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Career Story: Markus Müllegger, Managing Director at Vienna Residence

March 06, 2019

Global Executive MBA alumnus

Can you, please, share with us your career development until now?

In particular, I joined an operator of premium-serviced apartments in Vienna named Vienna Residence at early stage as Co-Owner and Managing Director. This was followed by co-founding PAYUCA, an operator of private parking space made available to the public for short term parking through utilizing innovative technology (dedicated software and hardware). Furthermore, let me go into more detail about the three most important stages in my professional life in the next question.

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

Perhaps the greatest impact in my life was when I joined the HTL Salzburg night school. Prior to that and due to lack of interest, I have not been good at school during my compulsory school years. After completing my apprenticeship, I went to the Austrian armed forces where I met someone who talked me into joining the HTL night school with him. My only thought was if I just could get through the toughest courses in the fourth grade, a whole new world of opportunities would open up for me. Yet it came totally different. The subjects were extremely interesting and suddenly I really enjoyed all of the other stuff, even the English and German classes. I really did not want to leave this school anymore and studied any minute I could free up. In fact, to prepare for the first exam in electrical engineering, I calculated the entire home exercise book, just to not risk anything. Also during the exam itself, I calculated all exercises three times (I could be so quick because the exercises were from our home exercise book, just with different numbers - so I had already done them at home). And as I got back this test with full marks, I suddenly felt that the world had opened up for me (even though I had calculated everything three times, I just was hoping to at least get a grade 4). The HTL is considered one of the toughest schools in Salzburg, and electrical engineering one of the toughest subjects. Some of the best classmates at secondary school did not make it through. I suddenly realized that talent might help, but that motivation and willingness to really put effort into something is even more important.

After two years of HTL, I used a special opportunity to join Salzburg University of Applied Sciences where after again two years I went to Aukland University of Technology for one year (exchange program) and then went to Högskolan Halmstad to complete my MSc in a double degree program with Salzburg University of Applied Science, where I finished my DI (FH) right after.

This was followed by starting my professional career at Ericsson AB in Gothenburg as a software designer. During this period of study almost everything was completed with honors. I feel this all resulted from the drive I got after getting back my first exam result in electrical engineering at HTL Salzburg. This moment just gave really good confidence.

After 10 months of working as a software designer, I became Team Leader of the SW Development Team I was working in. Some months after, another very important stage impacted me when I got the chance to be acting project manager during the summer holidays in Sweden. Nobody would have expected it, but we got serious issues with Windows hardware quality labs on our drives, as we were on a extremely tight schedule to deliver 3G Modems for Laptops to brands like Lenovo, Dell and Toshiba. Christmas sales were at stake. My lack of experience in handling serious matters like this could only be balanced out by working through almost 4 weeks - non stop. I strictly slept 6 hours per day and worked from Monday till Sunday fully disciplined to not lose an hour where I could effectively work. My only thought was, I got this trust from management now and I will not let anybody down. I am going to handle this, no matter what. Well, I have to say at that age and without having any other obligations such as family, I was able to put really everything into it.

After going through many tough moments, at the end we could secure the launches on-time, which was a fantastic achievement. Of course, I was not the only one working hard, but I felt that as project manager, how could I have asked others to work real hard, if I would not have been the one working the hardest - it would simply have not been fair. At the end I was really impressed how much the management recognized my efforts and achievements. Now, I do not want to sound like a crazy guy who has never heard about work-life-balance, which is indeed very important to have in life. After these extreme 4 weeks, I got my regular life back. Yet at this stage, what I realized was that the willingness to walk the extra mile in a professional career is just as important as it was in school (of course, as long as it is a good school or a good place to work). A career always needs a bit of luck, but I believe this luck comes to everybody who just honestly puts a good amount of effort in and tries to do things really well and fair - what goes around comes around.

At Ericsson I was able to reach a big goal of mine, which was working as an expat in an Asian country for a year, to just gain as much experience from it as possible by living in a totally different culture, landscape and climate. In Taipei, Taiwan I worked with the largest original design manufacturers such as Flextronics, Foxconn and Quanta and also very closely with local product management of brands like Acer, Lenovo and Toshiba, which was a fantastic professional experience. After this one year, I returned to Sweden and was promoted to Customer Program Manager with the responsibility of Lenovo and Panasonic customers. This was the first time I had a 7-figure budget and I could lead a global team of lead engineers and field application engineers. I was coordinating many different global teams to keep everything smooth for my two large customers. It was also the time, where I spent a significant amount of my working hours in an airplane. Seeing and dealing with so many different cultures, countries and different hierarchies in companies, gave me very valuable insights. The 4 tough weeks as acting project manager and seeing the amount of work possible to do when it has to be done, gave again another boost of good confidence and also experience to pull through and, at the same time, enjoy the other following tough assignments.

