You live and work in Vienna, Austria. Why did you choose to study your Executive MBA at SSE in Stockholm, Sweden?
For me it was clear that I want to attend an MBA program abroad. I knew the boxes that had to be ticked before applying. My top three criteria were curriculum, faculty, and network respectively the people with an emphasis on the geographical aspect.
SSE checked all my boxes from the beginning! The structure of the curriculum made it clear that this is a journey with real purpose. With the foundation in the beginning, additional modules are added along the way that equip you with the right tools and capabilities to grow.
With a long-lasting history, the faculty of SSE provides a vast momentum for all students enrolled within any program at Stockholm School of Economics. During the application process I noticed that the SSE MBA program members look for the perfect combination of profiles and characters in the cohort. And this for sure is one unique aspect of this program. The selection process guarantees the most outcome for every participant enrolled. You notice a vibrant activity in the classroom from day one. This grows along the program weeks where you meet your fellow colleagues in various situations and build relations. The first offsite trip to SSE in Riga was one these important events that allowed to meet the cohort in a different environment then in the classroom. Followed by additional events outside of Stockholm or Silicon Valley, which were amazing trips spiked with eye opening moments on the Stanford campus and long-lasting memories made after class.
With Stockholm, I chose a city in one of the most innovative countries worldwide. Many great companies and start-up’s made it to the top out of Sweden. The culture, the people and the mindset of my Swedish cohort colleagues was the perfect fit for my MBA journey.
How would you say that the SSE MBA has contributed to your professional and personal development?
For sure the program equipped me lots of new skills, theories, and models. Every course transported so much new information I could process and reflect on. By building up on the foundations, the program manages to create a big picture which gets less blurry after every finished week. But carrying on I was able to shape my character and mindset during this intense time. I was able to acquire new tools i.e., for solving complex tasks or managing high performing teams. Colleagues and managers in my organisation quickly noticed my change and gave me the autonomy needed to utilize my new capabilities. After every program week I had a new set of learnings I was able to contribute. This led to my promotion as Head of Sales in a multinational company after I finished the MBA program at SSE.
This program is a challenge no one should underestimate. It requires discipline and hard work finishing this program beside a fulltime job. I always told myself that “You only get out what you put in!” And this is the truth. If you don’t read the book, prepare the case our build the slide deck, you won’t be able to contribute. And in the end, it is not fair to other cohort members because during every course there is a team effort task where everyone needs to contribute something! The learnings of all these group work efforts do accompany me since then as it made me realize that even if it was a completely new topic for me, I was able to contribute if I put in the work and prepared.
Tell us about your classmates, who where they, and how have they contributed to your learning and broadening of perspectives?
My cohort felt like a huge set of gear wheels that work together. The SSE MBA program management picks the right candidates to create a pool of high calibre individuals that contribute on different levels and areas. Every participant has a background and experience to share that enables other attendees to learn. The whole group is divided into reflection groups where various group works are held along the program. We where seven people. Every one of us had a kind of “superpower” that contributed to achieve results during the courses but also to share experiences to others. When looking back I think that the people in the cohort were one the key factors of my journey. The fruitful dialogues during breaks, learnings in the group discussions or simply asking for advice gave me the chance to grow. Not only regarding my career but also in personal belonging I was able to utilize the aggregated toolset. I am grateful to have met so many great characters where I am still in contact with some of them on a regular basis.
As part of the program, you studied innovation and entrepreneurship. As a manager in a big global organization, and not an entrepreneur, have you had any use of it?
Absolutely. The innovation course shared so many new tools and skills to apply in various areas of life (not only in professional scenarios). Like in the whole MBA program, the real value of the entrepreneurship concentration showed itself in the end. It all adds up and connects all dots when looking back. The basics and theory in the beginning get paired with a live project that is executed from a first scratch to a pitch in front of a Dragons Den jury. During this process I noticed the similarities to my role in a multinational company. From raw idea generation, collaborative team work to design thinking methodologies I utilized these capabilities in my organization along the way. Big companies often struggle to be creative, fast, and disruptive. With the course of innovation and entrepreneurship I was able to build my skillset and create my own new way of work within my organisation.
What has surprised you the most?
One thing was my brain capacity. It quickly adapts to new requirements and surroundings and absorbs as much information as possible. Like a muscle the brain gets stronger and more durable if you train it well. The MBA program was the perfect workout program for my brain.
Another think was the aspect of change. I knew I will step out of the program as a different person. Different in a way of having built up knowledge, developed my skills in team efforts and leadership, ability to cope with assignments that require new knowledge and theories. But on the other hand, as well as creating a network of high calibre participants and professors I can consult, making friends to meet and make travels and last but not least sharing the stacked passion of my journey in Stockholm School of Economics to friends, family and people that want to grow and strive to achieve new goals.
During the COVID-19 pandemic you have also experienced delivery of the program weeks both totally on-line and also in a hybrid version. How did that work?
The pandemic has changed many aspects of life for many of us. As I was flying in for every program week, Covid 19 disrupted my MBA attendance routine with one stroke. Fortunately, SSE reacted quickly and made it possible to attend the sessions from remote with constant quality. Class interaction and dialogues during the lessons were like on site sessions. With the hybrid model in place, it was possible to be present in SSE or dial-in from remote. That really hit the nail on the head because this was exactly what was needed to finish the program with the same characteristics as it has started in 2019.