision won't change.

Interestingly, even though they knew all along, I had a meeting with my employer (the Managing Partner and a Senior Partner) today. I work in a smallish firm (in terms of number of employees) which is at the top of its game in its industry. Also, its a global firm with offices in 57 countries, but each one operates independently under a common brand name (something like KPMG). We are into leadership consulting.

Essentially, they have offered to sponsor my MBA at Tuck. They told me that they see me as a future Partner in the firm, which could be as soon as 4-5 years after I return from my MBA. I may also receive equity in the Indian company, based on my performance. The company will pay for my MBA, and if I choose not to return or leave before X number of years, I will need to pay the firm back over X number of years agreed upon.

The help I need is on corporate sponsorship models that exist in various firms, especially in consulting. My company has never done this before for anyone, and I feel very honoured and privileged to be offered this. However, as they have not done this before, they need me to design the program overall.

Also, any thoughts on whether I should take this up or no - basically, general thoughts on corporate sponsorship. I'm sure the first question many will ask will be what do you want to do. Honestly, as of today, I don't know. Sure, I have a sense of what I think I want to do (mgmt consulting/general management programs) but that may evolve on campus. Also, today I only carry perceptions of what a consulting firm does, how the career shapes up etc. My current firm does not do strategy consulting, but we consult with CEOs and Chairmen of major companies. Over the past 1 year, I have directly consulted with such leaders.
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Re: Help Sought: Corporate Sponsorship [#permalink] New post 11 Feb 2013, 22:31
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Congrats on the sponsorship opportunity!

What a great situation to be in! I work for a global consulting firm, and the model that we have is as follows:

Eligibility and Requirements
- Only top 30% of high performers are eligible. Must seek sponsor from leadership team and go through approval process (local, then global). Minimum 2 years with firm.
- There are only 5 approved schools that are deemed to have 'international value'. (Personal opinion: I think it's a restrictively small list, but this is a different topic altogether. There used to be ~10 schools in the list, with other schools to be considered on a case-by-case basis. They've changed it this year. /end rant).

During School
- We're encouraged to do internship at other companies EXCEPT competitors.
- We're expected to work with a managing director assigned as the 'school lead' in promoting the company amongst classmates. This may involve running info sessions or as simple as proactively promoting the benefits of the firm throughout your two years there.
- If you're from one of select emerging markets, your housing and other approved expenses may be part of the sponsorship.

After School
- Once graduated, the expectation is to go back to the region/office that you were part of.
- You're expected to work a minimum of 2 years upon return. If you leave within 2 years, you must pay back the firm on a pro-rata basis i.e. 1/24th of tuition (or total sponsorship) for every month NOT worked.

Let me know if you have any specific question.

Re: whether you should take it up or not, the way I see it is that it depends on what you want to do post-MBA (you're right!) and the minimum of 'X' years you need to work with them upon graduation. What was your original intention of doing an MBA? If you were actually still open to return to the same company prior to hearing about their willingness to sponsor you, AND the opportunities upon your return at the firm are aligned with what you want to do, then that leaves us with the minimum number of years you need to work with them after graduation.

I'd say take it up, go through bus-school and decide towards the end. If you change your mind and are ok with paying back the sponsorship at graduation, as long as the contract has a clause that allows you to do so, you can change your mind then. It'll be a difficult conversation for sure, especially if you have a good relationship with them, but if they're reasonable people, I'm sure they'll understand.

Last edited by theK on 12 Feb 2013, 03:39, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Help Sought: Corporate Sponsorship [#permalink] New post 12 Feb 2013, 01:57
theK wrote:
Congrats on the sponsorship opportunity!

What a great situation to be in! I work for a global consulting firm, and the model that we have is as follows:

Eligibility and Requirements
- Only top 30% of high performers are eligible. Must seek sponsor from leadership team and go through approval process (local, then global). Minimum 2 years with firm.
- There are only 5 approved schools that are deemed to have 'international value'. (Personal opinion: I think it's a restrictively small list, but this is a different topic altogether. There used to be 10 schools in the list, with other schools to be considered on a case-by-case basis. They've changed it this year. /end rant).

