Three graduates share their experience
A decade ago, combining Marketing and Sales was still an unusual idea. With the launch of the Professional MBA Marketing & Sales, the WU Executive Academy anticipated and shaped the development of connecting these two fields.
To celebrate the tenth anniversary, the program’s Academic Director and Dean of the WU Executive Academy, Prof. Barbara Stöttinger, hosted a round table with three alumni. On this occasion Ferdinand Klauser, Karin Polzhofer and Angela Putylina talked about their initial motivation to join the program and shared their most remarkable moments during the MBA experience.
Prof. Stöttinger: It’s always a pleasure for me to get in touch with alumni and see what they have been up to, so thank you for taking time off your busy schedules! First of all, I would like to invite you to share with us what you are doing in your professional life at the moment and how it has developed since you graduated from the Professional MBA Marketing & Sales program?
Ferdinand Klauser: I was an entrepreneur when I started the Professional MBA. After the graduation, we sold our start-up in the communications sector to a larger network and I joined Kiska, a remarkable Austrian company with 200 creative specialists in over 30 nations. That was back in early 2014. Last year, I relocated to China as general manager for the office there, and just recently I was very honoured to be appointed as equity partner at Kiska.
Karin Polzhofer: When I started the program, I was just leaving my former job as product manager at ORF to take over our family business KAPO & Neue Wiener Werkstätte together with my brothers. I am responsible for marketing as well as sales activities and therefore the program was very helpful indeed. At the moment I am on maternity leave, but I am still on the advisory board of our family business, as well as of the creative industries Styria.
Angela Putylina: For me, the changes in my professional life were quite unexpected! When I joined the Professional MBA Marketing & Sales program, I had a job in marketing and business development at Johnson & Johnson. However, due to the economic crisis the company went through quite a few restructuring programs, so I started to actively search the job market. Actually, I was really calm and confident for what will come next. After all, I had my diploma, so I thought this was a good time to test my skills and to discover the Russian job market.
Prof. Stöttinger: So, Angela, basically it was not the timing you had been looking for, but as I heard everything worked out for you. Did your MBA degree help you during your job hunt?
Angela Putylina: It helped a lot. Headhunters reached out to me and I even got some interesting offers from companies in other industries. I thought of making a move to a different business, but then decided to capitalize on my intimate knowhow in pharmaceuticals and my longstanding experience in the field. Now I have a great marketing job at Celgene, which I call the company of my dream. Celgene is a leading bio-pharmaceutical company that produces innovative therapies for various types of cancer and immune-inflammatory diseases. We are launching a new great product that truly improves the lives of patients.
Prof. Stöttinger: So before the Professional MBA started, each of you already had a great career. Can you tell me what motivated you to apply for the program?
Karin Polzhofer: I was already working in marketing but I wanted to deepen my business knowledge, particularly in the areas of finance, marketing and sales to apply it to the family business. I had studied art history and communication science, so I wanted to add a practical part to the scientific approach. With all the case studies and practical tools, this was a very good decision.
Angela Putylina: For me it was similar – I only had pharmaceutical degrees and I really understood that in order to be more competitive, I needed a combination between the theoretical and practical business knowledge.
Ferdinand Klauser: In my initial education in the creative industry I learned my craft, which is to create emotional brand experiences. However, I needed to connect the dots and to see the bigger picture in order to create a more sustainable and positive impact on brands and businesses. I chose the WU Executive Academy because I had already done the certificate program Marketing & Sales there and for me as a young entrepreneur with a family, it was just the best package.
Prof. Stöttinger: Has this choice paid off for you? What were your key takeaways?
Ferdinand Klauser: Definitely, it was quite a transformational experience and an accelerator. The first thing that comes to my mind is the power of collaboration. Thanks to the case studies and assignments, we were faced with challenges that no individual, no matter how smart or hard working, could have solved alone. So it’s important to understand which individual assets each group member has and to think about what you can contribute. As a creative I was a little bit of an outlier. However, I learned that when you are open to the different approaches of a team, the results will be great. This was a very powerful experience for me.
Prof. Stöttinger: This is nice to hear, because we strongly believe that the various cultural and professional backgrounds of our students are a fundamental benefit in our MBA programs. So did you approach projects differently after you graduated?
