This year MBA students at ESMT had the opportunity to travel to a different part of the world in order to learn more about international business as part of the International Field Seminar. The class of 2019 traveled to China to experience business life in one of the most remarkable economies in the world, presenting the class with some unique challenges and opportunities.
Preparation for the IFS begins long
before the trip to China. To begin with, students were split into groups and
then tasked with finding companies to visit that reflected a range of learning
opportunities. A variety of different types were considered before deciding on
Startups, Venture Capital Firms, Accelerators, and Corporate Investment
“The benefit of meeting with
accelerators and startup hubs is that they are a great way to get exposure to
smaller startups, thus broadening our reach and getting access to enterprises
that would have been out of reach otherwise” – Alex Bernhardt, MBA Program
One of the first visits was to the Microsoft Research Lab – Asia, providing the opportunity for the class to dive straight into the booming tech economy of China. The Microsoft lab employs more than 200 full-time scientists and specializes in areas such as machine learning and cloud computing, looking at their specific applications to the Asian economy.
“Coming from a city like Berlin with
a large tech economy, it was really interesting to see the differences and
similarities in innovation practices between the two countries.” – Agnes
Horvath, MBA Program Manager
The class also managed to make time
for some global diplomacy whilst in China, spending time at the Delegation of
the European Union to China to learn more about international relations between
the two economies. China is the EU’s biggest trading partner, and together they
make up two of the largest trading partners in the world. Making the
appropriate connections and learning the skills to take advantage of this
positive relationship is a vital take away from the IFS for the class, paving
the way for international employment opportunities in the future.
The total list of visited companies:
Delegation in China
The IFS is an intense week, but the
team still made time for plenty of sightseeing. With such an international and
diverse cohort of students, some were able to impart a bit of local knowledge
to the rest of the group in the moments away from the official visits.
was an amazing trip. It was a very intense week but we learned so much about
the Chinese economy and its relationship to Europe. It will be incredibly
useful when it comes to employment after graduation, as I will have a depth of
knowledge and a contacts book that many others won’t.” – Animesh Srivastav, MBA
Class of 2019
The IFS is
not the only international experience on offer to students, the Global Network
Week and Responsible Leaders Fellowship are available to the class of 2020.
We all know the conferences where you end up wondering why you really went. Indeed, we often take away insights from mostly monotonous lectures, but there is no real fun. Experts from different industries are on stage, and as a simple participant you won’t come closer than sitting in the first row. We are constantly preaching that we should build our networks and increase the number of our LinkedIn and Xing contacts. According to a 2017 study (IAB-Stellenerhebung), around 30 percent of all new hires are based on personal contacts. How is a simple student supposed to get to these contacts and expand their network to the maximum, apart from internships?
In fact, there
are several career fairs at which different companies of all sizes present
their company at a stand where you have the
opportunity to talk to employees. However, these events do not offer more than
a brief company presentation and a small selection of vacancies. An exciting
experience is a different story.
DigitalFuture Summit was founded a few years ago by students of ESMT Berlin to
discuss the constantly growing topic of digitization, which affects all
industries and small start-ups as well as large corporations. The objective was
to create a two-sided platform with students on the one hand and partner
businesses and experts on the other. International students with different
backgrounds received the opportunity to get in contact with leading experts,
enrich their own knowledge, and network to accelerate their career. A constant
for the event is that top executives and experts
give interesting lectures, participate in panel discussions, lead engaging
master classes, and interact with students in workshops (more about the
different types later).
Nonetheless, annual trends are always changing in the field of digitization.
Thus, this year’s DFS was focused on
connectivity, sustainability, creativity, and
the work and processes behind the two days of the summit, let’s take a look at
the phases behind the scenes leading up to the event.
The first phase
started off with the formation of 4 teams
with over 30 highly motivated students under the leadership of Patrick Schiebel
and Sarah Ziegler. Those teams were structured in the following groups:
Strategy and Communication: Dedicated to design, shaped the topic and schedule, and
provided a unique learning experience and information exchange.
Event and Participants Management: Coordinated
all venue related topics to ensure a smooth event.
Partner Management: Supported the realization of DFS19 by establishing
and managing partner accounts, helped to connect one with people who are active
in the field of digitalization.
