How the foundation of a company shapes someone
Tell us about your career path up to now. Which stages have had the greatest impact on you?
I consider myself lucky as my interests always dovetailed with economic opportunities. Even when I was a child, my father always encouraged me to do what I enjoy. This way, I was able to follow my passion already during my studies: How do people and organizations work? How can they be optimized, improved, made to flourish? How can you foster and multiply potential and success? To get to the bottom of these questions, I studied a combination of social and economic sciences, communication, and psychology. To this day, these topics have not ceased to fascinate me, and they have determined my path. I am grateful that, in my job, I get to witness how people become the person they want to be, as André Heller has described it.
After graduating from university, I worked at a PR company for ten years – first as an account manager, then as an account director. Although this field of work was very interesting, I always felt that there had to be more. I completed further trainings and became a systemic consultant, coach, and civil law mediator. In 2004, I founded ACCELOR in order to solely focus on supporting people and organizations going through change processes. In addition to my principal field of activity of developing executives and organizations, I am fascinated by high-impact business models and the foundation of companies. For about ten years, I have been investing in start-ups in the HR sector that seek to have a social impact. It is a truly rewarding job to advise young entrepreneurs and help them make their dreams come true. On top of that, I have co-written the Jungbrunnen (fountain of youth) best sellers and lectures, which promote a healthy, active, and happy lifestyle, for the past two years. There are so many opportunities – I often wish my day had 48 hours instead of 24!
Did you ever have different plans regarding your professional life? If so, why did they not work out?
It might have been a rather vague idea, but I have always wanted to do what I am doing today. I wanted to share knowledge, create opportunities, develop potential, and work with people. Thirty years ago, my job description did not exist. The field of organizational and HR development in its present form was not yet established. Nobody was concerned with developing potential. Today, my daily work shows me that people have different potentials, talents, and strengths, and finding ways that enable them to fully exploit their potential is what makes my work so exciting.
What is your greatest professional/personal achievement?
That’s a tough question when you are looking back on a 30-year career. Of course, I am extremely happy about the success of our books on the fountain-of-youth effect. We published the first two volumes in 2019, and they climbed to the top of the best seller rankings in no time. It became the most frequently sold book in Austria across all product groups, and we were awarded numerous prizes, among them the Gesund & Fit (healthy & fit) award, the Golden Book, and the Platinum Book. Founding ACCELOR Consulting together with my two partners in 2004, securing high-profile international customers, and having managed the company this successfully so far are also things I consider personal achievements.
But I am even more touched by the successes of the people I have had the privilege to support as a transformation coach. By now, I get feedback about the impact of my work with clients almost every day: people tell me that it has resulted in numerous opportunities for them. Often, it is a single statement that helps somebody make an important decision for his or her life or take a huge leap – sometimes with consequences for many other people involved. I was especially touched by the feedback of a long-standing customer who had asked me for support eight years ago. At that time, he was overwhelmed by his work as a manager and was starting to experience burnout symptoms. He had to learn to trust and let go – handing over responsibility to others and fostering and developing their strengths. He told me: “By trusting me and believing I would be able to do it, you made it possible for me to learn what leading is really about: identifying your staff’s potential and furthering it. Through working with you on these topics many years ago, I have built a foundation that is the reason that today, the many people in my division can cooperate in a joyful and free-spirited way.” This person heads a 60-people team of essential workers. It’s moments like these that reward me and that give me strength for a long time.
What has been your greatest challenge so far? What was your biggest professional error (that you learned from)?
One of the greatest challenges was to admit to myself that more is not always better. Knowing my limits helps me make decisions in line with my limited time and energy. Today, I only engage in projects I am truly excited about. I have learned that only a healthy body and mind can perform, especially in the long run.
What were the three most important experiences in your life that have brought you to where you are today?
With regard to business, founding my own company was a formative experience. Trusting myself and following my path, doing things my own way. Taking action instead of hesitating. This is true for founding your own company as much as for joint ventures or other exciting projects. Of course, it is necessary to check whether business models are reliable and have growth potential. But if this is the case, you have to be quick about making decisions and implementing them. It is also important to stay on top of the game, learn from mistakes, get back up again after setbacks, and celebrate the little victories along the way. Entrepreneurship challenges and shapes a person. You have to keep putting in the work to stay a powerful stakeholder, perform well, and be competitive. This concerns content – recognizing trends, planning ahead, and remaining a learner also in your own field – as much as your physical and mental fitness. So it’s about exercising regularly, keeping fit and healthy, and eating right in addition to developing your mental capacities and investing time in proper self-management. Taking responsibility for the decisions you make for yourself in all spheres of your life is a central component of true independence, which is the basis of any kind of entrepreneurship.
