Career Story: Kerstin Mariella Knapp, Puma Energy

September 19, 2018

Global Executive MBA alumna

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

The most influential situations or encounters in my life have been those that caused me to reflect and made me aware of my limits, providing me with opportunities to grow as a person. For instance, my initial training, after which I didn’t rest on my laurels but rather wanted to keep developing my skills and move in a new direction; or my first expat assignment, which took me to Romania and made me reach personal as well as professional limits time and again, teaching me how to get energy from simple situations or circumstances when the going gets tough. Or how to cope with hundreds of e-mails every day without becoming overwhelmed. Or how to distill, in no more than 10 minutes, the gist of information that is crucially important in a decision-making context. Apart from all that, I have also learned what gives me energy and what takes energy away from me, allowing me to stay balanced energy-wise. Also, there have been very special people in my life who, by providing me with valuable feedback and challenges, have helped me get closer to myself. In this context, I can think of many moments and situations that have had a significant impact on me, and I am very grateful for each and every one of them.

Did you originally want to pursue a different career? If so, what made you change your plans?

I always wanted to become a primary-school teacher, and I have completed the required training - but I began to realize that this career would not allow me to enjoy a global exposure; so I started studying psychology, while still finalizing my studies to become a primary-school teacher, and aimed to work for a multinational.

How and why did you come to work for Puma Energy?

I was approached by a headhunter. “We are looking for someone with a very special skillset. Someone with experience with emerging markets and change management who is also capable of coping with a very challenging organization, in other words: a fast-paced, performance-oriented organization with an extremely demanding top management.” I had always found such constellations intriguing so I thought this sounded like the right job for me. Moreover, it was my first opportunity to serve in a leading HR role in a corporate setting, and I felt more than ready for this.

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

I didn’t intend to make a career move; rather, I wanted to develop my expertise and improve my overall management skills. My approach to finance has changed. I'd say it is now demystified and partly also de-illusioned in nature. My finance colleagues with whom I interact regularly have remarked: “Usually, HR isn’t that interested in numbers…” or “let us know if we need to report something differently”. As a result, I feel definitely more self-confident when it comes to talking to colleagues about their areas of expertise. In HR, others often like to think they know better than you how to manage people.

Also, I feel more confident about dealing with strategic issues and I have a better understanding of how things interrelate in business, making me more of an asset to my colleagues on the Executive Committee.

Last but not least, I have secured my first non-executive position. I am an independent advisor to the International Olympic Committee as part of its body dealing with personnel matters. This role is a very exciting addition to my current job!

What has been your biggest professional/personal success?

Successfully managing the post-merger integration of Petrom in Romania for OMV Refining & Marketing GMBH.

What are your goals for the coming year?

In the medium term, I hope to join the supervisory boards of various businesses and organizations. Moreover, I would like to raise my French to a good level.

What do you consider a “great luxury”?

To have time on my hands. To love and be loved, and to be healthy.

What was the last movie you really enjoyed?

First and foremost, I enjoy movies that make me laugh—“Holiday”, “Bridget Jones” and the like—, and I watch them mostly on the plane during long-distance flights. Off the plane, I usually don't have time for that.

How would you characterize your philosophy of leadership? Has it been influenced by a leadership role model?

I would say my approach to leadership is “consultative” in nature—and always driven by a clear goal and a vision. I learn from good and not-so-good superiors I get to work with, and I am eager to bring best practices to life. That said, I tend to adapt my strategies slightly as cultural environments (corporate cultures or countries, for that matter) change.

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

Being a very active person, I regularly play sports, which helps me recharge my batteries. Moreover, I am an avid traveler. Rome is a city that never fails to give me fresh energy and renewed joie de vivre. A cup of coffee or a meal with people I like is also great.

Why would you recommend the Global Executive MBA of the WU Executive Academy? What did you like the most?

Because of the value for money, the charm of Vienna & Austria and WU Vienna's top-notch facilities. The collaboration with the Carlson School of Management makes the program particularly attractive, not least because it allows you to earn two MBA degrees. Moreover, I found the quality of as well as the diversity among the peer group excellent. The international residencies also significantly added to the overall program experience.


My motto in life:
Everything in life is a reflection of a choice you have made. If you want a different result make a different choice.
I can laugh about:
Mistakes I am most likely willing to forgive:
Generally speaking, I don't bear grudges. We all make mistakes and, ideally, we learn from them.
I would spend my last money on:
a premium Sencha from Japan.
In 20 years, I will:
Happily share with others the wealth of experience I have acquired.

Read more interesting career stories of our students and alumni here.

Share this