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From Boardroom to Classroom – Phaidon International’s North America COO shares his MBA experience

COO for North America Kevin Wong embodies the Phaidon International belief in constant growth, both personally and professionally. Here he shares how Phaidon International supported him to achieve completing his MBA alongside his full-time role.

Kevin joined Phaidon International nearly a decade ago, which in his own words, “feels like a lifetime but also has passed in the blink of an eye.”

Starting as a graduate consultant for Selby Jennings, one of Phaidon International’s six specialist brands, Kevin moved into strategic account management, then into sales operations, working his way up to operations director before becoming the COO of North America.

“I am proud of how we promote organically and I am proud that I am an example of how we promote internally”, Kevin says on his progression.

Since taking the seat of COO in North America in 2019, Kevin has led the team through astronomical growth whilst also studying for his MBA from Columbia University. He somehow found the time recently to sit down with us and share how Phaidon International supported him to complete his MBA.

Advancing your career with an MBA

Kevin was offered a spot to study his MBA at many Ivy League schools, but settled on Columbia due its top-ranked business school, as well as its ability to offer a global professional network from a local campus.

He had always wanted to do an MBA since college, as Kevin explains:

“I joined Phaidon International thinking I’d work here for a year to get some experience, build my resume and then go to business school to complete an MBA. Working beforehand makes you more competitive to get into business school, so that was my initial plan.

“However, I loved working at Phaidon International so much and the opportunities I was presented here were so compelling that I postponed business school. Eventually there was a convergence of wanting to go to business school with what the company wanted me to do as well, as the MBA offered me the prospect of becoming a more well-rounded leader.

“During the application process, it became evident that being part of Phaidon International did help me get in, as that level of professional experience made me stand out. I also wanted to complete my military service term, retiring in July 2021, starting the program just a month later.”

The practicalities of studying and working

Logistically Kevin started his MBA in August 2021, but had been preparing for it since 2020 due to entrance exams. Phaidon International supported Kevin, where he took every other Friday and Saturday for two years straight to complete it. Helping him study for his MBA not just from a financial standpoint, it was important he was also given the time commitment, as studying alongside a full-time role is very demanding:

“The reality was that nothing about my role changed. I’d be in the office early, study in the evenings, doing homework and classes at the weekend. It is incredibly grueling, and that is really important to note.

“But, no matter how difficult it was, no matter how tired I got, I always thought back to how grateful I was to be able to go through this program, with the support of my employer, as well as my friends and family.”

Phaidon International offers 80+ training courses through our dedicated learning & development team, with an L&D representative present in every one of our offices. Kevin himself had previously completed the LSE mini-MBA course before tackling his full MBA, but his day-to-day role also geared him up for his studies:

“A number of real-world experiences that I have had at Phaidon International best prepared me. Exposure to a dynamic business environment and facing real challenges I think really helped me with my MBA.”

Challenges and opportunities of studying for an MBA

Kevin also balanced working full time and his personal life with his MBA through meticulous time management, saying he “used every spare moment possible. I would be on Microsoft Teams in the car on the way somewhere, studying on a train journey, or catching up on homework in the backyard on a sunny day.

“Phaidon International gives colleagues flexibility and the tools needed to be connected to other employees and systems, so I really did work from everywhere, anywhere on a practical level.”

However, Kevin did face challenges maintaining work and study simultaneously:

“The biggest challenge was being present and engaged every single day. Physically when you are tired, putting so much headspace and mental energy into your MBA as well as work, it was hard to show up with a clear head and offer that laser focus needed in leadership. I always tried to show up 100% all the time for work and for the MBA though, and Phaidon International motivated me every day with drive and passion, and I just wanted to match that energy.”

Learnings & recommendations

The exposure to different business practices was also a big benefit of completing his MBA, according to Kevin, giving him a wider outlook on how Phaidon International fits into the rest of the corporate world:

“It has best prepared me to face differing business environments, deal with new challenges and opportunities every day. The world is changing faster than ever before, and the value I have taken from studying at Colombia is applying a framework to any problem that comes up. I have also built a network and formed relationships with fellow MBA students which has proved really valuable.”

It also made him appreciate Phaidon International more:

“I always felt we were special and what we had achieved was special too, but it took doing my MBA and being exposed to different business models to realize how unique we really are. Our ability to grow for example, it’s been astronomical, so I have gained a greater appreciation for Phaidon International.”

While Kevin has clearly benefitted from his MBA, so has the business, as he now brings a broader perspective back into the workplace. By doing his MBA every week while working, he was able to impart knowledge quickly and regularly to colleagues, useful to both his learning and the business by adding value every week.

Always aspiring for more

One of our core values at Phaidon International is that ambition and determination will always set us apart. In other words, as Kevin says, “We want people who are hungry, curious, and driven to continuously grow.”

So why should someone not only join Phaidon International, but become fully immersed in the multitude of learning & development opportunities?

Phaidon International offers the tools and resources needed to be successful, but the people that progress and really perform above and beyond at Phaidon International are the ones who ask questions and always want to learn more.

As Kevin summarizes:

“Those people have that continuous development mindset that will propel them to be more successful throughout their careers. My advice would be to never stop that journey, whether that would be reading in your own time, learning from peers, or getting your MBA through Phaidon International.”

Join Phaidon International

Day in, day out we enable people to thrive, because at the heart of Phaidon International is its people. You could study an MBA like Kevin, gain a management qualification, or be recognized as a sales leader with a number of awards and accolades.

If you’re ready to join a team that supports your career ambitions, apply now.