Career Story: Mareike Marianne Pierzina, Boehringer Ingelheim

September 13, 2017

Professional MBA Health Care Management student

Did you originally want to pursue a different career? If so, why is it that nothing has come of your plans?

I have always been eager to work in an international setting. Therefore, I did a number of internships in the hotel industry while earning my higher education entrance qualification, allowing me to gain some experience by working for international hotel chains. Along the way, I was given the opportunity to familiarize myself with many different fields: housekeeping, catering, room booking and event management.

One of my top priorities in this context was to interact with as many different people as possible. Initially, I quickly dismissed the idea of becoming a qualified management assistant in the hotel and hospitality industry. However, I came to realize that I had a talent for organizing things such as events: I kept my head in stressful situations and went about tasks in a structured manner. In particular, I enjoyed doing commercial work.

So I decided to look for companies in my region that would offer me an opportunity not only to work in an international setting but also to have a varied range of duties and responsibilities. It was at this point that I came across Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) and, for the first time in my life, had an in-depth look at what a pharmaceutical company does. I soon realized that in an internationally active company as big as BI I would be able to work in a wide variety of fields. Hence, without further ado, I submitted my application for a position as a commercial trainee. A short while later, Boehringer Ingelheim invited me for interview, and when they came back to me with a positive response, I accepted immediately without having had any other interview.

How and why did you come to work for Boehringer Ingelheim?

I joined Boehringer Ingelheim more than eight years ago, and I still work in the setting I started my career in. So the more interesting question would, arguably, be: “Why have I not moved on to a different company?”

I very much enjoy working for my current employer. The fact that I can relate to the values and the culture of our group and that I have, at all times, been able to keep developing plays definitely a key role in this context. It was possible for me to earn my bachelor's degree in business administration without interrupting my career—and now, I have been given the opportunity to study for the MBA degree—despite the geographical distance between Vienna and my place of work, which is Ingelheim in Germany. What is more, I worked in different departments and have developed from a trainee into a Pricing & Reimbursement manager.

It goes without saying that in order to be able to do this, you need some discipline and commitment as well as a little luck. So far, I have always had the opportunity to try something new within our group. And this diversity is what “keeps me going”.

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

I am still studying for my degree, but I already benefit from the opportunity to interact with the faculty and the resulting contacts. The lecturers do not all come from Austria. Some classes are taught by German colleagues, which is, of course, particularly beneficial for me. Earning an MBA degree in health-care management is a great development opportunity and will definitely open up new career avenues for me.

What has been your biggest professional/personal success?

As a Pricing & Reimbursement manager, I belong to a team of people who, on behalf of Boehringer Ingelheim Germany, negotiate the reimbursement amounts for prescription drugs with the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Funds (GKV-SV). I think it is fair to say that the outcome of my first reimbursement negotiations (an increase of almost 2%) has been my biggest professional success so far.

What are your goals for the coming year?

I guess my next goal will be to graduate from the Professional MBA Healthcare Management. Apart from that, I would like to learn at least one more foreign language, e.g. Spanish. Also, I am receptive to the idea of applying for a job abroad. As for my spare time, I would love to cycle across the Alps.

What do you consider a “great luxury”?

Savoring a delicious snack and a “Gösser Radler” beer at a mountain lodge on a sunny day during a skiing vacation with friends is what I consider a luxury.

How would you characterize your philosophy of leadership?

That is a difficult question for me to answer because so far I have worked only as a project manager, but I have never held what would traditionally be considered an executive position. In my capacity as a project manager, I have been eager to ensure not only that each and every team member pulls his or her weight but also that people have fun at work and enjoy what they do.

Speaking as an employee, I think even-handedness is particularly important when it comes to interacting with executives and colleagues. Fairness and transparency can be incorporated into any leadership style. Also, I am convinced that every individual can learn anything as long as you provide him or her with the right balance of support and challenge.

My father holds an executive position and is responsible for managing large-scale construction projects. From him, I have learned that you need to make time for the members of your team, especially those who are trainees, and that you should explain to them the overarching goal as well as the contribution they make toward achieving it.

My father is a demanding boss who expects people to pull their weight, but he is also willing to forgive mistakes, and he has a highly developed sense of fairness. As an executive, I would follow his example, I guess. First and foremost, I would ensure that there is transparent communication and that everybody appreciates his or her contribution toward achieving common organizational goals. I spend more time at work than I do at home, which is why I find it particularly important that I have fun at work and enjoy what I do. Hence, I would allow people to joke around a bit every now and then, provided it does not affect their performance.

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

By playing sports! I am fond of running and cycling. These activities make it possible for me to fully unwind and burn off energy. When I am surrounded by nature, I find it easy to let my gaze wander and forget about everything for a while. Afterward, I feel re-energized and am always particularly eager to start something new.

Why would you recommend the Professional MBA Health Care Management of the WU Executive Academy

Most of all, I benefit from interacting with my peers. We are all health-care professionals, but we bring our own individual experience and a wealth of perspectives to the program. Ultimately, each and every one of us deals with patients, be it as an insurer, an employee of a pharma group, a medical doctor or a pharmacist. This exchange of views and ideas is extremely beneficial for me and allows me to significantly broaden my professional and personal horizons.

I live in Germany and travel to Vienna for the in-class sessions of the MBA. Coming to this beautiful and culturally rich city on a regular basis is something I enjoy very much. When I am in Vienna for the MBA, I take some time out from my everyday routine. This not only allows me to focus my attention on the classes and spend a lot of time with my peers but also gives me plenty of opportunity to explore the city after class. As my employer supports me in studying for my MBA degree and enables me to work very flexible hours during in-class sessions, I have so far always been able to travel to Vienna for the MBA.

And last but not least there is Else Nordberg, who does a marvelous job when it comes to taking care of everything to do with our training. As you can surely imagine, such a program brings together a wide variety of people with a broad range of expectations as far as the program setting is concerned. Else ensures that everything runs smoothly and that our wishes regarding the program, the organization and even the catering are taken into account. In my opinion, this is a very special service.


My motto in life:
Start all your days with a refreshing dose of good humor.
I can laugh about:
My cooking skills. (They are, alas, really miserable; nevertheless, I try to do some cooking every now and then.) :)
Mistakes I am most likely willing to forgive:
I would spend my last money on:
An around-the-world ticket.
In 20 years, I will:
Have my own ski lodge in Austria.

You can read more interesting career stories here.

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