After being in total over 7 years abroad, slowly but steady, the desire to come back to my home country, Austria, grew in me, leading to accept a job offer as Business Segment Manager at Commend in Salzburg. It was a very interesting assignment, I developed new business areas and had some product launches. Somehow, however, I felt a bit stuck in my career and I started to ponder, what would have to be done in the next level andwhat would have to be done as a leader of that company. It was a medium-sized company, comprised of about 400 people globally, so meeting the CEO was a regular thing - everything was just structured so much smaller than at Ericsson and seeing a complete picture was far more simpler. Still, due to this rather small structure, I realized that I would lack quite some insight on how to run a company like this. My education was primarily in engineering accompanied by a few business courses such as project management and the like, so basically, I had learned all I knew about business during my different assignments at Ericsson and Commend. I thought, now is the point to do that MBA I was considering right after completing my engineering degree, but had then decided to do it at a later stage after collecting work experience. My goal was to get good overview on how to run a business, so I can progress in my career to the next level and have confidence in my abilities to do a good job (even if I would have to work really hard at the beginning again). I had absolutely no plans whatsoever to start my own company or become self employed in any other way.

Yet, after attending about two thirds of the GEMBA program of WU, I suddenly felt a good level of confidence in knowing now how it can be done. That was my third very important stage with great impact in my life. Suddenly I had no plans anymore to continue a career as employee for much longer. Each and every module required us to look at the company as its leader and at that point in time, after that many modules and gaining this confidence, I just could not resist it anymore. I just had do do my own thing. It was the same pattern again: not knowing if I survive with it, but knowing I damn would regret it, if I were not to have tried. After looking at many different possibilities to start or join a company on the owners side, I decided to start this entrepreneurship journey with Vienna Residence.

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

The third very important stage in my professional life, as described above, is where I changed my career plans from an employee to someone following their heart and setting up/co-owning a company at an early stage.

How and why did you come to work for Vienna Residence?

As I mentioned above, during my MBA studies, the desire to become self-employed grew. With Vienna Residence I finally took this step.

What was your biggest professional/personal success?

It has been joining Vienna Residence at an early stage and growing the business over almost 4 years continuously, steadily improving hard facts such as cash flow and the customer base as well as assets like brand value, our in-house developed software and having a well-developing corporate culture. These are all aspects where my MBA education has helped a good deal. If things go right, many interesting items may come.


What are your goals for the coming year?

It would be fantastic to get Vienna Residence to the point of a solid international company.

What do you consider a “great luxury”?

The be born and live in Austria. I have seen so many different countries, poor and rich. All in all, I have to say it is great luxury and we have to be grateful every day to be able to live in a country as well balanced, clean, safe and with such a wonderful landscape as it is in Austria. Vienna itself gets ranked very often as the city with the best quality of life in the world.

What was the last book/movie you really enjoyed?

Book: The 7 habits of highly effective people - Stephen R. Covey

Movie: Peaceful Warrior - Victor Salva


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

Fairness and leadership by doing. You cannot really ask someone to do something, if you are not ready to do it by yourself. People see what you do and they will follow your example.

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

With my wonderful family. On our beautiful mountains. As a Triathlete.

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

Elon Musk - unbelievable what that guy archives, but being one day in his world, damn would that be an insight.

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

If you are at the point in your management career where you feel that setting a solid foundation of your business know-how before pursuing the next step is a wise thing to do now, then the Global EMBA of the WU Executive academy is it! As with all studies, what you take out of it, also depends greatly on you: if you are willing to give all the modules the attention they deserve, then you have a great chance of leaving the program with the confidence of knowing how to run a business from the very top. This of course helps also a lot at the stages in between.

It is hard to say what I like the most, everything did its part and was interesting in itself. Yet what was definitely special, was the virtual team project, the trip to China meeting the teammates there and, finally, the journey to the United States and presenting as the whole global team (with its fun and its challenges) the business idea developed together as final project for graduation.

Wordrap

My motto in life:

There is no business, there are only people. Business exists only among people and for people - James Autry.

I think this is something we simply must not forget!

I can laugh about:

my little daughter trying to combine different words in some way which doesn't always add up the right way, which can lead to really funny expressions. Or a very good friend of mine, who I would call an encyclopedia of jokes. I have never seen anybody, who can keep that many jokes in his mind as he can. And of course there is always a new one waiting for me.

Shortcomings I am most likely willing to overlook:

If it is a mistake happened the first time because then it simply just a learning and not a mistake.

I would spend my last money on:

keeping my family safe and sound.

In 20 years I will:

run an NGO with projects to help people understand how important it is to lose our ego and to treat all and everybody with fairness and respect, as well as to share resources equally.

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

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