The Executive MBA (EMBA) class of 2023 has completed the first half of the program. We caught up with current students Miriam Sake and Matthias Saulich to hear about their experience of the program so far. Miriam works as the head of people and organization initiatives at Siemens and Matthias as delivery manager at Endava.
Why did you choose the EMBA program?
Miriam: When I made the decision to pursue the EMBA, one factor gave me the final push: Making learning a personal priority. Especially in the context of our product #NextWork®, which drives workforce transformation at Siemens.
We talk so much about learning, but in reality, we often don’t do it justice when it comes to prioritizing time. During the last months, I’ve learned that whenever you think you’ve focused enough, prioritize more. This is exactly what I wanted to learn and pass on to others.
Have you faced any challenges during the program and how did you overcome those challenges?
Matthias: The high workload of the program combined with starting a new work engagement has certainly been a challenge. There has been more than one weekend where my head was spinning with all the new information to process and the due dates for the course deliverables.
But thanks to the great support from everybody at my company, this has been manageable and well worth it, considering the great content of the program delivered by outstanding professors like Francis de Véricourt, Chengwei Liu, Catalina Stefanescu-Cuntze, Konstantin Korotov, Zoltan Antal-Mokos, Bianca Schmitz, and many more.
Do you find it difficult to strike a balance between work and study?
Miriam: In a leadership role, a time-consuming hobby like studying doesn’t work without empowerment and trust in the people around me. I’d like to thank my incredibly great team who always have my back. And to those who have asked me occasionally if I can really miss an important week, yes, I can because I am surrounded by people who are empowered and, frankly, usually know a lot more than I do. Of course, the same goes for my great manager: without a leader who lives the same form of empowerment and trust, my road would have been a lot rockier.
What has been your highlight of the program so far?
Matthias: If I had to pick two highlights from the program so far, I would choose the course on Nordic Entrepreneurship at Stockholm School of Economics, which I attended during the Global Network for Advanced Management network week, and the Academy of Management conference in Seattle, which we attended last month. Both residencies allowed me to expand my horizon and dive into areas I’ve been completely unfamiliar with before.
Additionally, I have to mention how inspiring and helpful the executive coaching by Alexander Meyer auf der Heyde has been so far. One-on-one coaching with senior executives is an integral part of the EMBA curriculum and a unique opportunity to grow as a leader and increase our insight.
What are your key takeaways from the program so far?
Miriam: I recently came across a McKinsey & Company study that claims intentional learning is the most fundamental skill and identifies five core factors:
- Setting goals
- Protecting time for learning
- Actively seeking feedback
- Conducting deliberate practice
All these skills are encouraged and challenged by my EMBA at ESMT Berlin. Ambitious targets which need to be proven in numerous assignments help me to protect time for learning. And I can tell you, this doesn’t work in between like a web-based training of half an hour.
(Peer-)coaching and valuable feedback from the professors have supported my learning journey tremendously during my studies, especially thanks to Sylvia Baitinger and Konstantin Korotov.
What I like most is being able to challenge ourselves with real business cases because experts are always made, not born.
Last but not least, after every residency we are required to write a reflection paper. It felt weird the first time, but reflection actually helps me to anchor content better and set new personal goals.
Having already learned so much, the finish line is in sight, and we can’t wait to see what’s in store next.