Career Story: Clemens M. Wass, BY WASS GmbH

July 15, 2013

Professional MBA Entrepreneurship & Innovation alumnus

What stages in your life have had the greatest impact on you and why?
I guess the world around us, in which we grow up and live, has influenced me the most—and continues to do so on a daily basis. In my childhood days, I—like probably everybody else—developed a set of values and beliefs that were shaped by this environment and that I used as a basis for decision-making later in life; this happened unconsciously rather than consciously, I have to admit. Today, I tend to try to unlearn a few of the things I have learned and question values, beliefs and social standards. It is not a midlife or quarterlife crisis I am going through but a conscious "review process", and who knows perhaps this turns out to be yet another defining moment in my life ...

Did you originally want to pursue a career in a different field? If so, why is it that nothing has come of your plans?
So far (!) nothing has come of them! As a child, I wanted to become a trapper in Canada, living in a log cabin with a sled dog and a raccoon. Luckily, there are many cabins in Austria, and I do have a sheepdog by now. As the Internet is my hunting grounds, it is easy for me to work wherever I am. The raccoon is where things might get tricky, though, because raccoons can be really nasty!

How and why did you come to be self-employed?
I became self-employed not only as a result of wondering how to best achieve what I want from my life but also because of events happening back then. Eager to focus 100 percent on the PMBA Entrepreneurship & Innovation, I took educational leave some months into the program. It was during that time that the dealer contract between my father's small company and a major producer was terminated. Hence, we needed to find new products and services to breath new life into the company. Given my background, it was only natural to combine law, technology and innovation management. I have been active in this sphere for many years and have built an extensive network of contacts.

What has changed in your career as a result of your MBA degree? How did the program support you in reaching your career goals? What concrete career opportunities have opened up for you?
The MBA was definitely a contributing factor in my decision to take the plunge into self-employment. As a self-employed person, you naturally have to take care of pretty much everything yourself, meaning there is ample opportunity for me to put into practice what I have learned. I am currently benefiting from every single MBA module, and the ongoing interaction with my former fellow students is an enormous advantage too. For, as they say, the difference between theory and practice is greater in practice than in theory...

What was your biggest professional/personal success?
Arguably, I achieved my biggest professional success during a legal dispute. Thanks to my legal and negotiating skills, the small Austrian trading company of my father managed to successfully stand up to a US business generating billions in annual turnover. It felt a bit like David fighting Goliath. In the long term, though, I prefer to focus on providing people and businesses with thorough legal information by means of databases and applications. By now, more than 25,000 users take advantage of RIS:App, which I have developed in cooperation with the Austrian Federal Chancellery and the University of Salzburg, to gain mobile access to Austria’s laws.

What are your goals for the coming year? Your goals in general? Is there still something you absolutely want to do?
I hope the European research project I submitted in mid-January in partnership with the University of Amsterdam, the Salzburg University of Applied Sciences, the London School of Economics and Political Science, an Italian software development company and a Greek law firm will be approved in the coming months. Our project aims to revolutionize the world of legal informatics—we will have to wait and see what comes of it. Perhaps I also manage to literally get my dog training device on the road. I have laid out the business plan for doing so in my Master's thesis. Both of these projects help me make progress on the path to maximum freedom, self-determination and my true "vocation".

What do you consider a “great luxury“?
All the small things taken together: spending time with good friends, being my own boss, not having to be available at all times, strolling through nature with my dog, being able to make a long journey to a foreign country, ...

What was the last book/movie you really enjoyed?
Most recently, I enjoyed "Beyond the Horizon: The First Human-Powered Expedition to Circle the Globe", a book by Colin Angus. I am still waiting for the best book, though: I really do hope my friends put pen to paper and recount the adventure of making a long journey through South America by tandem with their two children!

How would you characterize your philosophy of leadership? Has it been influenced by a leadership role-model?
The privilege of leadership is one that must be earned and re-earned each and every day. A job title alone or some academic degree does not say anything about somebody's leadership skills; at best, it gives you a clue about that person's past. Leaders need to have expertise and, even more importantly, good personal qualities. Providing effective and fair leadership in start-ups or established businesses is definitely one of the biggest challenges. I am currently in the process of learning to cope with it. In this context, books are of little help—it is experience that matters. While I do not really have a leadership role-model, I find it most exciting to look to the hierarchy within a wolf pack for inspiration. The social structures of wolves are very similar to those of humans. Their ways of organizing themselves during "hunting projects" or of resolving internal conflicts efficiently and effectively are particularly intriguing and could teach us a lot. There are now even management seminars on this subject.

How do you recharge your batteries when you are not pursuing your demanding career?
To recharge, I frequently go out into nature with my dog. When you spend time with an animal, you are fully in the here and now, allowing you to set your mind free from all those thoughts that keep running through it in everyday life. It is in these moments that I get my best new ideas, and often they seem to come from nowhere.

If you could change places with anyone for a day, who would it be?
That is a hard one: ideally, somebody with a wealth of experience who is fairly advanced in age, speaks a native language other than German and comes from a different culture—perhaps even a woman. When I search the Internet using these criteria, one of the persons I find is Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova, the first woman in space. Just imagine: after one day, I would speak perfect Russian, know what Earth really looks like from space, understand women, and maybe even have some of the wisdom of an experienced person! However, I have to admit that the Dalai Lama would likely be my first choice.

Why would you recommend the Professional MBA (Entrepreneurship & Innovation) of the WU Executive Academy? What did you like the most?
What I liked the most about the program was the opportunity to think outside the box, which is always helpful if you want to be radically innovative, and to share your ideas with like-minded people. We were an incredibly active class. You can gain knowledge from books, but it takes an environment like the one provided by the PMBA for you to be able to interact with highly qualified colleagues and lecturers and, as a result, grow as a person. Traveling to Boston to visit the Harvard Business School and the MIT was definitely a particularly valuable experience too.


My motto in life:
Don't dream your life—live your dream (I am working on it!)
I can laugh about:
... my little dog when he stumbles over his paws, which are much too big. (This is something he will always struggle with, I guess.)
Mistakes I am most likely willing to forgive:
You should always forgive others quickly (even though it is hard to do so sometimes).
I would spend my last money on:
... a cabin where I can live self-sufficiently, and a pocketknife.
In 20 years I will be:
... read these questions and answers, and have a good laugh!

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