My MBA journey: Successful translation of leadership skills to European boardroom
When I enrolled at the USB in 2007 to study the Full-time MBA in 2008, it seemed like another logical step on my path. I had studied International Business and Aerospace Engineering in Germany, worked in a number of companies to gain some practical experience, and wanted to complete my advanced degree before getting into the world of management consulting. I didn’t think the MBA was going to add much to my education except for the additional degree. I quickly realised I was wrong.
The MBA prepared me for my career in ways I did not even understand while I was going through it. Especially the focus on finding my own leadership style and how to adapt that style depending on the situation helped me tremendously in the various stages of my career up to this point. Just like I did, you may find yourself thinking that all of the things you talk about in the leadership courses seems rather obvious. I can tell you that while it seems that way, you can learn a lot about yourself if you embrace the content and truly try to learn from it.
The MBA prepared me for my career in ways I did not even understand while I was going through it. The focus on finding my own leadership style and how to adapt that style depending on the situation helped me tremendously in the various stages of my career up to this point.
After the MBA, I joined McKinsey & Company. I know there is some controversy about the firm in South Africa right now, but one thing that is hard to deny is the tremendous professional opportunities and development you can obtain in your time there. I got the chance to work on three continents (Africa, Europe and North America) and various industries (automotive, mining, infrastructure, consumer goods, and healthcare) with some of the smartest people I had ever met. I learned many things during my five and a half years there, specifically around managing my own teams, delivering high-quality output on time, and collaborating with various stakeholders to implement complex solutions. At the same time, the insights I gained from my MBA at the USB helped me tremendously, especially related to client management and portraying confidence despite being younger than many of my clients.
After my time at McKinsey, I joined Coca-Cola in Atlanta (USA) as director of Strategic Initiatives. It was the first time I worked in a leadership position in a large global consumer goods company. It became clear to me that it is critical in this environment to be able to build strong relationships and use softer influencing techniques for initiatives to be implemented, which was again something that USB’s MBA prepared me for through the various leadership modules.
I subsequently joined a technology startup called Rubicon Global as Chief Innovation and Supply Chain Officer. This was my first role where I was involved in talking with investors and being part of Board of Director meetings. I quickly realised that the same leadership lessons from the USB courses that had worked for all other settings in my career equally applied in these settings. Continuously reflecting on how discussions went and what I could do differently next time helped me be better and better prepared for difficult questions and conversations.
I am now a senior Corporate Strategy Director and Head of Competitive Strategy at Kimberly-Clark. In this role, I had the opportunity to present to the Board of Directors of a Fortune 500 company for the first time in my life. The board is filled with current and former CEOs of the world’s leading companies. However, the leadership lessons from my MBA continue to apply, even in this setting.
If someone had told the burger-flipping 18-year old me that I would be having these types of conversations with leaders of the world’s largest companies just 15 years later, I would have just laughed. I still have a long way to go and am excited what is still coming in my career, but I can definitely say that the USB played a pivotal role in my journey up to this