Understand the Value of an Executive MBA program from the Perspective of a Managing Director of an Advertising Agency


Q&A With Madina Kalyayeva about her ESSEC & Mannheim Executive MBA (EMBA) journey.

Meet Madina Kalyayeva, ESSEC & Mannheim Executive MBA participant from the class of 2022, and find out why the Managing Director of M&C Saatchi Singapore sees value in an EMBA qualification.

Madina Kalyayeva, Managing Director at M&C Saatchi Singapore, has one motto in life: Never stop learning.

This belief has carried her through the last 12 years and counting in advertising and brought her from the Middle East to Singapore, where she has worked at NGOs, advertising & PR agencies, and Publishing Houses.

Accomplishments to her name include helping an agency secure its first Effie Award, receiving the Institute of Advertising Singapore (IAS) “Upstart of the Year Award,” and being ranked one of the Singapore Business Review’s “Top 10 Hottest Ad Execs and Marketers in Singapore under 40”.

Success aside, the learning continues—most recently, through an EMBA journey at the ESSEC Asia-Pacific campus in Singapore.

What motivated you to take on the EMBA?

I’ve always wanted to do an MBA, but I thought it would be better to join an Executive MBA after I gained enough experience and would be able to contribute. As I believe life is about learning, I thought it was important that my classmates could learn from me as much as I learn from them and the professors.

Tell us more about the experience that you bring to the table.

I consider myself a global citizen. I am of Dagestani origin, born in Azerbaijan, lived in the US, studied in the UK, worked in the Middle East, and have now made Singapore my home.

I have two degrees, one in International Business from Richmond University in London and the other in International Law from Western Caspian University in Baku.

Before joining advertising, I started my career in a hedge fund in London; while completing my studies, after I graduated, I joined the United Nations and started working at UNDP & WHO Iraq office’s procurement department. Since joining the agency world, I’ve handled global clients like Qatar Airways and regional clients like, Gucci beauty, COTY, Grohe, Weber-Stephen, and the Birla Group. Today, I focus on providing guidance and support for the development of M&C Saatchi and growing its presence and client base in Singapore and the wider SEA market.

How did you know it was the right time to start your EMBA?

There is never a good time when you have two kids, a full-time job, lots of ambitions, and a busy schedule. But those who know me were not surprised.

I’d describe my decision as spontaneous—I thought, “if not now, then when?” and applied just days before classes started. Marc Nerva, Senior Manager, Business Development - ESSEC & Mannheim Executive MBA Asia-Pacific, worked very hard to mobilize the resources internally and make this happen for me.

We understand you made the shift to M&C Saatchi mid-way through the program. Did the EMBA contribute to this?

It definitely did not hurt my chances, as it is always good to show how one is continuously improving. However, I believe it was the experience I gained at work and the referral from my creative partner, Chief Creative Officer at M&C Saatchi Ali Shabaz, that contributed most to my shift.

However, I noticed that when the global team found out that I was enrolled in ESSEC’s EMBA program, their expectations instantly increased.

What would be your biggest takeaway? 

Learning more about sustainable and innovative solutions. The EMBA program is built to address these issues and to help us apply these solutions in our daily decision-making processes.

I particularly enjoy the program-long group project on Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Sustainability (IES). Through the process, I’ve been able to turn my passion for Digital Fashion innovation & sustainability into an executable mission.

Do you feel the EMBA can help participants break glass ceilings at work?

It should not be about trying to break the ceiling, but about finding a company where there are no ceilings in the first place.

I believe a good EMBA program will have partnerships and connections with companies that do not discriminate based on gender, race, and more. The program should remove mental barriers by helping participants understand that if ceilings do not exist, then there will be nothing they need to “break.”

What advice do you have for potential EMBA candidates?

Think about what is important to you and know what you want to take away from each class, module, and connection you make.

An EMBA program is more than just learning new things. It’s also about connecting with people, and the ESSEC & Mannheim EMBA program has amazing people from diverse backgrounds. You’ll definitely benefit from staying connected with them, whether professionally or as friends. And look, you’ll get to mingle with Mads. 

Interested in the ESSEC & Mannheim Executive MBA Asia-Pacific program? 

Find out more HERE or email us at 

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