During School
- When at school, we're encouraged to do internship at other companies EXCEPT competitors.
- We're expected to work with a managing director assigned as the 'school lead' in promoting the company amongst classmates. This may involve running info sessions or as simple as proactively promoting the benefits of the firm throughout your two years there.
- If you're from one of select emerging markets, your housing and other approved expenses may be part of the sponsorship.

After School
- Once graduated, the expectation is to go back to the region/office that you were part of.
- You're expected to work a minimum of 2 years upon return. If you leave within 2 years, you must pay back the firm on a pro-rata basis i.e. 1/24th of tuition (or total sponsorship) for every month NOT worked.

Let me know if you have any specific question.

Re: whether you should take it up or not, the way I see it is that it depends on what you want to do post-MBA (you're right!) and the minimum of 'X' years you need to work with them upon graduation. What was your original intention of doing an MBA? If you were actually still open to return to the same company prior to hearing about their willingness to sponsor you, AND the opportunities upon your return at the firm are aligned with what you want to do, then that leaves us with the minimum number of years you need to work with them after graduation.

I'd say take it up, go through bus-school and decide towards the end. If you change your mind and are ok with paying back the sponsorship at graduation, as long as the contract has a clause that allows you to do so, you can change your mind then. It'll be a difficult conversation for sure, especially if you have a good relationship with them, but if they're reasonable people, I'm sure they'll understand.


Thanks for the detailed perspective. Really appreciate it.

The number of years will not be 2 for sure. Reasons are 1) first time they are sponsoring someone. Even if they look at it as a loan, paying back your loan in 2 years is a misnomer (assuming $100k + debt). This will more likely be 4 years. Plus, although I am the only non MBA they have ever hired, having an MBA doesnt propel your career (vresus a Bain, BCG etc.) - it works differently in India , 2) the equation is different. The conversation I had was centered around my becoming a partner at the firm. Sure, no one can guarantee that. But the intent is there and needs to be realized by both me, and the firm providing me the support.

Career wise, it sounds good. A junior partner at my firm makes $200K+ (in Indian rupees) which is a good amount. If I make partner in 4 years post B school (I would be 32 then) that would be a VERY comfortable living style I can have then.

Also, I was pleasantly surprised by how keen they were to sponsor me. Plus they understood that I may choose not to come back, and hence would have to pay them back. So your suggestion of taking the sponsorship, and paying them back if I dont work, is OK. But, two variables get introduced - i) currency fluctuations - as of now this is favourable, but I may be in a situation 2-3 years down the line where I am paying back $110-$120 or whatever instead of $100, and ii) The time to payback - I won't have a 10, 20 year cushion. Will probably need to pay this back within 5 years, ideally lesser.
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Re: Help Sought: Corporate Sponsorship [#permalink] New post 12 Feb 2013, 05:38
str1der, I was actually reading your blog last night and want to share with you one of the comments you made in response to machichi:

"Hehe - I want to have an international flavour to my professional experience. So not necessarily remain in the US, but travel the world. The main issue with coming back to India will be the student debt to be paid in US$. I mean I would love to come back home, but my interests (travel) + having enough ability to pay my loans, will probably keep me away for a few years."

So, the question is, would having your expenses covered be enough in your mind to mitigate pursuing your personal interests (travel)? Alternatively, is there some way you could have the best of both worlds by being sponsored and working in another country post-MBA? And, finally, does working at your current company another four years hinder or support your long-term goals?

Either way, this is a good problem to have! 8-)
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Re: Help Sought: Corporate Sponsorship [#permalink] New post 12 Feb 2013, 10:24
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I am already part of this discussion before I even post my thoughts! Love it. haha.

