Summer Grill, July 3rd 2015

As planned, on July 3rd ESMT hosted a BBQ in the garden to honor the Kofi Annan Fellows and to present this year’s RLFs (Responsible Leadership Fellows) who have just returned from their 6-months mission. Apart from the Kofis (Kofi Annan Fellows) and RLFs, Friends of ESMT, ESMT professors and the Ambassador of Nepal also attended. The event was initiated and hosted by Prof. Wulff Plinke and his colleagues in ESMT.

Overview of the Summer Grill

Overview of the Summer Grill

Meet and Greet

Meet and Greet

After some casual greetings, Prof. Plinke started by telling a brief history of KABSF and the birth of the RLF. In a nutshell, KABSF (Kofi Annan Business School Foundation) was established to give a chance to talented students from under-developed countries to pursue higher education in leading six business schools in Europe. The RFL (Responsible Leaders Fellowship) is a program initiated to give ESMT graduates the opportunity to give back to the society through skills-based volunteering. The selected fellows are to provide a 6 months service to a deserving organization depends on mutual agreement between both parties.

This year’s RLF graduates are Mariana Helguera, Sergey Ten and Sherzod Abdujabborov who volunteered their services at TSiBA Education in Cape Town. Another fellow, Rahul Jain, worked with Welthungerhilfe in Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Mozambique. The four fellows shared their experiences, challenges, highlights and the priceless life lessons they learned with the crowd.

Left to Right: Rahul, Sergey, Sherzod, Prof. Plinke, and Mariana

Left to Right: Rahul, Sergey, Sherzod, Prof. Plinke, and Mariana

Next on the agenda, Prof. Plinke introduced the current Kofis who were present on the day. Due to the short notice of the event and different locations of KABSF business schools, there were only fellows from ESMT represent, but we strongly hope that the next event will be able to host Kofis from the other five business schools. Prof. Plinke, who is a leading factor in the formation of the Kofi Annan Alumni Association (KAAA) and who had drafted the KABSF First Years Report, introduced the six current fellows who are from MBA and MIM class. Each of them shared their experiences of being a Kofi, and how they expect their education in Europe to impact their future endeavours.

Left to Right: Prof. Plinke and ESMT MBA Kofis: Siyabonga Gobingca and Adeola Olatunji

Left to Right: Prof. Plinke, Siyabonga Gobingca and Adeola Olatunji

Ana Desiwijaya, another ESMT MBA Kofi, introduced herself and shared her experiences as a Kofi

Ana Desiwijaya, another ESMT MBA Kofi, introduced herself and shared her experiences as a Kofi

Left to Right: Prof. Plink and ESMT MIM Kofis: Matida Ndlovu, Sopha Nem, and Nelly Ogonda

Left to Right: Prof. Plinke, Matida Ndlovu, Sopha Nem, and Nelly Ogonda of the MIM class

It was a beautiful summer afternoon with good wine, good food, and good spirits. It had been a few months since we had last met up (as MIM students are doing internships), and everyone was delighted to see one another again. Old friends were reunited, new friends made, and endless laughter echoed until late evening.

Once again, we sincerely would like to thank KABSF, Prof. Plinke, Friends of ESMT, and others who are not mentioned here for providing us the opportunity to receive such a distinguished education and learning experience.

We are proud to be Kofis and RLFs!



Moments With My Mentor

Scepticism. That was my gut reaction when Nick Barniville first sent the Allianz scholarship holders an e-mail with the offer of arranging a personal mentor who was an ESMT alumnus and Allianz employee. I’d been down this road before, and it had been riddled with potholes. As part of a DAX30 company’s corporate programme to support young women pursuing a MINT degree, I had been assigned a mentor. Although excited about the opportunity at first, it hadn’t quite worked out the way I had envisioned it, and so I had come to view arranged mentorships with the same scepticism as arranged marriages.

What is a mentor? In Greek mythology, Mentor was put in charge of Odysseus’s son, Telemachus, while Odysseus fought in the Trojan war. Because of Mentor’s relationship with Telemachus, the personal name Mentor has been adopted in English as a term meaning someone who imparts wisdom to and shares knowledge with a less experienced colleague. [1]

So a day before I started my internship at Allianz, I called PA [2] and boldly introduced myself as his mentee. The strangest feeling ever. How do you just call up a stranger and say, “Hi, this is Matida – your mentee!”?
A meeting was arranged, and a couple of hours later we chatted over dinner near the English Garden in Munich. The first 30 minutes were a fast-paced sort of interview: Where are you from? What did you study? Why the ESMT? If you had €20,000 what stocks would you buy at the moment on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange? What would be your expected returns after six months? If you had no budget constraints, what business would you start today?
Be early for work, be reliable, look smart and sharp, do more than what is expected of you – that was the take-away message of that first meeting. With a firm handshake, the deal was sealed to meet up once a month, to give regular internship progress feedback, and to feel free to ask for advice.

