Attending Business School Will Greatly Benefit Younger Engineers

Lily Bi, President and CEO, AACSB International

Lily Bi, President and CEO, AACSB International

There is a lot of learning and interaction with business school leaders and business leaders, and I believe that AACSB can make a lot of changes, which is in line with my personal motivation as well, says Lily Bi, President and CEO, Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) in an exclusive interview with Education Post’s Tanay Kumar. Lily shares profound insights into her career, the evolving landscape of business education in India, and the uncharted territories that lie ahead for global education standards.

QuestionWhen I was researching about you and going through your career journey, I noticed that auditing has been a significant part of your career. I read an article about your motivations on Medium. com, but I would like to hear directly from you about what motivated you to join an academic agitation body such as a business school.

Actually, auditing is not my sole career. If I look at my career so far, there have been three chapters. The first chapter is about IT as I am an IT engineer and majored in IT science. I spent around 12 years working on IT system development, software development, coding, and other related areas. However, I eventually reached a point where I wanted to grow further within the organization but felt that there were limitations to doing so in a technical role. So, I decided to broaden my understanding of the organization beyond just the technical aspects, which led me to pursue an MBA degree in the United States from an AACSB-accredited school.

AACSB Moving to the second chapter of my career, I entered the auditing area. From IT to IT audit was a natural progression for me, and I eventually became an internal auditor. The role of an internal auditor is very different from other types of auditors as we look at everything within an organization, including IT risk, operational risk, and accounting risk. I spent around 15 years working in this field before moving to work for the AACSB, which is a global association responsible for setting accreditation standards. Accreditation and setting accreditation standards were the two main responsibilities of my role, but there were many other services that we provided as well. I was responsible for certification, which is essentially a form of accreditation for individuals, and for setting the standard. There were many linkages between the association, global contacts, standard setting, and accreditation, and it was a very interesting job.

So, when my current job became available last year, I was very excited about it. I have now been here for 6 months, and I can honestly say that I enjoy it so much that I would work here for free! There is a lot of learning and interaction with business school leaders and business leaders, and I believe that AACSB can make a lot of changes, which is in line with my personal motivation as well.”


Many engineering graduates in India opt for MBA or business studies. Courses may vary from institution to institution and some even go abroad for further studies. To elaborate on this, I would like to mention Raghuram Rajan, the former chief economist of IMF, who was an electrical engineer but later pursued management. I’m curious to know if having a background in commerce or finance gives an edge to pursuing an MBA compared to science or engineering graduates.

In my previous career, as I mentioned earlier, I became an IT engineer, and through my work, I met many brilliant and intelligent people from India. Recently, when I attended a conference in Osaka, Japan, I had the opportunity to interact with the Dean of a school from India, who shared with me an interesting trend. Many engineers, especially those in electric and computer engineering, are now interested in pursuing an MBA degree. This is a positive development, as I myself have greatly benefited from my business degree. I believe that younger engineers, whether in IT or EE, will also benefit from attending business school.

As for whether to pursue an engineering or business degree first, it really depends on the individual. I won’t prescribe what the right path is, but I do believe that the challenges facing our world today are bigger than any one person, discipline, or industry. Having both degrees can be advantageous, as the engineering degree helps with logical thinking, while the business degree provides a broader perspective and helps with strategic vision.

In my opinion, having both degrees is fantastic, as it provides both breadth and depth of knowledge. The business degree, in particular, is now very different from traditional business degrees, as it includes technology and data analytical skills, making it an excellent choice for anyone aspiring to become a leader, whether for their own company or another. Therefore, I highly recommend that any younger engineer from India consider joining me and others in pursuing a business degree, either in India or abroad.


In the section of common questions, there is a mention of a CSV (Curriculum Standards and Assurance of Learning). It states that a business school needs to develop a plan to meet accreditation standards and achieve its own strategic goals. As business is all about quantifying things, I would like to know what are the 3 or 5 indispensable areas in which business schools, particularly in India, must excel to be accredited by AACSB.

In India, there are over 3,000 commerce management business schools, compared to less than 100 accredited schools in other countries. This makes it difficult for young students to choose a good business school. That’s why AACSB was created over 100 years ago. Our accreditation process sets a benchmark for business schools around the world, so people can be confident that schools accredited by us meet a certain level of consistency and comparability.

Our accreditation process is based on seven principle-based standards. This is because being rule-based is difficult when supporting a global market with many different cultures and countries. AACSB is a global association, so we need to have a standard that is principle-based and mission-driven. Each school has its own unique mission and vision, which they should clarify and incorporate into their strategic plan. This is a critical part of the accreditation process.

Teaching effectiveness and assurance of learning are also important factors in the accreditation process. The process takes a few years, during which we assign mentors to help schools establish a well-structured assurance and learning process. Relevant research and resources to support highquality research are also necessary.

Finally, the school’s impact on society is important. AACSB added this to the 2020 standard, which requires schools to demonstrate how they create a positive societal impact. Every school seeking accreditation must meet all standard requirements, not just these four areas.


What are the three most significant differences during the accreditation process? You mentioned that every country and continent has a different culture, which is different from North America. So, I am curious to know what differences AACSB has observed between the applications of business schools in India and the rest of the world. It could be from Japan, China, or any other country.

You’ve hit the nail on the head. The Indian environment and culture really do have their own vibe compared to the rest of the world. I totally get the significance of education in the Indian culture, especially from the parents’ generation. We’ve got a regional head leading in India, and it’s crucial for us to back all the business schools there. That’s just how important education is.

