DigitalFuture Summit 2019 – Distinguishing itself from the mass of digitization events

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.

The 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 mobility.

To understand 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.

The teams 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 questions.

Workshops: Direct engagement with attendees, helping them to learn more about digitalization through case studies, discussion of problems, or presentations.

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.

Besides the 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.

The highlight 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!

Interview with MBA Alumna Samantha Barlow

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 contexts.

One year later, what would you say surprised you most about the program?

I don’t 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?

The Munich company visits in May 2018 doubled as a thought-provoking glimpse at two companies and an enjoyable social experience with my classmates.

Thirty of 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?

The 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.

RLF 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?

Take 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?

To new 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.

Interview with MBA Alumna Marie Masson

We interviewed Marie Masson, MBA alumna 2018, on her experience of the ESMT MBA program.

With your UN/NGO background, what motivated you to do an MBA? 

First, the business and management skills the MBA teaches are useful whether you are working for a hedge fund or an NGO. Every organization has a mission, a strategy, a budget and employees to be managed, and today, I think only a business degree formally teaches this. An MBA gives you the opportunity to reflect on your leadership style, learn from other student’s experiences, and develop business skills to have a helicopter view of organizations.

Second, by pursing business classes during my Bachelor degree in Political Science, I noticed there was often a line drawn between business and politics, which I found difficult to understand because both are so intertwined. By doing an MBA, I aspired to develop a hybrid profile to better understand the relationship between the public and the private sector. I believe that in an increasingly interconnected world, companies will need more hybrid profiles to play on the international stage and create effective partnerships. I therefore would encourage more people to pursue studies in a wide range of complementary fields.

One year later, what would you say surprised you most about the program?

I always pictured an MBA class working in a competitive environment. Instead, study groups helped each other out, finance students helped soft skill students and vice versa (my friend Faraz saved me in all technical classes), students shared job postings and their networks, and during many group presentations I heard: “We conducted our analysis this way but actually the previous group did it really nicely as well!”. This supportive environment was an incredible surprise, and might be very ESMT specific due to the diversity of profiles.

If you had to name one highlight of the year, what would it be?

There were many fun moments, but my highlight a moment of reflection. At the end of Module 1, our classmate Carlos took a picture of all of us in our Module 1 seating plan. It was a strange moment when all of us realized how fast the first few weeks had passed and how the rest of the year would fly. After this picture, all of us already spoke about missing each other 10 months down the road when the MBA would end.

What are your professional plans? How will the MBA degree help you to reach your goals?

I am starting a position in Public Affairs at Lilium, a flying taxi startup in Munich. If someone had told me I would be working for such an incredibly exciting project after my MBA, I would never have believed them!

The MBA taught me how to work with very diverse profiles and in a fast-paced environment -two things which will be vital in my new position. In addition, I hope that the business knowledge I have gained will enlarge my political vision to better understand the core business and work closer with my technical colleagues.

What advice would you give members of the Class of 2019, who started the program in January?

First, say YES! Say yes to as many events or activities organized by the school  and your classmates. In a few years, you will have forgotten how sleep deprived you were, and you will only remember how much fun you had with the most diverse group you will ever be in.

Second, network, network and network from Day 1.

Third, be humble and learn from others.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

I am grateful for the faculty and staff at ESMT who make everything possible with their hard work, positive attitude and eagerness to make any student initiative possible. All of us owe a large part of our success to the outstanding efforts of the ESMT Berlin school.

 

Interview with MBA alumnus Kalpesh Ahire

We caught up with Kalpesh Ahire, MBA 2018 alumnus, who shared his ESMT MBA story.

What motivated you to do an MBA?

Prior to the MBA, I had been working as a Business Analyst/Technology Consultant with Accenture. My undergraduate degree is in Engineering, specializing in Information Technology. This made my work quite challenging. While my technical skills were quite strong, on the business side, I had to learn on the job or from my peers. However, as time passed I realized that a structured way of learning would be the most efficient way to prepare for any upcoming business challenge. My approach has always been to refer to the basics – taking what I have learned academically and then building on this to take on practical issues. Naturally, an MBA was the obvious choice. I was always fascinated with the German industry and business landscape and since I had also worked in Germany before, I decided to move to Germany. I chose ESMT Berlin due to a number of factors and not limited to the internationality, age of the school, and the focus on innovation and technology, along with personal development.