This past Friday, during our third meeting over dinner, PA said something that gave me a big AHA! moment. I turned 25 a couple of months ago, and have been musing on life in general and my life in particular. If I am lucky to be conscious when I take my last breath, what are the things that will make me be able to say I ran a good race and fought a good fight? What will be my ‘KPIs’, as defined by me, that will make me say, “Oh wow…..oh wow…”? Quarter-life crisis? Nah, just reflecting and projecting.
PA then said, “Success is not accomplishment. Success is preparedness.” My furrowed brow must have indicated that I wasn’t buying it – not just yet.
Then he broke it down: In life, when you set rigid goals, you limit yourself. Don’t let your goals cage you in. What you should be doing is preparing for when life’s occasions and opportunities arise; when they do, let them find you prepared. Let reading expand your horizons, be inquisitive about the world, surround yourself with people smarter than you. That way, you’re preparing and opening yourself up for something even bigger than your wildest dreams.
“And when the occasion doesn’t arise?” I asked.
He shrugged, “That’s life. But then you’ll know you did everything possible – you did your part.”
By that time, I’d grabbed a pen and had jotted those lines onto my serviette, as I so often do when inspired.
Looking back, I just remembered that my Girl Guides motto was also, “Be prepared!” Hmmm….now it makes bigger sense than just making sure you have your pocket knife on you when you go on 5th grade field trip.

Today, I have FOMO (the Fear of Missing Out) to thank for taking up Nick’s offer :) I’m grateful to all those who organized this mentorship opportunity. A big “Thank you!” also goes out to my mentor for taking time out of his busy schedule to impart his wisdom and to share his knowledge with me. May I be a worthy student.

Signing off,

Mentorship: “Indlela ibuzwa kwabaphambili” – A Ndebele proverb that can be loosely translated to mean that the twists and turns of life’s road ahead of you are best asked about from those who have already trodden it.



[2] I have only given my mentor’s initials, as I have not asked for permission to use his name in this blog post. I could just write to him and ask, but by the time I get a reply, I may not be as inspired to share this post.

A journey to the end of a River

Rivers are most majestic when they are about to meet the ocean. And that couldn’t be less true for the mighty Zambezi River, which touches nine African countries before it flows into the Indian Ocean on the east of Mozambique.

Zambezi River in some of its mightiness

Zambezi River in some of its mightiness

However this region is also a highly disaster prone and extremely vulnerable to natural calamities such as floods and cyclone.  Welthungerhilfe, the organization I am volunteering with under RLF, is running a project in some of the districts in Zambezia and Nampula provinces of Mozambique to increase the disaster resilience as part of Disaster preparedness program of European Commission (DIPECHO).

Few day back I got to visit one of the districts called Chinde (pronounced Shin-Day), which lies right at the mouth of the Zambezi river. First of all this district is so remote that it is only reachable by boat. A quick look at the google map might give an idea.

Chinde's location on map

Chinde’s location on map

One has to take a long and tiring three hours boat ride (on a fast motor boat) to this place. Bigger boats or a big vessel can take more than ten hours. BTW the winds were so strong the that I lost my cap twice (the boatman was kind enough to do a turn to pick it up)

District has a remarkable small town, also called Chinde, where the district administration has its office. The population of town is just over 16,000 although the total population of the district is around 150,000 people. The town has only about 5 cars (there was only 1 till few years back). Even electricity is also a fairly new addition to the district, introduced just 2 or 3 years back. There are some colonial buildings in the town housing government officials. Plus a couple of houses were used earlier by sugar trading company called Sena, now dysfunctional. Unsurprisingly, the largest building in the town was a Church.

Some of the administrative buildings in Chinde

Some of the administrative buildings in Chinde

Main avenue in Chinde

Main avenue in Chinde

The Church

The Church

I saw some peculiar looking (though aesthetically pleasing) houses. These houses had wooden frames filled with rubbles from old rundown buildings. On enquiring I got to know that the building material is scares and expensive so people reuse material from the old buildings destroyed at the time of civil war.

A frugal architecture?

A frugal architecture?

