In August 2011, when I walked in London Business School for the first time, I had no idea what to expect.
Until then, my career path had been very simple: five years as a civil engineer in the same UK engineering consultancy. Unlike many of my classmates, I was not sure I would like a career switch. When I was surrounded by bankers, strategy consultants, marketers and entrepreneurs, my mind went completely blank. I had no idea what M&A, customer acquisition or global business leaders mean; not to mention what kind of job I could do after the MBA. What should I do?
Shock and fear drove me to take immediate actions. I decided to use the two years at LBS to explore. An MBA provided the best platform for me to step out of the engineering design world, to try out different industries and roles, to experience different cultures and to exchange ideas with similar minded people. I did not want to waste a single minute of it.
I worked seven days a week and used every possible opportunity to learn, to research and to network. Besides classes and exams, I completed one project and two internships in three industries in three countries. I spent one exchange term in the US and travelled to many more countries. I participated in every major school event and many business competitions. Some say an MBA is a journey to find yourself. It was exactly through these experiences I started to realise my strengths and weaknesses, my interests and my career options.
My first project came through the discussion board on the LBS intranet, three months into my MBA. It was to help a LBS alumnus, a managing director of the UK arm of a large international construction group, to analyse M&A pipeline targets in the UK construction industry. I secured the job by partnering with a classmate with an M&A background. The successful completion of this project boosted my confidence that I was able pursue a non-engineering career.
When the summer recruiting season began, I was determined to try something totally outside my comfort zone. After numerous mock and real interviews, I won my first internship with the Boston Consulting Group in its Melbourne office. This internship exposed me to the fascinating world of strategy consulting as well as to the magical land and waters of Australia. The challenges to transform from a frontline civil engineer in the UK to the advisor of the top management of a major Australian retailer were beyond my imagination. However, I was equipped with the excellent BCG database and toolkit and supported by extremely intelligent and warm colleagues.
During and after the internship, I also travelled along the south and east coasts of Australia. Interacting with local people furthered my understanding of the country and culture. Snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef, riding the waves around Tasmania, night climbing of the Sydney Harbor Bridge and watching whales, koalas and kangaroos along the Great Ocean Road have become unforgettable memories of my life.
Shortly after my return from Australia, I headed to the Netherlands for my second internship at Shell headquarters in the Hague. Life in the country of windmills, bicycles and tulips was not always rosy. I had to deal with the language barrier while taking up a challenging project at work.My project was to develop a market strategy for the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) business.
My background as a civil engineer helped me to understand many aspects of LNG projects and the value chain. Shell was a very international company with a strong networking culture. People in my team were mostly Masters and PhDs in mathematics or economics with international field sales and strategy experience. I benefited enormously by learning from them and became friends with many. In addition, I spent a considerable amount of time meeting people in different divisions who offered me valuable insights on Shell and their career experience. Working at Shell headquarters was a great opportunity for me to see the workings of the largest company in the world and to learn how incredibly bright and successful corporate leaders think and operate.
The classroom knowledge at LBS laid a very good foundation for me to pursue a management career. My projects and internships taught me the real world, real people and real challenges. Together they transformed me, from a technical design engineer into a commercial and people- minded manager. They also helped me to confirm my passion for the engineering industry and to realise my interest in strategy and operations management.
Soon a perfect opportunity came up. In autumn 2012, the CEO* Program (Chief Executive Opportunity Program) at Siemens came to recruit at LBS. The Siemens CEO* Program is a recently founded and unique leadership program for MBA graduates. Each year, the program recruits six associates globally. The associates have both engineering and business backgrounds and aspire to become general managers in a global company. Top global leaders at Siemens are heavily involved in selecting and mentoring the CEO* Associates. Over the two year program, each CEO* Associate is usually tasked with three international assignments, completely personalised to suit his/her development needs.
To get the job, I went through four rounds of interviews, with the CEO* Program team, with the head of Strategic Projects at Siemens, with a division CEO and finally, with then global CEO of Siemens Peter Löscher. My learning from these interviews is very simple: be yourself, know what you want and be clear about what you can bring to the company. To me, interview skills help you to tell your stories more effectively, but who you are and what skills you have acquired through the years determine how far you can go in the recruiting process.
Siemens is a great company that cares about the development and welfare of its employees. My on-boarding included management training, intercultural training and German language training. The CEO* Program team took great care of all my relocation issues and assignment search. In October 2013, I started my first assignment in the Strategy and Business Development team of Siemens’ train business in Berlin, mentored by the division CEO of this multi-billion euro business. Currently I am leading a project that aims to optimise the sales organisation and approaches in some 20 countries. It is a great opportunity for me to gain an overview of the train business, to gain an appreciation of the business planning, development and sales at Siemens and to understand the highest level strategic topics of a global business.
I am very grateful for every opportunity I was given. Without financial support from the Sainsbury Management Fellowship and the LBS Annual Fund Award, pursuing an MBA would only have been a dream. I sincerely appreciate the job opportunities from the great people and companies mentioned above. My post-MBA journey has just started. I am excited about the new challenges ahead.