How an MBA accelerated my promotion?

August 09, 2023

Stefan Reich is Managing Director at next one GmbH and MBA Digital Transformation & Data Science alumnus.

Can you, please, share with us your career development until now? What stages in your life have had the greatest impact on you and why?

Through the experience of countless projects, I have come to recognize that my passion lies in putting digital systems in place that balance human needs with technological requirements.

This has proven true for my first internship as simulation engineer, where I was tasked to accelerate an R&D project by simulating heat transfers virtually, to my current role as Managing Director of a digital consultancy, where we setup data pipelines for clients and draw insights and recommendations from the data.

From an outside view, my career development can be summarized as a progression of professional service positions, with a few industry changes in between. In each stage, I learned the lessons and collected the materials that were necessary to propel me to the next stage.

Currently I am in the process of establishing myself in the areas of Customer Analytics, tracking & presentation of unit economics and public speaking.

The MBA has undoubtedly been an accelerant from my promotion of Head of Customer Services to Managing Director.
 

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

My original career inspiration came from the traditional Austrian recipe for success: find a global niche, develop a superior high-tech solution, export globally. The story of every Hidden Champion.

However, I soon learned that my inclinations were not meant for hardware production, but that I was much better suited to the digital world. That is where I have spent the majority of my career to this point, in roles from Digital Marketing Agency to Data Consultants.

Whereas the Anglosphere, predominantly the USA, has chosen to subject data and privacy to their big tech companies and national agencies, we in Europe have chosen a different path. GDPR and the likes form the legal framework around our differing beliefs about who has authority and how we ought to deal in the digital world.

And as the digital world is still in its teenage years, it will require better governance as it evolves and matures. Maybe our differing world view can contribute to shaping the next generation of digital champions.
 

What was your biggest professional/personal success?

Its in the making and coming closer every day.
 

Which 3 most important experiences in your life have led you to where you are right now?

Quote Converter: When I started my job as Head of Sales, I had to write 3 offers a day. The process was patchy, the documents error prone and the outcome ultimately mediocre. So, I built a new process, that outsourced much of the work and improved the quality. I saved myself a lot of work, freeing up my time to do the more valuable work of consulting colleagues and clients and deliver more valuable results for others. That gave me great satisfaction and showed me how better design of systems and processes can create win-wins for everyone involved.

Refreshments in Tiexi: I was working as an intern in a car plant in China when I discovered a gap in this ecosystem that no one had thought of and found a way to enrich life there. This made me proud and showed that my ideas and initiatives create value (they matter!)

Students-Go-Industry excursion: This showed me that I, a struggling TU student, can lead the best TU students and they will follow me, if I can offer something that enriches their lives. Value is subjective and relative.
 

When you think of the most talented high potential in your company, what 3 pieces of advice would you give him to live a successful and fulfilling life?

  1. Focus
  2. Be the one who sets the standard / lead by example: if you can manage a little, you will be given more
  3. Pull the future closer by getting things done now

Using just 5 words, how would your team describe you as a leader?

Flexible, young, dynamic, high standards, fun.
 

What has changed in your career because of your MBA degree? How did the program (state-of-the-art knowledge, skills, networking) support you in reaching your career goals? What concrete career opportunities (promotions, new responsibilities, etc.) have opened up for you?
The WU Executive Academy does a great job at curating a great peer group. Every single person in the course is accomplished, open and wanting to make things happen.

This powerful group of peers sets a frame of collaborative competition during classes, forcing you to double down on your strengths and coordinate effectively in your group to perform in this environment. It will sharpen your individual edge.

It also led to many exchanges and connections. After two years of programs, I know people and stories from a broad range of industries and positions. This many not have a direct impact on your current job or operations, but it does add a component of professionalism to your person and appearance, which will definitely serve you in the medium to long term.

During the MBA, investors and I took over a small company and repositioned it on the market around customer & data analytics. The MBA provided many tools and frameworks to accelerate this transformation.

Most importantly, in one of the courses I met someone who shared a similar mindset as me and we have grown to become great friends and have been working together ever since. This one connection alone already reimbursed the entire MBA program.
 

As far as the workload is concerned, how did you manage an MBA next to a demanding job and your family life?

The answer for me was a clear focus.

From the start, the MBA was to serve my work. This allowed me to line up projects in a way that both served the job and the MBA. For example, the data project we did with the group during the Digital Transformation & Data Science formed the foundation for a project I did for a client a few months later.

Some MBA students went into the data science module without being able to access or use their own company’s data. That’s a shame. See to it that the resources you need for the program are available to you.
 

What do you consider a “great luxury”?

I don’t think in terms of luxury. Either I want something, or I don’t. Either it is valuable or useful or its not. So, if I may rephrase the question: What do I consider a great thing?

For me, its great health. Health is like the well from which to draw water from.
 

What was the last book/movie you really enjoyed?

Eat People: And Other Unapologetic Rules for Game-Changing Entrepreneurs by Andy Kessler
 

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

With no one, I like my own life.

Wordrap

I can laugh about...
Myself
Shortcomings I am most likely willing to overlook...
My own
My funniest/most exciting travel experience was...
Living in China for 6 months and walking along the Great Wall
I could not live without this app on my cell phone...
Google Calendar
You can always find this in my fridge...
Buttermilch
I would spend my last money on...
A tank full of gas for my motorcycle

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

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