Finance and Legal: Managed the budget and
facilitated legal coordination and communication between the work
streams and other stakeholders.
continued the organizational preparations for the second phase of the event by defining
this year’s strategy and concept at an early stage. Followed by setting up the budgets
and invitations for the participants from previous years and selected
companies. Never does preparation for a
big event like that go perfectly smooth. The
organizers faced occasional setbacks, which lead to the identification of
adequate alternatives and new solutions to ensure its success. One of the
bigger goals this year was to ensure 300 participants at the event. In order to
achieve this goal, it was imperative to
provide a well-structured and varied agenda. Throughout 20th and 21st
of June 2019 after the welcome keynote speech, participants had the opportunity
to participate in four different types of sessions:
Keynotes: Listening to the views and forecasts of leading
executives about the future of digitalization.
Panel Discussions: Discussions of recent market trends and expected
development in the field of digitalization.
Master Classes: Interactive sessions given by experts in the field of
digitalization allowing students to interact with speakers and ask advanced
Workshops: Direct engagement with attendees, helping them to
learn more about digitalization through case studies, discussion of problems,
One of the
challenging tasks for the teams was to secure top-class partners.Some of the companies that the DFS had
the honor of welcoming to the ESMT campus were: Accenture interactivity,
Accenture strategy, Amazon, AUDI, Axel Springer, BNP Paribas, BVG, heycar, Pfizer, N26, SAP, Siemens, Volkswagen,
Wayfair, Simon Kucher & Partners, Huawei, Microsoft.
highlighted companies, the top managers, who provided participants with their
expert knowledge and forecasts for the future, contributed to the overall
content of the summit, part of those were:
Daniel Behar, Managing Director at Accenture Strategy
Georg Hauer, General Manager DACH at N26
Dr. Nari Kahle, Head of social sustainability & xStarters at Volkswagen AG
Markus Kroeger, CEO at heycar
Dr. Karina Rigby, Vice President & Head of Siemensstadt 2.0 Project at Siemens
Georg Tacke, CEO at Simon-Kucher & Partners
Finally, after months of preparations, two interesting days with discussions on different topics such as “Might Artificial Intelligence be the last invention of humankind?“, “The future of mobility – evolution vs. revolution: does the future belong to completely new ways of mobility models or do current ways of transportation just have to evolve?” and “Mobile banks, robo-advisor, digital wealth manager… is disruption the new normal for the traditional banking industry?” were complemented by entertainment for the participants. An e-scooter test track from Circ was set up on the site and a photobooth was also designed to capture unforgettable moments. Friday evening ended and with it the two-day event with drinks on the house in the specially rented House of Weekend at Alexanderplatz.
for many on the DFS team was the breathtaking and overwhelming feedback that
was received from partners and participants throughout the event. It showed
that the efforts of the past months (and in some cases more than 30 kilometers
of running around during the event) were worth it.
In conclusion, one can definitely say that not only the partners and participants had a lot of fun but also the entire team! We are already looking forward to next year’s DigitalFuture Summit 2020 on the 9th and 10th of July!
ESMT Berlin alumna Ai Nakajima put her MBA skills to work—not only for her professional endeavors, but also in her personal life, as she became one of the pioneers to launch the “Marriage for All” campaign, which demands equal rights for same-sex couples in Japan. Starting her professional career in the USA and then Germany, she moved into the FinTech industry after acquiring her MBA at ESMT. She is now working in Japan again.
We interviewed her on the occasion of “Sticks & Stones”, Europe’s largest LGBT+ career fair, which will take place on May 25 in Berlin. If you are interested the degree programs offered by ESMT and our efforts for diversity and inclusivity, meet us there.
Hello Ai, please introduce yourself: Where are you from? In which
industry did you work before the MBA and in which industry do you currently
work? How many years of experience do you have?
I am from Japan, and I was working in the banking
industry before starting my MBA at ESMT Berlin. Currently, I am working at a
crypto currency exchange company. I have more than ten years of working
experience in finance IT and project management.
Why did you choose the ESMT Berlin MBA program? Why should candidates
consider studying at ESMT and Germany?
I chose ESMT for two main reasons. One is the emphasis
on technology in the MBA program, the other is the strong connection to
multiple layers of German companies and government. ESMT provides a wonderful
opportunity to get to know the culture and a variety of industries in Germany,
from start-ups to big international corporations.
What was it like living in Berlin and being a student at ESMT?
Germany as a country recognizes same-sex marriages,
and when I lived there, Berlin even had an openly gay mayor – this is something
that is unimaginable in my home country even today. My colleagues from the bank
and at ESMT did not bother at all that I had a female partner, and we did not
have to hide that aspect of our lives.
How do cultural diversity and inclusion differ between German and
Japanese work cultures?
Japan is much more traditional and conservative by
nature. It was, and still is, behind in terms of diversity and inclusion. Japan
is trying to change, but after my experience of living in Germany, I could feel
the difference in terms of accepting diversity in the work environment between
the two countries very strongly. For example, in Japan, people do not talk
about their private lives in the workplace, but in Germany it is the opposite,
everybody can speak openly about his or her private life.