One year later, what would you say surprised you most about the program?

The program itself and the cohort. Often times, one does not experience exactly what one has signed up for. I still remember my initial discussion with the admissions team where I was made aware of what to expect at ESMT, such as the international cohort, very practical approach to studies, innovation-based topics, and the focus on people and leadership development etc. Everything turned out to be exactly the way it was portrayed, which is quite unique.

Secondly, the cohort. My class was amazing. We were close-knit and had each other’s backs, with no competition, and everyone bringing out the best in each other. At many points during the MBA, I attended MBA events where I met candidates from other business schools and it was quite evident that the ESMT candidates stood out as a team.

 

If you had to name one highlight of the year, what would it be?

This is probably the most difficult question. This year has been full of highlights and extraordinary experiences, be it our very first week going outdoors for team building exercises or the class coming together to help our MBAT team, or the various cultural events organized by our very diverse class, or the obvious – different classes and professors.

However, if I must choose one, I would choose something personal. I am an aviation geek and have been around jets courtesy of my father’s job. Also, I have always been fascinated by technology and machine learning. An important and in fact differentiating aspect of the ESMT MBA is the consulting project, where we directly apply our knowledge to real time situations in a company. I had the opportunity to work with Lufthansa for my consulting project. The project dealt with how Lufthansa can implement conversational commerce and improve services, a perfect amalgamation of two of my interests, aviation and technology with strategy. I do not think I could have had the opportunity to have this experience elsewhere. On a side note, for one of our meetings in Zurich I was able to fly in a Fokker-100 aircraft, one of the last few left in service. I could finally check it off my long list of aircraft models I always wanted to fly!

I have heard that you have be vigilant in learning German. Why was this so important to you?

 I come from India, the land of many languages. I grew up in a town with almost every culture and language from my country. It was therefore natural to know a few words from different languages. It not only helped understand the people around but also helped to bond with them. This important learning came in handy when I moved to Germany. As mentioned earlier, I have worked in Germany before, which is when I actually started learning the language. Though my working language was English, learning German helped me a lot as my job involved talking to various stakeholders. Understanding and learning a language does not have the sole purpose of understanding a conversation. It serves a bigger purpose of knowing the people and the culture. I had already decided to work in Germany after my MBA and being part of the culture would help me in my stay. As a result, when I decided to take up the MBA, I moved to Berlin 3 months early to continue learning the language.

What are your professional plans?

I come from the IT industry specifically in the Business Analysis space and would like to leverage my knowledge of the industry and technology. Solutioning comes naturally to me; therefore, I am keen on developing my career into strategy consulting with an IT background. However, I am open for any challenge, as I believe the MBA has taught me well about how to transfer my skills and utilize them wherever I go. Also, as mentioned before, the German business landscape is quite fascinating to me, I would like to stay here in Germany.

What advice would you give members of the Class of 2019?

Live and enjoy every moment of this incredible journey, it ends very soon. Be there for each other as it is not as enjoyable if pursued alone. While learning in the classroom is important, it is equally important to meet people, make friends, and build a network. 

ESMT organizes many events, be an active part of them. Berlin has a lot to offer in this regard, go to many of those events. Being a one-year program, it gets quite hectic, especially in the beginning of the year, but make an effort to go out and network, be part of extracurricular activities, it is WORTH it! ESMT listens to students and supports student initiatives, so be vocal and organize events/activities that would add value to you and your class. They supported many initiatives from our class. Above all, the ESMT MBA offers a unique opportunity of getting to know many cultures and people at a single place – take full advantage of it. Cultural exchange will make you prepared for everything that is coming after the program.

Anything else you would like to share?

I still cannot comprehend that this year has ended. However, there are few things which I will always remember and would want everyone to know. We were a class of 66 students and one exchange student in the first half of the program representing 34 nationalities.

Many “firsts” happened during our year at ESMT, be it new clubs such as the Technology Club. The first ever ESMT Hackathon took place, where people from business and technology fields came together. Many cultural exchanges took place, such as a Brazilian barbeque and Italian dinner. We organized an auction to support our athletic MBAT team, who went on to win many international tournaments. Some of my classmates went to Australia to participate in the Global Business Challenge and secured second place and funding to start a company. Last but not the least, we had some of the most qualified, multi-talented, and coolest professors, some who could tango for example, or can be found on Spotify, to name a few.