How a mid-career degree jump-started three professional lives
Today, the one thing you can rely on is change. Which can be a good thing when it comes to finding your dream job.
For these three very different people, the challenge was the same – bridging a professional gap between where they were and where they wanted to be. For each, the bridge was an MBA, a degree that brought their industry knowledge and talent for leadership together, in the right place.
From self-employed to global entrepreneur
When he founded Dolph.in in 2001, Harald Trausch had already been working for himself. From the age of 20, he had been importing car alarms from the U.S. to Austria and was introduced to a “remote start” that could ignite and pre-heat the engine remotely, all over a pager technology.
In 2007, Meta System, an Italian manufacturer of automotive electronics, bought a 70% stake in his company. Trausch went from CEO to chief marketing officer and became responsible for the international expansion of Meta’s telematics subsidiary, Octo Telematics. Until then he’d only needed to know the technology, but now he’d need to become versed in the language of balance sheets and business development.
So Trausch enrolled in the Global Executive MBA, thinking it would lead him to take Octa Telematics public. But then things changed again. As part of his final assessment at the WU, he was part of a virtual team project in which he cooperated with classmates remotely to create a business. His team launched an online polling system for audiences to weigh in over their smartphones about events or TV programs, or for market research. The app, called iVoting, is still available.
The Global MBA also took him to India, where time spent at an NGO-supported school changed his worldview. As he was finishing his degree, he applied for the GoSiliconValley Initiative with a new idea, a bookkeeping tool called Everbill, an inexpensive integrated management system that aims to make small business entrepreneurship even easier.
Without the Global Executive MBA he feels he’d never have understood business so holistically. “What does quality management have to do with financial accounting? Or what does operations management have to do with HR?”
“If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” Trausch quoted. His new tools have served him well.
Food Sharing and Other Drugs
Alexandra Gruber was already a seasoned pharmaceutical sales representative in her mid-20s, with plenty of networking and relationship-management skills. “I took the classical path, from sales rep, to product manager and then department head,” Gruber remembers. “But that’s when I saw that something was missing.” She stumbled on the Global Executive MBA, then only 4 years old, and saw an opportunity to deepen her business knowledge.
She also valued the program’s internationalism. The pharmaceutical industry – or any industry in Austria – is tightly knit and she had felt stuck in the “pharma-box”. At the Global MBA, she got to meet people from other industries and places and work on case studies together. One classmate particularly impressed her. “She was sharp as a tack, but chose to go into the development aid sector,” Gruber remembers. “I thought, how can someone with such a great degree go into aid?” It got her thinking.
As her class spread out to America, Asia and South Africa, Gruber also took an international position, still in pharmaceuticals, but in business development for a bio-tech startup, an exciting venture into the entrepreneurial world.
But things keep changing. “Was this all?” she wondered. She began volunteering after work at the Wiener Tafel (Vienna Table), an NGO that redistributes food from supermarkets and producers to welfare facilities like the Gruft, Ute Bock and over 100 others, helping over 18,000 people stricken by poverty.
“Business and NGOs compliment one another well,” says Gruber, now CEO of Wiener Tafel. “There’s this fancy term, ‘co-creation,’ but it’s actually very real: There is so much power behind a project when people pool their strengths to create something bigger than themselves.”
Today, Gruber is using the business development know-how from her MBA to shepherd Wiener Tafel through a “change management process.” Marshalling over 400 volunteers, they will be linking to international food banks in Europe and the U.S. and over the next three years, Wiener Tafel hopes to double the number of poor people it serves.
“We’ve encountered a technical problem”
Meet Aleksandar Bogoevski, the newly minted business development associate at Nokia in their Internet of Things (IoT) division. He’s exactly where he wants to be. It’s a big step from his last job – selling IoT solutions for the Telekom Austria Group. He hated selling.
“I’m an engineer and sales was pure evil.” In his mind, salespeople spent all their time polishing doorknobs. But after his first sale of a solution he had helped build, he saw the way forward.
“I love solving customers’ problems,” Bogoevski says. Most customers don’t really understand what’s wrong, so he listens carefully, asks questions and then sees the problem crystalize. At Telekom, he realized he needed to understand more about what influences decisions on the corporate level – which led him to the WU Executive Academy.
“I remember my first Harvard Business Review article. I thought my English was good, but right then, I felt lost in space.” He quickly fell into step. The course builds on itself, he says, and soon, he saw how every decision affects the whole.
In his new position, he’s endlessly thankful for the Professional MBA in Entrepreneurship & Innovation.
“I feel like I’ve learned what business is all about,” he recounts with a nod. “The typical capitalist view is that companies are only there to generate value. Sure that’s true, but understanding why companies have to change and how best to do that, that’s what’s helped me most.”
He’s still settling in at Nokia and aims to complete the Professional MBA in September. “The most valuable lesson was when my professor said, ‘Everyone decides for themselves how much they let their job take over.’” Beside his diligence and enthusiasm, he’s learned the value of work-life balance.
© Lennart Horst
This article was written as part of a partnership with the WU Executive Academy.
For more information on the MBA programs of WU Executive Academy visit www.executiveacademy.at/mba