What role do MBA education programs play in creating more inclusive
The diversified demographics of my MBA class were a
good start to recognizing diversity and creating an inclusive atmosphere to
successfully complete group assignments. However, the students did not merely accept
diversity – throughout the MBA year, our minds developed a sense of what corporate
social responsibility (CSR) means and how we can make a positive impact on society.
You were recently part of a campaign to push the Japanese government to afford
equal rights and protections for same-sex couples. How did this come about?
We are following a similar path as the US Supreme
Court in June 2015, concluding that the constitution grants the right of marriage
not only to opposite-sex couples but also to same-sex couples. I am part of the
plaintiff group to claim the same before the Japanese Court. The trial just
started in February of this year. It will take roughly five years to go through
the court proceedings and have a verdict. I hope Japan changes gradually towards
more diversity in the near future. In order for this to happen, we need strong
support from all over the world.
Is there any way you can tie in your learning outcomes from the MBA to your marriage campaign?
What I have learned during the MBA has surely helped me to be part of this campaign activity. The biggest impact has come from the leadership class. I can use my leadership skills in court, at events, or interviews and proudly represent the community. The group of plaintiffs and lawyers have diverse backgrounds, and we often have a challenging time to consolidate comments or to decide on the group’s direction. Therefore, I do exercise my negotiation- and problem-solving skills, which I learned at ESMT to help find consensus within the group. I have also been invited as a guest speaker at variety of events, and the presentation skills I learned have helped me to present effectively.
What are the next steps in the campaign?
In terms of court process, after going through the district court, the next step would be the high court, and the last is the Supreme Court. The non-profit organization “Marriage for All Japan” and the lawyers’ group will host events around Japan to promote our case, calling for equal rights. In order to make this campaign successful, we need strong and loud voices from inside and outside Japan. For example, in 2018, five foreign Chamber of Commerce offices requested the Japanese government to protect the LGBT+ community and implement equal rights. This type of visibility and strong pressure will have a significant impact. At the moment, our problem is not widely known. Therefore, our first action is to reach out to a wider audience about the LGBT+ challenges in Japan.
Along with several other ESMT Berlin
students, Shan Qiao attended the Obama Foundation Town Hall Europe with
President Obama at ESMT on April 6. In this blog post, she shares her thoughts
When then-presidential candidate Barack Obama visited Berlin
in 2008 for the first time and gave a speech in front of the Victory Column, I
was just over 20 years old. I remember watching that speech live on TV. I was probably
as enthusiastic as the tens of thousands of people that were there cheering and
shouting the famous campaign slogan “Yes, we can!”
felt like I did 11 years ago when President Obama walked onto the stage at my
home university ESMT Berlin on Saturday. I was sitting in the front row, having
the privilege to witness this once-in-a-lifetime event in person. The crowd in
the lecture hall was cheering. Everyone was excited and looking forward to the
things to come.
2008, people imagined that once Obama had been elected the world would somehow
dramatically change for the better – overnight. The culmination of these high
hopes was the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama, shortly after
he started his first term.
it is obvious that no one could live up to such high expectations. And
President Obama has since been criticized for not delivering on all of his
campaign promises. Despite the excitement ringing out throughout the halls of
ESMT, I think we all were more sober than the crowd of 2008.
The importance of compromise
Radical changes just don’t happen overnight – or even within four or
eight years for that matter. At least not the kind of changes we would like to
see. In his town hall speech at ESMT, President Obama reminded us that “when you start trying to radically change things quickly,
the track record has not been great.”
Indeed, I think we should be grateful that
our societies are organized in a way that people with different opinions are
able to express them and be heard.
“You have to recognize that the way we
structure democracy requires you to take into account people who don’t agree
with you,” the President said. “That by definition means you’re not going to
get 100 percent of what you want.”
Pointing to examples like his passing of the Affordable Care Act and
the Paris Climate Agreement, President Obama stressed the importance of
compromise in making progress within a democracy among citizens who don’t agree
with a given policy.
I think the
value of compromise is often underestimated. Of course, it means that you, or
the representatives you elected will not reach each and every goal on their
agenda. But it also means that no one can impose their ideas, which you might
not agree with, entirely on you.
to compromise, however, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be politically active and
complacent about the future you desire. Quite the contrary – the President
urged us young people to stand up and fight on behalf of our generation.
“You would not let your grandfather or
grandmother decide what clothes you wear or what music you listen to,” he said.