Town also had an FM Radio Station of its own. I couldn’t resist visiting it. I was very thrilled (for some strange reason) at the sheer pleasure of listening to the lone channel on my mobile right outside the station with earphone in one ear and other ear tuned into the voice of RJ / music from inside the station.

Chinde FM

100.6 Chinde FM

I also got to be part of one of the rituals in the town. Every morning there is a flag hosting and the guard whistles. I was on my way to beach at 6 in the morning when I happen to cross the place. I saw everyone stop. Out of confusion and respect for local tradition I did too. After the hosting was complete guard whistled again and everyone moved on. Now it feels like time did stop for those 10 seconds or so.

The project sites are spread across many islands that are only reachable by boat. Those were some of the most beautiful places I ever visited. At one of these places the scenery around the backwaters was nothing less than breathtaking.

Backwaters at one of the Islands

Backwaters at one of the Islands

On one of these islands I observed that all women on the island had these little marks spanning across their arms and chest. We asked some of the women and no one knew why they had them. Looked like it was a custom. They were etched when women reached puberty. It’s possibly a way to show that they are ready for marriage. I didn’t want to be judgemental about their practices.

In the name of tradition!

A woman with marks around her chest line

Oh yes and on another island the village leaders were slickly dressed. Although they didn’t belong to any military establishment, they wore uniforms.  This was tradition from the time of Portuguese and still prevalent though more than four decades have passed since independence. Quite interesting how power dynamics could change but traditions can stay.

In the name of tradition!

In the name of tradition!

There was also a fort like structure at one such place. Turned out it was a prison at the time of Portuguese. New administration couldn’t find a use for the place thus it has been abandoned now. Looked like they were lucky enough not to need a prison.

The abondoned prison

The abandoned prison

I can’t sign-off without talking about food. Whereas all my colleagues relished fishes, I fall in love with Matapa and peri-peri. Matapa is a local Mozambican speciality made from Cassava leaves and coconut (with few other things added sometimes). I was eating Matapa day and night. So much so that the people who ran the eatery remembered me as “The Matapa Guy”, when someone asked them to call me from the guesthouse once. Our Project director joked about naming a cassava plantation against me at a conservation agriculture farm.  Peri-peri is a hot sauce (pickled sometimes) that is a must have with food in Mozambique (and many other African countries). I generously ate it, sometimes just peri-peri and rice or ncima (local dish made from Maize). My love for peri-peri was so conspicuous that the owner of the hotel we ate at decided to gift me a jar filled with peri-peri.

Matapa on left and Cassava plant on right

Matapa and Cassava plant

The Peri Peri :)

The Peri Peri :)

The whole experience was nothing less than astonishing. I was soon back to utilitarian life of cities. But my three days at Zambezi river estuary were a crash course in culture, food, people and a life so different. A journey to the end of a river and a memory till the end of a life.

Venture capital crash course

This year European Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC) took place in February in Barcelona. ESMT team performed great and was 2nd among top tier business schools such as London Business School, Oxford, HEC and Bocconi.  It is the best result of ESMT in this competition and we, as a team, are proud of it.


The Team included Daria Markova, Julia Odegova, Didier Goepfert, Daniel Abel and Jose Fuquen. Our main goal was to understand the rationale behind Venture Capital investment decisions.

Since we didn’t know where to start, we started with reading. Blogs and articles gave us tons of information, but it was way too theoretical. The next step included interviews with VCs. Here we faced the first challenge: cold-calling VCs seemed to be a rather ungrateful job. To our surprise nobody told us “We, financial gods, don’t talk to mere mortals”. In the end, we had great talks with Mihai Streza from AQAL Capital, Rodrigo Martinez from Point Nine Capital, Thorben Rothe from Capnamic Ventures and Philipp Hartmann, former analyst at Index Ventures. From those we extracted detailed practical information about assessing entrepreneurs and business plans. Based on this we developed a draft term sheet and our own framework for business plan evaluation. However, we also understood: many VCs, many minds.


We still lacked practice in communication with real startups. So our preparation culminated with a mock day at ESMT. This was the most important stage of our training. First, we managed to invite real entrepreneurs who are looking for pitching to VCs. Among those were Coyno, Elopay, Grabafruit and Keydock.

Second, we had a great jury that showed us how to improve: Christoph Räthke (GTEC), Olga Steidl (Inbot), Junayd Mahmood and Andreas Dittes (Talentwunder). Each of the jury members had his/her own unique style, which contributed not only to our learning experience, but also to the startups.  They had a possibility to rehearse a meeting with a VC and check their own performance in an extraordinary situation. We hope that expert recommendations they received will help them on their way to success.