Since you're looking for opinions I'll give mine, which only represents what I'd do in the same situation. I don't know what's best for you, but my reaction would be thanks but no thanks.

I am so excited to explore and try out new things and have gotten a strong sense that many many people end up finishing up business school with a new path. For me business school is about opening up new opportunities, so feeling tied to someplace I'd already been would feel stifling. This obviously stems from my antsy, ambitious side, which I am guessing must be pretty common among MBA students. Debt is practically a non-issue for me. And it's not because I'm wealthy. I just don't care about having loans. My boyfriend likes to say that if we die owing the world money, we've beaten the Man (e.g. credit card companies, etc.). It's terrible advice for most people, but I like to think it means I've taken advantage of the world's great offerings. :)

Now, to get to how this may apply to you, well, it may not at all. I cannot put myself in your shoes, financially or otherwise. The difference between $100k and $120k is negligible to me, but the fact that you mention it already shows me that the economic situation in India is measurably different. I don't have to worry about co-signers and exchange rates, so I don't relate to those issues, or even truly understand them for that matter. That said, I see now why the temptation to go back to your company is quite high. In addition to the money though, It sounds like you would actually be happy going back career-wise, but the question I would ask them is this: "Would you put me on this track even if I didn't get my MBA?" If they say yes, ask yourself whether or not you would skip out on an MBA altogether. My guess is you wouldn't, so what is it that you see the MBA doing for you?

I don't want to "persuade" you by any stretch of the word, so I hope it's just food for thought.
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Re: Help Sought: Corporate Sponsorship [#permalink] New post 12 Feb 2013, 19:54
machichi wrote:
I am already part of this discussion before I even post my thoughts! Love it. haha.

Since you're looking for opinions I'll give mine, which only represents what I'd do in the same situation. I don't know what's best for you, but my reaction would be thanks but no thanks.

I am so excited to explore and try out new things and have gotten a strong sense that many many people end up finishing up business school with a new path. For me business school is about opening up new opportunities, so feeling tied to someplace I'd already been would feel stifling. This obviously stems from my antsy, ambitious side, which I am guessing must be pretty common among MBA students. Debt is practically a non-issue for me. And it's not because I'm wealthy. I just don't care about having loans. My boyfriend likes to say that if we die owing the world money, we've beaten the Man (e.g. credit card companies, etc.). It's terrible advice for most people, but I like to think it means I've taken advantage of the world's great offerings. :)

Now, to get to how this may apply to you, well, it may not at all. I cannot put myself in your shoes, financially or otherwise. The difference between $100k and $120k is negligible to me, but the fact that you mention it already shows me that the economic situation in India is measurably different. I don't have to worry about co-signers and exchange rates, so I don't relate to those issues, or even truly understand them for that matter. That said, I see now why the temptation to go back to your company is quite high. In addition to the money though, It sounds like you would actually be happy going back career-wise, but the question I would ask them is this: "Would you put me on this track even if I didn't get my MBA?" If they say yes, ask yourself whether or not you would skip out on an MBA altogether. My guess is you wouldn't, so what is it that you see the MBA doing for you?

I don't want to "persuade" you by any stretch of the word, so I hope it's just food for thought.


Hey - thanks so much for your perspective. I agree on the fact that the real impact of money on an Indian, can truly be understood only by an Indian. So leaving that aside, all your points make sense.

I asked myself the question that if I dont get an MBA, will I still get a similar career path at my current firm. And the answer is Yes. However, 2 years out of that journey will now go to business school versus working at the firm - and I am happy to do that, in light of the sponsorship of course. The MBA is a transformative experience nonetheless - interpersonal dynamics, shaping up folks into better leaders etc. That said, I also fully endorse your attitude of taking some risk and exploring whats out there - that was the very intention with which I applied for an MBA.