“So why would you let them decide the world you’re going to live in and the
politics that you’re going to be subjected to.”
I was particularly
impressed that President Obama explicitly discussed the “Fridays for Future”
movement – these thousands of people protesting all across Europe, calling for
ambitious action on climate change. Some German politicians have ridiculed the
movement, saying that such matters are for professionals to sort out, not for
children running in the streets.
“A lot of those people can’t vote, they’re
too young to vote yet,” the President said. “But they know what’s going on and
they’re making change. Those habits and that sense of power that they’re
developing now is going to carry over for the rest of their lives.”
It felt good to hear the President is taking
the concerns of the young generation very seriously and actually trusts and
encourages us to take matters into our own hands. That is – unfortunately –
something you rarely hear from politicians these days.
I would like to thank President Obama for
sharing his inspirational thoughts. I hope the other people attending the event
and those watching via the internet are as inspired as I am.
We interviewed Samantha Barlow, MBA alumna 2018, on her experience of the ESMT MBA program.
What motivated you to do an MBA?
I sought an MBA to acquire the hard
skills that would allow me to grow as an effective entrepreneur. Specifically,
my aim was to increase my literacy in financial accounting and be able to
transmit this knowledge into operational strategy in order to effectively
launch my own company. My traditional employment prior to the MBA was as a
program manager in the nonprofit sector, but I had also been on the founding
team of two international social enterprises and wanted to pivot my career
trajectory in that direction. The gaps in my knowledge and skills were
immediately apparent to me, and I knew I needed to learn the language of business
and increase my financial literacy to be successful.
I also wanted to engage with a
global community, exchanging diverse ideas and experiences. I often think about
how my movement through the world as a white, American woman affects my
leadership practices. I am especially cognizant of these practices in the
context of my business ventures in Ghana, West Africa, where my fiancée and I
currently reside. I was motivated to do not just an MBA, but an international
MBA so I could be even more thoughtful about working in different cultural
One year later, what would you say surprised
you most about the program?
think anything could have prepared me for the power of the ESMT network. When
you read the brochure and the statistics about how many different countries are
represented, they cannot do justice to the real thing. The distinct life
experiences of my classmates and idea-sharing that took place during group work
throughout the year challenged me. Months after graduation, people still post
helpful job links and funny photos in the class WhatsApp group every day. The
way alumni would respond to networking emails, the way professors would take
time outside class to answer my questions, the way the administrators went out
of their way to invite me to interesting events or connect me with relevant
professionals – it all astounded me.
If you had to name one highlight of the year,
what would it be?
company visits in May 2018 doubled as a thought-provoking glimpse at two companies
and an enjoyable social experience with my classmates.
us crowded onto the 7:00 a.m. Easyjet flight to Munich one Friday morning,
changed into suits in the airport bathroom, and marched off to Holidu and
Amazon. The companies – one a local startup and one a multinational tech giant
– contrasted interestingly and we all discussed cultural fit and personal
preferences on the bus ride to the hotel. We spent the rest of the weekend
drinking beer with alumni, taking the free walking tour, and laughing together
over meals of Schweinshaxe and Käsespätzle.
What motivated you to become a Responsible
Leaders Fellow? What will you be doing?
Responsible Leaders Fellowship (RLF) is an amazing springboard to the next step
in my professional career. I am seeking a career in social enterprise and have
personal ties to West Africa, so the ability to pursue a six-month opportunity
at Impact Hub Accra, the premier entrepreneurial empowerment agency in Ghana,
is a dream come true.
provides a great foot in the door, since it’s easier to join an organization as
a pro bono consultant, thanks to ESMT’s generous Circle of Friends. Now that I’m here, Impact Hub Accra is
opening up doors for me and creating numerous networking opportunities.
I am able
to flex my new MBA muscles as a financial and strategy consultant for the Hub’s
health innovation program, taking on a variety of tasks I would otherwise be
unable to as a traditional employee. My diverse fellowship consists of program and
business development support, impact evaluation, and creating a separate
budgeting system and long-term financial strategy for the health program.
What advice would you give to new students?
advantage of the opportunities! In the beginning you may feel overwhelmed
adjusting to a new country and tackling the considerable amount of homework.
Focus on learning, but do not worry too much about grades, and dive into the
extracurriculars. Join clubs, attend events, stay out late, take up leadership
roles, and be tired. You get as much as you put into the MBA.
Anything else you would like to share?
students – leave a legacy. You have one year, and whether you want to address
sexism in the corporate world, make ESMT greener, strengthen the alumni
network, increase diversity, or start a new club, think about how you want to
be remembered and act on it.