Career Story: Robert Borny, aws

March 18, 2015

Professional MBA Entrepreneurship & Innovation alumnus

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

To quote Ionesco: "We believe we make experiences, but our experiences make us." Many of my experiences have shaped me. Arriving in Austria as a child—there were cars I knew of only from catalogs, colorful streets and full supermarket shelves, but also language difficulties and the feeling of not belonging. Holding a human heart that had been stopped for bypass surgery as a medical student and feeling it contract slightly. Studying forensic medicine and reading about the tragedies that had caused people to commit suicide. Succeeding in synthesizing that nanoparticle in the research laboratory after 50 failed attempts. Taking my MBA degree and meeting colleagues from a host of different cultures.

Last but not least, I have also been shaped by my experiences abroad: by doing research in Japan (respect for other people), by giving presentations at conferences in the USA (greatness and professionalism) and, above all, by traveling to Africa (being happy even if you do not achieve material success).

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

Originally, I wanted to become a medical doctor. While studying medicine, I realized that I also had a strong interest in the business side of things. In my current position as investment manager, I cover a broad spectrum of fields, ranging from life-sciences research to pharmaceuticals to biotech to medical technology.

My strength lies in the fact that I can carry out multidirectional analyses: thanks to graduating from a secondary technical college (HTL), I have a thorough understanding of technological issues; I see everything through the eyes of a physician and user, and am perfectly able to put myself in the position of the applicant researcher; my research experience helps me perform a critical analysis of scientific facts, and last but not least I have a strong background in business, enabling me to take into consideration economic aspects as well. In other words, I am able to accomplish by myself what would normally take a team of experts.

How and why did you come to work for AWS?

By pure coincidence—saw a job advertisement in a daily—applied for the position—made it through three interview rounds—got the job. I was intrigued by the combination of life sciences and business at the forefront of innovation—and that has not changed to this day

What has changed in your career as a result of your MBA degree? How did the program support you in reaching your career goals?

It was only towards the end of the Professional MBA that my interest in the field led me to embark on a business-oriented career. The program was the final step in my transition from laboratory research and clinical medicine to business and economics. I could not have made a better choice than to enroll in the Professional MBA. Career-wise, it has opened up many new opportunities and prospects for development. I do not yet know where this journey will take me, but it is very exciting—that is for sure.

What has been your biggest professional/personal success?

My biggest achievement is that I have managed the delicate balancing act of reconciling a successful career with a happy family life. Some of the decisions that you need to make along the way take an understanding family, others a supportive employer.

What are your goals for the coming year?

In recent years, I have been on a steep learning curve and have branched out into new knowledge areas. My general goal is to never stop learning, so it is only a matter of time before I enroll in yet another training program.

What do you consider a “great luxury”?

Being able to take some time out in Croatia together with my wife and my daughter. Walking along the seaside there, listening to the breakers on the shore, sitting in a harbor café watching the boats come in — and forgetting everything else.

What was the last book/movie you really enjoyed?

At present, I am reading mostly specialist literature. Though I find this perfectly enjoyable, I would like to mention three books I never get tired of: Ryszard Kapuściński: The Shadow of the Sun, Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita, A. J. Cronin: The Green Years. My favorite movies include: Devil's Advocate (quote: "Vanity, definitely my favorite sin.") and The Godfather (especially Part I).

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

Freedom to act, proactive behavior and responsibility. In my research career, I was fortunate to be given sufficient freedom to act on my own initiative, making it possible for me to allow my creativity free reign and implement my ideas. However, this privilege comes at a price. It means that you have to accept responsibility and are 100% responsible for your successes and failures. Not everyone can cope with this. Therefore, this formula needs to be adjusted on a case-by-case basis—just like "personalized medicine".

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

When it comes to relaxing, I need to spend time in nature. I am into all sorts of water sports—diving, sailing, kitesurfing, swimming. Other than that, I go cycling in Vienna's Lobau floodplain forest or via ferrata climbing in the nearby mountains.

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

A spacewalking astronaut—to see the Earth from a new perspective.

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

Because of its practical nature. The Professional MBA is no academic exercise in an ivory tower but a program that focuses on providing participants with tools and skills that they can use in their day-to-day work. I particularly enjoyed the general part of the training, during which the students of all specializations attended classes together. On these occasions, I made international contacts across a wide range of industries.


My motto in life:
Never give up—even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.
I can laugh about:
Funny situations in life, especially if they seem unreal.
Mistakes I am most likely willing to forgive:
Mistakes that people are genuinely sorry for.

I would spend my last money on:
Provided I have enough money left, I would go on an adventure trip around the world.
In 20 years I will be:
Hopefully as happy as I am today and still be fearless when faced with challenges.

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