Career Story: Filip Kitanoski, Liebherr – Transportation Systems

November 07, 2016

Global Executive MBA alumnus

What stages in your life have had the greatest impact on you and why?

The greatest impact on me (and I guess in everyone’s life) was my childhood. Growing up in a healthy environment defined the values that I embrace today. At the age of 18, I moved from Macedonia to Austria to pursue my engineering degree in mechanical engineering. Being alone far away from my family in a foreign country following my dream, proved me that if you know “why you are doing what you are doing” everything is possible, in professional and in private life. This stage in my life taught me that being gritty is the key to becoming an achiever and not just a dreamer.

Furthermore, I would say that being part of a basketball team for a long time in my life taught me to be a team player. Team players who trust each other move mountains. I also believe that finding a mentor at any stage of my life was crucial for my professional and personal development.

Did you originally want to pursue a different career?

I always wanted to make stuff, create products and services that would help someone’s life and solve problems or unmet needs. So, I’m still “stuck” to my passion and dream.

How and why did you come to work for Liebherr – Transportation Systems?

After pursuing my PhD degree while working at a research center that focuses on researching and developing new technologies, methods and tools for exploiting the full optimization potential in all areas of vehicle development, I was standing at a crossroads: Should I opt for a career in academic research or an industrial career? Since I had proved my engineering and managerial skills in the academic world, I decided to move into the manufacturing industry. As my father worked in the construction business, I have known the brand “Liebherr” since my childhood. Liebherr has always been associated with quality, product safety, professionalism, innovation and customer loyalty, which is in line with my own values. As a global enterprise operating in many industries and markets, it was the right choice for me.

What has changed in your career as a result of your MBA degree?

My career has progressed very well in the last years, and I gathered both technical and managerial experience. Right after finishing the EMBA, I was encouraged to work on a business model for a new product in a brand-new market for the company: I was responsible for the product vision, the strategic product definition, addressing the specific needs of the customer, writing the business plan and defining the market entry strategy; all this from scratch. It was exactly the job I had envisioned, a job combining strong engineering and entrepreneurial skills while working in an innovative environment.

As an engineer, I was able to broaden my knowledge in terms of additional general and strategic management skills during the EMBA program. Besides the residencies, strategic marketing was the course that I really enjoyed and that really supported me during the setup of the new product group.

What was your biggest professional/personal success?

Pitching in front of the board of directors of the business unit and the Liebherr family (the highest echelon of the group is the board of shareholders, comprised exclusively of family members), telling the story behind the new business and product idea, which led to an investment decision, was one career highlight I would like to mention.

Also, I’m really proud of inspiring the newly assembled team, generating an environment of trust to tackle the extreme uncertainties coming along during the different stages of product, service and business creation. That’s what I can define as my success: creating things that matter to me, to the team, to the company and to society.

What are your goals for the coming year?

My personal goal is to share my vision and inspire more people to create things that the world really needs. Tackle real-world problems, issues such as food loss and food waste (1.3 billion tons every year). 3.1 million children under the age of five are dying because of hunger, and some 750 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead healthy lives.

I still want to implement the business idea developed during the virtual team project for the EMBA master’s thesis.

What do you consider a “great luxury”?

Having time and being healthy.

What was the last book/movie you really enjoyed?

“Her” by Spike Jonze is a brilliant movie challenging your thinking and visions of the near future. As someone once said, it’s a visually beautiful ode to the technological age.

The last book that inspired me and that I really enjoyed reading was "Start with Why" by Simon Sinek.

How would you characterize your philosophy of leadership?

Leadership is a responsibility, and it’s always about people; people who willingly follow you, not because they are told to, not because they are paid to. They are following you because they get inspired by your example and not by your opinion. They share the same beliefs and values. They feel and know that you are doing the things together for the same reason. They trust you. Leaders without followers will fail sooner or later.

I’m amazed and truly inspired by Michelle Obama.

How do you recharge your batteries when you are not pursuing your demanding career?

I’m a passionate skier, and I do enjoy spending time with my daughters and my wife in the mountains.

If you could change places with anyone for a day, who would it be?

Matt Berninger, singer/songwriter and frontman of the band The National.

Why would you recommend the Global Executive MBA of the WU Executive Academy?

It’s not about the “degree” you get, but the experience. It’s about the right mix: the students - from young and inspired managers to the C-level inspiring managers; the internationality - 14 nations from Brazil to Jordan and from Germany to Russia; the lecturers coming from different European, British, US and Canadian universities; the 4 residencies in Russia, China, India and the US. In the end, it’s about the non-transactional friendships, which last.

What I liked the most about the program itself was the virtual team project. The project practiced entrepreneurship in global terms for entire 6 months. Having different goals set for the US, Chinese and Austrian programs, we were challenged to think and act differently. For me, this was a perfect simulation of a global start-up organization, with all its challenges. I’m really thankful to the people who came up with this idea.


My motto in life:
Know why, you’ll learn how.
I can laugh about:
buzzwords used by people who don’t really know what they are all about.
Mistakes I am most likely willing to forgive :
almost everything if it’s part of a learning curve.
I would spend my last money on:
a flight ticket for a chat with my parents.
In 20 years I will:
hopefully be able to mentor younger generations to create products/services/businesses that would serve the world better.

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