Hence, I think I will submit a proposal to them that obviously answers the question of how the sponsorship will work, but more importantly, if I don't come back, how do I pay them back. The advantage of doing that is that I, hopefully, will save the interest accruing on my principal while I am in school.

PS - I like your boyfriend's way of thinking :)
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Re: Help Sought: Corporate Sponsorship [#permalink] New post 12 Feb 2013, 19:58
kingfalcon wrote:
str1der, I was actually reading your blog last night and want to share with you one of the comments you made in response to machichi:

"Hehe - I want to have an international flavour to my professional experience. So not necessarily remain in the US, but travel the world. The main issue with coming back to India will be the student debt to be paid in US$. I mean I would love to come back home, but my interests (travel) + having enough ability to pay my loans, will probably keep me away for a few years."

So, the question is, would having your expenses covered be enough in your mind to mitigate pursuing your personal interests (travel)? Alternatively, is there some way you could have the best of both worlds by being sponsored and working in another country post-MBA? And, finally, does working at your current company another four years hinder or support your long-term goals?

Either way, this is a good problem to have! 8-)


Thanks - the travel part still remains, and my current job has some scope of doing that though we primarily serve Indian clients (the other offices in other countries work with clients in that geography). I also burn a lot of my savings to make atleast one trip a year to a far away land :)

I too would have loved it if I could get sponsored and go work in the London office for 4 years, say, before coming back to India. Unfortunately, that's not an option. Regarding goals, coming back to my present company means becoming a partner, and myabe one day, lead the organization. However, the exit route/options from this industry are very obscure, as its very niche, and hence that is a major discomfort I have as of today. If on the other hand I goto a McKinsey etc. post school, and after 5-10 years decide I wanna come back to India, my present line of work will def be something I would consider.
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Re: Help Sought: Corporate Sponsorship [#permalink] New post 14 Feb 2013, 12:34
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I am very late to the party here and looks like you got great input.
The only other point of reference I can offer to you is the West Point and US Military Academy conditions (they sponsor a 4-year degree along with room, board, and probably way beyond than what a corporate sponsorship would be), but I would guess their costs are lower too, so it would end up around half the investment your employer would make in you. This is more official than what other companies offer so perhaps this would offer your employer an official and documented perspective so they feel that they are getting a good value: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Sta ... _the_corps

Here is what they require in terms of commitment:
A service commitment of five years of active duty and three years of reserve status upon graduation.

Translating into bschool lingo that would be 3 years of full time employment with an option to extend it by a year. So, about 4 years.

Congratulations! As you evaluate this option, I can tell you that this will remove some anxiety from the program and will provide with quite a bit of free time since a LOT of time in bschool is spent on recruiting, schmoozing, interviewing, and attending various fictions. With a job in your back pocket, you would be very comfortable and you could still take a fun internship if you wanted the thrill ;)

P.S. I don't think you are losing much, you can always say "I changed my mind" and pay them back. What I would focus on is the terms of the loan and how it would be structured so that you could realistically walk out of the agreement without killing yourself or burning a bridge.
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Re: Help Sought: Corporate Sponsorship [#permalink] New post 15 Feb 2013, 09:16
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The decision to take the offer is yours alone. There are some other questions you may want to consider.
1) What is the reimbursement after taxes?
2) If you are sponsored, how it will affect your motivation to recruit? Recruiting is so hard and stressful (equally or more so than b-school app process), will you have the mental stamina to keep on at it? In a phrase made famous by Steve Jobs “stay hungry, stay foolish.”
3) Is the current job what you want to do after b-school? If you go back to this firm, your ability to switch out of the industry will be very limited after 4-5 years.
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Re: Help Sought: Corporate Sponsorship [#permalink] New post 15 Feb 2013, 14:06
First of all, congrats str1der - this sounds like a really great opportunity!

Quote:
The company will pay for my MBA, and if I choose not to return or leave before X number of years, I will need to pay the firm back over Y number of years agreed upon.


