"A great mix of different people, professional backgrounds, approaches, opinions and cultures", Stéphane Egret - MBA, Packaging Innovator, The Coca-Cola Company Europe, Brussels
How did the SSE MBA program change your life?
One year after graduation I changed jobs after having worked eight years for the same company. I would have moved on even without the MBA, but the program helped me clarify what I wanted to do and what I did not want to do; what I liked about my job and what I disliked. It helped me put things in perspective.
Can you describe how it changed you as a person?
While the program certainly taught me new skills, developed my expertise and gave me new tools, it also changed me as a person. I now have a different approach to what my professional life should bring me. Before, I thought the only way forward was to move up the corporate ladder and continue upwards. Today I know myself better; I know what I want and where I can add value. Becoming a manager is not a goal in itself to me anymore, although it may very well come as a side effect of my new professional path.
I've read somewhere that life begins where our comfort zone ends. Well, as a result of taking the program, I have become far more willing to step outside my comfort zone, even to the point of enjoying it. My former reluctance towards areas I was not familiar with has been replaced by a healthy curiosity for new things. And curiosity to me is the best engine when it comes to learning.
Before starting the program, a friend of mine, who had already completed an MBA, told me that I was going to come back with more questions than answers... which puzzled me a little. But in fact, it's all part of the learning process, it's what makes it different from traditional bachelors and masters programs.
What was it about the program that triggered the changes?
The holistic character of the program and the way it helps you integrate different dimensions of various issues and subjects. It makes you discover new areas of interest and uncover skills you did not know you had. Before starting the program, you believe you are going to learn things that will make you better at your current job – which you do – but it may also make you realize that there are aspects of your job that are actually not what you want to do with your time. What you're good at may not always be what you want to do. The program helped me see where I could add value and enjoy it at the same time.
Being a packaging innovator, you like to describe theoretical concepts in the shape of three-dimensional objects and you liken your professional ambitions to a triptych. What do you mean? To find out if you should take on a new project or to find out if a new job would fit you, you should look at three aspects, or elements: "What am I good at", "what do I enjoy doing" and "where can I add value to other people?" If there is a discrepancy between these parameters, the object is flawed. If you find something you're good at, which you enjoy doing and others want you to do, stop looking and go for it. The SSE MBA program gave me a much clearer idea of what my personal triptych looks like.
What were the major strengths of the program, in your eyes?
The great mix of different people, professional backgrounds, approaches, opinions and cultures. Today's business world is truly diverse and international. Succeeding in this environment requires flexibility and an ability to understand and adapt to different circumstances.
What did your employer – past and present – gain from your participation?
My former employer, Oriflame Cosmetics, mainly benefited from the ChangeLive® project, which involved the implementation of a new business process. The objective was then to improve a specific aspect of the development of new products and the results have been significant; greatly reducing the level of complexity of this process.
I now work as Packaging Innovator for the Coca-Cola Company, where I can truly apply what I have learned about innovation management before and during the SSE MBA program. Here, the key challenge is to be able to take on a truly holistic approach, understand and collaborate with a multitude of stakeholders within and even across different organizations. And the experience and learning from the SSE MBA program are very valuable in this position.
I have always worked in the fast-moving consumer goods industry, which requires extremely fast decision making and an ability to constantly change and adapt. The SSE MBA cultivates such skills.
What's your opinion on your fellow participants?
The participants were all highly motivated and passionate, which often led to animated discussions. After all, consensus was not our main objective. I also made new friends during the program, which I hope will remain friends for a long time.
What's your advice to future SSE MBA participants?
Don't just regard it as a source of theoretical knowledge – it's much more than that. It's an adventure so make sure you enjoy it. Time passes quickly, and once it's over you'll think it was too short.
The SSE MBA is one of those opportunities that only come around once, maybe twice, in a lifetime. Give it all you've got – it's worth it. You will be repaid for your efforts, no matter how much you've put in.
I really miss the buzz and the interesting environment and stimulating people that the program brought into my life. Partly because of this, I am now considering a PhD in a couple of years, perhaps in innovation management. I want to find a new way to develop and experience the exaltation that the SSE MBA program offered me.