Career Story: Richard Fritz, Boehringer Ingelheim

September 16, 2017

Professional MBA Entrepreneurship & Innovation alumnus

What stages in your life have had the greatest impact on you and why? Without a doubt, I have learned the most about myself as a result of the constantly evolving responsibilities and challenges that come with starting a family. Did you originally want to pursue a different career? As a PhD student, I was fortunate enough to be able to do a lot of learning and experimenting at an institute of the Medical University of Vienna. Back then, it was my intention to pursue an academic career in research. Ultimately, I changed my plans and started to work in the pharmaceutical industry because I wanted to translate research findings into therapeutic benefits for patients even more directly. Being an industrial, not an academic, researcher has also allowed me to more quickly gain experience in leading and developing teams as well as in managing projects, budgets and resources. That said, I sometimes miss the great time I had while doing university-based research. How and why did you come to work for Boehringer-Ingelheim? Boehringer Ingelheim—or BI, as we call it for short—is a globally active pharmaceutical group and one of the 20 leading players in the industry. It researches, develops, produces and markets therapeutic products. Prior to joining BI, I worked for a different pharmaceutical company in research and development for nearly 5 years, and it was approximately at the time I started to study for my MBA degree that I changed employer. Over the past 4 years at BI, I first helped bring some new products to market in Austria, and in my current function, I am responsible for the medical and scientific aspects of our range of oncological products in a very exciting region comprising more than 30 countries. What I particularly like about my function is not only that I interact closely with our clients and collaborate with colleagues from different divisions and countries but also, and most importantly, that I work on innovative products that make a difference for patients who are fighting cancer. What has changed in your career as a result of your MBA degree? Actually, it was after earning my MBA degree that I took on my current responsibilities. Obviously, the fact that, thanks to your training, you have a much broader and better understanding of your industry as well as other industries, is always very helpful in this context. Also, studying part-time allowed me to acquire a wealth of economic knowledge and, ideally, transfer it to my work immediately. At any rate, the knowledge I have gained and my constantly growing network of contacts will continue to be an invaluable asset as far as my career development is concerned. What has been your biggest professional/personal success? I like to recall successes and special moments, for instance that my team was involved in the process of successfully licensing an important vaccine. Or successful product launches. Or when clients get in touch with us because they are surprised by, and grateful for, how patients respond to a cancer drug. However, the biggest success, to my mind, is when relationships that really matter work well. In the short run, you may be able to enjoy resounding career success by going it alone. However, in my opinion, you cannot achieve true and lasting career success, unless you do something meaningful that makes a difference for many people. Also, it is important that you and your partner support each other in achieving your career goals. That is why I am at least as happy about my wife's career success as I am about my own. Last year, she went into business for herself, with great success. What are your goals for the coming year? Our third child is due early next year. So my private priorities in the near future are clear, and we will soon be moving to a new place. Professionally speaking, I intend to implement a lot of things for my current employer in the coming year so that we can achieve our regional targets and make our products accessible to more patients. What do you consider a “great luxury”? Not having to race against the clock in the morning but being able to enjoy breakfast with my family is what I consider a great luxury. That said, I appreciate that I am very lucky and that my life is generally “luxurious”; it is full of opportunities, and my family and I live in a safe place. What was the last book/movie you really enjoyed? “The Biology of Cancer” by Bob Weinberg is a wonderful textbook that almost reads like a novel. A movie that recently touched me deeply is “The Butler” with Forest Whitaker. How would you characterize your philosophy of leadership? I had the privilege of working with role models who made a lasting impression on me, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. But, to tell the truth, negative examples I encountered during personally difficult times have taught me even more about leadership. Today, I am convinced that executives have to serve those they lead. I know from experience that—even when the going gets tough, e.g. during restructuring periods—you can strengthen the long-term motivation of teams through honesty, transparency, appreciation and, above all, common goals. How do you recharge your batteries when you are not pursuing your demanding career? Fortunately, my family is my biggest source of energy and strength. On many days, my job, my clients and my teams also give me a lot of energy that I can reinvest later. Apart from that, I love playing sports such as mountain biking and diving. Alas, I do not have much time for these activities and can enjoy them only a few times a year. If you could change places with anyone for a day, who would it be? My wife. In order to be able to assess fairly and objectively whether I am indeed disorganized. :-) Why would you recommend the Professional MBA Entrepreneurship & Innovation of the WU Executive Academy? There are many good reasons to recommend it. The organization is exemplary. I really have to tip my hat to the team! Moreover, the overwhelming majority of the professors and lecturers are definitely outstanding by international standards. The mix of students from different industries, countries and career levels is also very exciting. I benefited the most from the business core modules. In particular, I liked the modules on leadership and finance. Visiting the Babson College during our field trip to Boston was another highlight of the program. All told, my personal experience is consistent with the excellent results that the program has repeatedly achieved in international rankings such as the most recent Financial Times Ranking.


My motte in life:
You are free to choose your attitude. Every day.
I can laugh about:
Occasionally, I can laugh about things that, only a short while ago, seemed to be serious problems.
Mistakes I am most likely willing to forgive:
Most of the mistakes people make on the job are part of a learning process and forgiveness is not even necessary.
I would spend my last money on:
My family.
In 20 years, I will:
Be proud of the next generation.

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