So, in my chat with her, we dug into three main things. Firstly, the demand for business education in India is through the roof and super competitive. It’s mainly fueled by the massive population here. Schools kick off an accreditation process, kind of measuring up against international folks. Not every school might be on the same page, but this practice helps schools level up their game based on global standards. More than 1000 schools are already accredited, making up 6 percent of the global bunch. It amps up the competitiveness, you know?

Secondly, Indian institutions are doing some amazing stuff, but sometimes it comes off as a bit all over the place. Entering the accreditation process helps schools focus on their uniqueness – their mission, strategy, all that jazz. This makes their impact less of a hit-or-miss and more mission-driven and systematic. It’s about maximizing the positive vibes for learners and the community.

Lastly, Indian institutions really go all in when it comes to mingling with the business world. They get their hands dirty, involving alumni, getting feedback, the whole shebang. Having a faculty with solid industry experience is a big plus. While these practices are common globally, India’s depth and breadth of industry engagement often get a thumbs-up from peer review teams during accreditation. Schools in India that are already accredited or on the accreditation journey are basically playing in the big leagues, matching up to the global best, both in terms of the scope and intensity of industry engagement.

So, the bottom line is, the way Indian schools dive into the business world is seriously impressive, and they get a nod from the accreditation process.


As I’ve noted in my comments on the aforementioned post, intercultural management education seems to be limited in higher education, including management education. During the conference you referenced, where AI was also discussed, I wished to bring attention to the fact that, in Europe, AI aside, there are anticipated challenges in business education. What are the potential aspects of business education that are currently under-discussed or not well received, but might gain prominence in the future? What challenges should we be attentive to?

AI is undeniably a significant area that warrants close monitoring, as AACSB has been doing. Beyond technology, one noteworthy aspect, not necessarily a challenge if managed well, is the demand for quick results in education—a sort of ‘fast-food culture.’ There’s a preference for shorter programs, like micro-credentials, which are stackable to form degrees. While this approach offers flexibility and cost-effectiveness, it raises questions about potential compromises in quality and the loss of benefits from progressive, systematic learning.

Micro-credentials provide a great opportunity for upskilling without traditional, lengthy learning. However, there are concerns about whether the quick and short nature of these programs may compromise quality. The emphasis on immediate, applicable skills could overshadow the importance of fundamental and theoretical knowledge. The long-term value of micro-credentials in terms of career progression and learning potential remains uncertain, as it’s a relatively new trend.

While micro-credentials and traditional education can coexist, the core function of business education goes beyond imparting knowledge and skills; it is about teaching people how to think. The ability to think critically and ask the right questions is fundamental. It’s uncertain whether these brief programs can effectively instill such crucial thinking skills. This dynamic presents a significant challenge for all business education institutions, as the landscape allows anyone to create and offer business education programs.


In one of your interviews, you mentioned a point about professionalism in work that I personally really liked. You emphasized the importance of building long-lasting business relationships that are not just focused on one party winning, but rather on creating a win-win situation. I read this in one of your interviews and wanted to know if you have ever managed to create such a scenario. In the business world, and in real corporate scenarios, it can often be difficult to achieve a win-win outcome. Have you had any experience in this area?

Negotiation is an integral part of our daily lives, permeating various aspects from personal relationships to professional endeavors. The frequency of negotiations underscores their importance and the need for thoughtful consideration in approaching them. It is crucial to recognize that negotiations need not be a zero-sum game, where one party’s gain is another’s loss.

In any working environment, the pursuit of a win-win scenario is not only possible but desirable. The key lies in thinking innovatively and considering unconventional solutions. Empathy plays a pivotal role in understanding the perspectives of those involved, fostering an environment where fairness prevails. Without a genuine effort to comprehend the other person’s viewpoint, achieving a mutually beneficial outcome becomes challenging.

I often reflect on the significance of understanding the goals and aspirations of individuals I engage with, especially in a professional setting. For instance, when managing contracts with vendors, I encountered a situation where a price increase clause posed a potential challenge. Instead of opting for a confrontational approach, I engaged in a dialogue with the vendor. The outcome, while seemingly favoring the vendor with a longer contract, also secured a commitment to no price increases for the extended duration. This exemplifies how negotiations can transcend win-lose dynamics.

Moreover, successful negotiation requires a willingness to explore collaborative solutions that address the concerns of all parties involved. In a recent discussion about career goals with executives, I prioritized understanding their individual aspirations. This approach not only aligns personal and organizational interests but also contributes to a more sustainable and fruitful working relationship.

In essence, negotiating with a mindset focused on mutual benefit and a thorough understanding of the diverse perspectives involved paves the way for sustainable and positive outcomes. It is a skill that goes beyond professional settings, enriching our daily interactions and relationships.


As we approach the final question, I’d like to acknowledge the significance of seeing a woman in a prominent role within a global organization. With that in mind, could you share the women who have played crucial roles in your personal life? Additionally, considering your mention of your mother’s influence on your career choices, could you tell us more about her and the path she took in her career?

Throughout my career, I’ve never perceived my gender as a limiting factor; to me, career development transcends gender distinctions. My perspective is that individuals, whether women or men, can balance personal and professional aspirations. Reflecting on my personal life, my mother has been a cornerstone of influence. With a science major, she dedicated 35 years to teaching mathematics. Despite my childhood interest in dancing, she encouraged me towards disciplines she deemed more substantial, shaping my strength in science and physics. Unfortunately, she passed away last year at the age of 85. Her name, Shuhua, holds deep significance in my life, and I attribute much of my strength and resilience to her teachings.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here