Ferdinand Klauser: Absolutely. At my job I work together with a very diverse and international team, so making the best out of collaborations is a task that has been very beneficial.
Prof. Stöttinger: What about the others – were there some takeaways that you needed later in your professional life?
Angela Putylina: Yes, the theoretical frameworks and the practical tips we got during the case studies is something that has really helped me, because in my new professional role I build everything from scratch. Sometimes I review the lectures and material I collected during the courses to double-check our marketing strategy to develop the brand the right way. Also, due to the assignments that were dedicated to entrepreneurship, I look at risk from a different perspective. I now have the ability to think about positive and negative scenarios and to understand which investments are necessary.
The MBA also helped me on a more personal level. Due to my new knowledge and the ability to take risks, I am braver than before. Earlier, I didn’t look around myself very much. I was like a small mechanism in a big company, but now I am a more remarkable member of a new promising start-up.
Karin Polzhofer: For me, there are mainly 3 qualities I took away from my experience. Firstly, the theoretical knowledge and all the practical tools were very helpful to apply in my daily business. The second part is that my more deepened insight into marketing & sales has given me more confidence to work in this area as a manager. The third takeaway is definitely the many contacts and connections I made.
Prof. Stöttinger: So you are still in contact with some of your colleagues from the MBA program?
Karin Polzhofer: This was actually something I didn’t consider too much when I started the program, but I realized very soon how interesting and important it is to exchange views with people from other countries and industries. Being able to contact all these people afterwards and relying on a broad network is great!
Ferdinand Klauser: I agree. What I found with the MBA is a network of people who have a similar drive and vision for themselves. It’s a sounding board for career moves and also a lot about personal development, so I can always find good feedback when I face challenges in my business life. On a more personal level, I am still in contact with the colleagues I worked with during the group assignments and the thesis project. Spending so many days collaborating really formed bonds that I hope will last for a lifetime.
Angela Putylina: During the MBA, I kind of formed a small team with friends from Russia and other countries. Sometimes we talk just to stay in touch with each other and sometimes it’s more business-related. For example, there are 3 people in my network who I can rely on whenever I need a fast and professional answer to a pharmaceutical question.
Prof. Stöttinger: When you look at the MBA experience, what comes to your mind first? Is there a situation that you remember very clearly because it was a remarkable moment for you?
Ferdinand Klauser: What really comes to mind is the fact that very early in the program, a colleague and me got the opportunity to contribute to an international research project with our thesis. We spent countless weekends and hours working together with a remote virtual team in different time zones – I think this was setting the direction for where I am now.
Angela Putylina: I remember so many things! For example in the first module, I was collaborating with Austrians for the first time. We had to prepare slides to present later and I remember how impressed I was with their motivation and willingness to share their experience. Before that, I had always thought that Russians are workaholics but my Austrian colleagues showed me otherwise (laughs).
Karin Polzhofer: It was a time where all of us had to work really hard, but these challenges and shared experiences brought us really close together. So for me it’s not possible to choose one thing because there are so many nice things to remember.
Prof. Stöttinger: If you had a time machine, what would you tell your past self before starting the MBA? Would you do anything differently?
Angela Putylina: I think before I started, I didn’t realize all the advantages of the program and of being a student. So I would tell myself to be really involved in the whole process, to visit the library and read more literature and to meet even more people from other courses. Also, one and a half years are a very short time compared to your whole career and they go by quickly – so don’t forget to enjoy Vienna and the social life!
Karin Polzhofer: I don’t think I would tell myself anything, instead of ‘You can do it!’ Studying and having a job simultaneously is very intense but everything worked out and it was one of the best decisions I made.
Ferdinand Klauser: I would tell myself ‘Start learning Chinese now!’ Jokes aside – as a creative, I depend on my intuition and rely on that. During the MBA experience, I was shocked at how wrong intuition sometimes is and learned how important it is to employ critical frameworks in order to engineer the right decision. Now I am in the great position to understand both approaches – a more intuitive as well as a more analytical. I know I’m very privileged to have had this experience and wouldn’t want to change any of it.
Prof. Stöttinger: Thank you very much, it has been a great pleasure to catch up with you. Good luck with your current and future projects and I hope to see you again soon at one of our alumni meetings!