VCIC-mock-1 copy

We were glad to put in practice all the theoretical knowledge and get expert feedback on our performance. Junayd Mahmood and Andreas Dittes were concise and looking deep into the startup challenges. Olga Steidl showed us the chair-on-fire tactics, shooting the entrepreneurs with simple but burning questions that drilled into the very core of the value added (or not added). Christoph Räthke representing GTEC was rather tough and critical regarding our startup evaluation. He noticed that our questions had a prepared structure and advised us to be more oriented on the concrete startup we were talking to. His “commonsense” approach included personalized questions to yourself: “Do I (not an average citizen, not Mr. Black, not some imaginary friend of mine) like this idea?” “Can I feel the pain of the target customer?” “What kind of person is the target customer?” We also appreciated how much energy and time Christoph and Andreas spent with us: they stayed until late discussing all the possible evaluation strategies.

Last but not least, the mock day was also an enriching learning experience for the audience, mostly students of the full time MBA and MIM programs at ESMT.

The mock event played a crucial role in our preparation. ESMT team took the second place in VCIC and was very close to winning. Probably the best part of the competition day was the feedback session with the judges, experienced VCs from all around the world. They praised our knowledge and realistic approach. The main reason we didn’t take the first place was that we didn’t sell ourselves well enough. Great, there is still some space to improve!


We want to say a big THANK YOU to ESMT, GTEC and all the participants, it was a great experience overall.

P.S. Interesting fact: Barceloneta bars are great in any time of the year!


Women. Phenominally.

A salute! To all women breaking barriers, breaking their backs to fend for their young; to all the mothers bearing and raising babies (oftentimes by themselves) and bawss-ladies leading from the boardrooms, research labs, TV screens and lecture halls – I salute you! Today, the 8th of March marks the international, annual celebration of womenfolk.

I watched a movie today that made me reflect on a conversation that I had just over a year ago….

A couple of classmates and me were complaining, as students usually do, about how tough and strict one professor was on us. We all agreed that this particular professor was very smart and very competent, but very tough as well. Did I mention that the lecturer in question is female? One classmate, let’s call him John, one I considered particularly smart and poised for ‘success’ (whatever that means) then belted out, “She’s such a slave-driving **t**, man!” (Do excuse my language. No, actually, excuse John. I’m just quoting. :-) )


Oh. No. You. Did’nt! As Germans would say, “Da hört der Spass auf, Junger.”

When I asked John if he’d just heard himself, he turned beet-red, and tried to explain by saying that he “hadn’t really meant it that way”. When out of interest I prodded further and asked if he would have insulted a male professor in a similar manner, he muttered, “Probably not.” I’m not quite sure whether John appreciated the full implications of his statement. I fear that that was not the last time I will hear such a comment about women who are considered ‘bossy’ or ‘pushy’ in comparison to their male counterparts who would be lauded for their ‘assertiveness’ or ‘strong-willed characters’ when exhibiting the same or similar characteristics.

While incredible milestones have been reached in advancing the rights of women across the world, rights that I gratefully enjoy, research shows that (subconscious) prejudices against assertive, confident women still remain in the corridors of corporate power. And no, it is not only men, but also sometimes even other women who suffer from the PHD syndrome (PHD: Pull Her Down). While I haven’t personally experienced that yet because I haven’t been in these corridors too long, research shows that it’s real. That’s scary, and sad.

The movie I watched today was Selma. Exactly 50 years ago, on March the 8th 1965, thousands of people of all ages, creeds and races crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. They marched with their arms linked in unity, solidarity and bravery for the voting rights of African-Americans. It was not the lonely effort of a single group of people, but the collective effort of many groups coming together. It is not enough to raise girls to believe that the world is their oyster. Boys too, boys especially, should be raised to understand the social and even economic value of supporting the women around them. Then we’ll have less people with John-like mentalities. “We Should All Be Feminists” is the title of my favourite author, Chimamanda Adichie’s, viral TED talk – I suggest you watch it.

Assignments beckon, so I have to dash. But not before I propose a toast, to all the women and men that have gone before us and have stubbornly made it possible for girls today (in many parts of the world) to have dreams and be able to strive towards them. Women that were, that are, and to those that are to come in business, education, science, the arts, television and many other fields – a salute; not just today, but everyday!

To all the women, phenomenal women, the bawss-ladies of this world: Keep doing your thing!