Personally, being confronted with my own mortality 25 years ago has shaped who I am today. Out of the blue, I received a medical diagnosis that went on to change many things in my life. Eventually, it led to a more health-conscious and goal-oriented lifestyle. Striking a balance between living as if today was your last day and striving as if you were to live forever, as some people describe it, acquired a whole new meaning for me. To this day, I make a conscious effort every day to strike this healthy balance.
In my private life, the long-distance relationship my husband and I have led for several years and the associated time difference (Florida – Vienna) have taught me that even the most solidly established patterns can be changed and re-defined. You only have to believe in your own power to do so. We talk on the phone several times a day and make the most of our time together. Living a marriage on two different continents has shown us that old rituals can give way to new ones and that there is agility in every relationship.
If you think about the greatest talent in your company, what are three pieces of advice you would give that person to lead a successful and fulfilling life?
Make sure to always be well because only a healthy body and mind that remain fit in the long run are reliable companions. Take care of both to lead a productive and fulfilling life.
Work on developing your skills, and ideally do so every day. Cooperate with others, develop your understanding of systems, and extend your network.
Follow your passion. If you cannot imagine not doing something, do it, and get a feel for how your talents can serve the world.
As a manager, which five words would you choose to describe your team?
Competent – inspiring – encouraging – solution-oriented – visionary
What has changed for you professionally after completing the Executive MBA program? How has this education helped you reach your career goals? Which specific development opportunities did the program give rise to?
My expertise is developing executives and organizations. Through the MBA, I acquired new perspectives, which enrich my projects. The program’s strong economic focus has clearly paid off in practice. I have an easier time relating and connecting to C-level executives.
To me, staying in touch with MBA colleagues from a wide variety of companies and industries is a special perk that came with the MBA program. I am friends with a lot of them, and I also successfully work with some of them. The shared journey – learning, overcoming challenges, and spending so much time together –created a natural bond. The intellectual mindset that arises from such close collaboration resulted in a shared language and trust in each other’s expertise, which is fertile ground for successful cooperation.
How did you manage to reconcile completing an MBA with a demanding job and your family life?
It’s true that it is hard to reconcile these three different worlds. As my job already requires me to travel and work outside my workplace a lot, investing another 60 days felt like a particular challenge. That is quite a bit of time and does not even include the time needed to study and write the master’s thesis. So it is really important to discuss such a project with your partner. My husband knew that I had been dreaming of doing an MBA and acquiring this knowledge for a long time. When I told him, he was immediately on board.
Looking back, starting the program at a later time would have been wise, as my husband moved to Florida four years ago for professional reasons, and organizing the required attendance in MBA classes would be easier now. But that is something we could not foresee when I started the MBA. I am still very happy that I completed the MBA when I did. The timing will never be perfect. But if something is important to you, you just have to do it.
How would you define “true luxury?”
For me, it’s the happy moments when we completely forget about time. When you lose the feeling for space and time and are fully present in the moment. That’s the feeling I get when I do the things that are important to me in life: spending time with my family, godchildren, and friends, experiencing nature, exercising, and engaging in something that stimulates me intellectually.
What is the last book or movie that really inspired you?
Book: André Heller: Uhren gibt es nicht mehr – Gespräche mit meiner Mutter in ihrem 102. Lebensjahr (There are no more clocks – Conversations with my mother in her 102nd year)
Movies: “Up” and “Bolt” – two evergreens that capture the essence of life and never fail to make my husband and me laugh and cry at the same time.
At the moment, I’m also thrilled about the third volume of our fountain-of-youth series, which we are about to finalize. It is about strategies that slow down or even stop the process of aging.
In whose shoes would you like to step for one day?
Angelina Jolie – I am so impressed by her humanitarian activities. Or Arnold Schwarzenegger. I wonder what it feels like to be the world’s number one in so many disciplines.
There was an announcement during a 12-hour long-distance flight that really cracked me up. It went: "Bad news for our passengers in the economy class: our catering services forgot to pack cutlery. You will soon be served your choice of paprika-seasoned chicken or pasta with cheese sauce." My most exciting travel experience was being invited to a three-day funeral ritual of the Torajans in Sulawesi. The Torajans don't bury their dead until years after they have died and then make a real celebration of the funeral. Read more interesting career stories of our students and graduates here.
There was an announcement during a 12-hour long-distance flight that really cracked me up. It went: "Bad news for our passengers in the economy class: our catering services forgot to pack cutlery. You will soon be served your choice of paprika-seasoned chicken or pasta with cheese sauce."
My most exciting travel experience was being invited to a three-day funeral ritual of the Torajans in Sulawesi. The Torajans don't bury their dead until years after they have died and then make a real celebration of the funeral.
Read more interesting career stories of our students and graduates here.