You have a Master degree in economics – why did you decide to earn an Executive MBA?
I wanted to become better at what I am doing and I was facing new managerial challenges on the job. The bank that I work for specializes in offering tax-efficient wealth management and the Swiss banking industry is currently undergoing the biggest transformation in history. We need new processes, new people and new ways to organize ourselves, and an MBA greatly enhances your ability to prepare for the unexpected, to get ready for change and to think outside the box. I have worked in the financial sector for eight years. Getting another academic degree or additional professional certifications were not really in the cards. An MBA, however, builds expertise in different areas, with a more effective connection to the challenges I am facing at this stage of my career.
You live and work in Switzerland – why did you choose Stockholm and SSE for your MBA?
I compared SSE with the usual suspects, such as Insead and IMD – which would have been a lot closer – but I wanted the experience of studying abroad and I didn't want something that resembled university studies. Moreover, I wanted to meet peers who had experienced both success and failure and were willing to share that. There is a tremendous aspiration towards learning and personal improvement at the SSE MBA, and a genuine search for best practice. It's not just about "career chasing", because the participants are already pursuing successful careers. It is also quite different from the typical American MBA in that SSE takes a long-term perspective on business and teaches you how to adjust to an ever-changing environment. These are exactly the features I was focusing on when looking at the available range of EMBA programs. I also like Sweden a lot, having been here a few times for personal and professional reasons. It's easy to connect with people and the Swedish and Swiss cultures have a lot in common.
What are your experiences of the program so far?
The other participants bring a wealth of experience that I can draw from. It's not just about theory, but about applied knowledge, which is exactly what I was looking for in an executive format MBA. As for the program contents it's great, although it's a lot more work than I expected. Another difference from the academic world is that the results of what we come up with in class will be presented to real companies, so there is more pressure than you would have with traditional "in-class" exams. In addition, many subjects are brand new concepts for me. And there are no shortcuts.
Four months into the program, does it live up to your expectations?
Definitely. I would have thought that the first year would be more about simply providing us with basic tools and knowledge, however, that has fortunately not been the case at all. There is a good mix of learning basic tools and being involved in real projects and strategic tasks. I have already applied some of the tools I picked up in class at work; scenario planning and project management are some examples. I feel that what I am learning is directly connected to what I am doing on a daily basis. It's great because that was the main purpose of my wanting to take the program. As for the environment in the classroom, we learn to always challenge our ideas, but in a very collaborative way. People help each other very much. It is a bowl of fresh air, when compared to the usual competitive pressure you sometimes face at work. At the beginning of the program we were told that "you begin with peers and end up with friends" and I already feel that is the case. All in all, I'd say it's the best thing I have spent money on in my life.