Now you've already gotten plenty of advice here, but, in my opinion, this is a no brainer. If Y is a reasonable number, then why wouldn't you do it? ...I'm not seeing any downside to leaving that door open...
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Re: Help Sought: Corporate Sponsorship [#permalink] New post 15 Feb 2013, 14:16
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Str1der,

Here's a thought - can you ask your company if you can go to B-school, explore a bit, and if you decide during your 2nd year (or before) to go back to your company they simply reimburse your tuition? I think this is less messy than accepting the sponsorship then having to pay it back if you decide not to go back to your company.

My brother had the offer of company sponsorship from his M/B/B consulting firm, and he decided to go without accepting sponsorship, but during his second year, he agreed to go back (2 year commitment) and his company basically dropped two years of tuition in his bank account.
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Re: Help Sought: Corporate Sponsorship [#permalink] New post 16 Feb 2013, 00:53
CobraKai wrote:
Str1der,

Here's a thought - can you ask your company if you can go to B-school, explore a bit, and if you decide during your 2nd year (or before) to go back to your company they simply reimburse your tuition? I think this is less messy than accepting the sponsorship then having to pay it back if you decide not to go back to your company.

My brother had the offer of company sponsorship from his M/B/B consulting firm, and he decided to go without accepting sponsorship, but during his second year, he agreed to go back (2 year commitment) and his company basically dropped two years of tuition in his bank account.


THanks - I am also leaning towards this option. Taking the money, then saying now, and just paying back a hefty amount as a loan thing actually means bridges being burnt which I dont want to do.

Thanks everyone for views - will keep you posted on what I do.
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Re: Help Sought: Corporate Sponsorship [#permalink] New post 17 Feb 2013, 02:11
Wow! Firstly str1der, it sounds like a great opportunity. I can't offer any guidance on corporate sponsorship but I'm very envious of your position. To be honest, the structure of a deal where you commit to x years for support but have an option to buy yourself out sounds win-win to me. Your employer surely must feel it has a significantly greater chance of retaining your skills (which it clearly values) while you have a safety net before you leave. If you entered into an agreement do you feel there would be an unwritten acknowledgement you'd definitely be returning?

You'd have a much better idea following conversations with them, but they surely must understand you'll be evaluating your options while they're there, otherwise they wouldn't have put a condition of you returning for x years in the offer?

I understand the comment about burning bridges though - I'm looking at applying this year to matriculate September '13. I work in a large multinational consumer products business but each site has a 'small business' mentality. I'm close to my GM and feel some loyalty due to her support (she's a NYU MBA grad herself and she's my #1 choice for a reference). I'm still struggling with how to actually tell my employer (i.e. my own site & HR) that having been identified as a rising star I'm considering leaving with the potential not to return (and realistically highly unlikely to return to my current site & position), and then still ask their support to do so.

As someone who has already reached this point already, any ideas how best I could navigate the minefield of enquiring about financial support without destroying a personal relationship I'll come to rely on for the application process? I assume you had their support for applications, can I ask how you tackled this initial conversation? (I note your employer is MBA dominated, mine is not although some senior people do have them)

My plan at the moment is that by involving her personally as a reference this will get her both involved in my application in a positive way and keep her aware of my progress - successful or not.
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Re: Help Sought: Corporate Sponsorship [#permalink] New post 17 Feb 2013, 04:49
Hey str1der, congrats on the sponsorship offer! That's a great place to be in. Can you arrange a non-binding sponsorship agreement? This works more along the lines of reimbursement than up front payment. However, it allows you to explore and potentially choose another career path without owing your employer anything. You usually need to decide by Jan/Feb of your 2nd year whether or not you're going to go back. I know Deloitte and Accenture offer something similar to this so if you know anyone who works for these companies they'd be great to talk to. Actually, just reach out to LadyRoadWarrior. She had the opportunity to be sponsored so she can tell you how it would work.
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