Alphas vs Betas

Imagine for a second you are a trader and the only thing you enjoy in life is precisely that: exchanging items to meet your own agenda. But then, you are sent into a foreign culture, where hugs and questions about your family seem to be the only things other people care about. How would you feel in such a situation? Wouldn’t you just like to ask these people: what’s the purpose of your life? How come you are “wasting your time” caring about other people, when you could become millionaire?

Today we had a very interesting excercise in class, where alphas and betas, two completely different cultures, met each other and tried to decode what the other culture was about. The excercise was not only exciting, but it also taught us something we tend to underestimate about the global world we live in: there are unspoken rules in any culture, and unless we as foreigners manage to decode them, it will be difficult for us to be properly understood as well. 

Group work: Joined at the hip?

Among the distinguishing features of any MBA program are the interactive group activities, formal and informal, taking place throughout the course. The MBA program provides opportunity for introspection and for evaluation of group dynamics in order to maximise the individual input to the collective experience. The fundamental lesson lies in the appreciation of each member as a source of skill, and experience to be tapped for the group’s benefit. Group work is essentially about trust and respect.

All of us are far more capable than we imagine ourselves to be, hence the MBA program harnesses and aligns those abstract abilities. To be an effective member of a group, it is crucial to identify an area where one adds value through skill, knowledge or insight. Relevant past experience can be leveraged for the benefit of the group. The MBA program encourages participants to view the business environment from a broader perspective because the graduate is expected to be an all-rounder.

In medical school one of my professors remarked that to become a doctor one had to be taught to think in a particular way, hence the endless repetition until it became second nature, an observation which certainly applies to other professions as well. The MBA program stimulates a dynamism characteristic of the modern business landscape wherein the goal is not merely surviving until the next challenge but thriving under all circumstances.

As we begin our third module, it is clear we have become more effective and efficient, and remain cognisant of there being no room free-loaders. Each one of us has contributed to the tasks at hand even if only by making the necessary noises to remind others you are still in the room, much akin to the workplace. I have had the opportunity to get to know and understand classmates and also to reflect on my own thoughts and behaviours. The experience has enabled me to be more open and expressive, rather than remaining a bastion of self-control under any circumstance, a common trait in my field of work. The group rotations for each module have been particularly suited for the small class at ESMT.

I often reminisce about my first group which had character, passion, and fire with the sole trade-off being efficiency! I cannot recall the number of hours that flew by whilst we tussled, debated, and deliberated but still managed to complete tasks five minutes before they were due. The exhilaration and adrenaline has certainly been hard to reproduce. We have now come a long way since, are wiser, more understanding, and accommodating. Hurrah!

HSoG-ESMT Soccer Tournament

It finally happened. The long awaited soccer tournament organized by Hertie School of Governance took place last Friday in ESMT’s playing ground. Eight teams joined the venue, including two teams from staff and administration, four Hertie student teams, and two ESMT student teams.

I was playing for ESMT Latinamerica, and having a Brazilian in my team sounded like the right edge to have. However, we were not able to give Porthos all the game he needed to score, and therefore, we couldn’t make it to the semifinals. But the ESMT Europe team showed great spirit on the field, and literally beated every team until the finals, where they played against a mixed Hertie team. The last match was tough and ended up being inconclusive (1-1). For the sake of friendship (and some health concerns arising from playing too long under the sun!), the game was ended after a while and both teams were awarded the first place.

If you ask me, the event was a great success, as both schools (Hertie and ESMT) had the opportunity to meet each other in a very informal atmosphere. The catering was also excellent (thumbs up for Mark and Andreas!)  and therefore we can only hope to see more of this stuff happening in our school..!

The winning teams

Girls Night Out

On April 16  the women of MBA 2007 class met with Mik Van den Nort at the ESMT Berlin campus. Mik is an independent consultant, specializing in leadership development, executive coaching, and organizational learning. Her consulting career spans over 20 years. As KPMG partner, Mik initiated and managed the firm’s coaching and counseling unit at Ebbingie. In recent years Mik consulted to a vast number of senior professionals at leading international companies.

The meeting’s purpose was to enable MBA class participants to address questions regarding a female role in leadership to the successful experienced professional female. As an MBA student I was glad to have the chance and have a discussion with Mik.

After a brief introduction at the ESMT campus we went to dinner at a unique place – the International Club of German Foreign Ministry – where the majority of the conversation took place. The Head of ESMT admissions office Stephanie Kluth and Jennifer Collier, an external consultant on legal and strategic advisory, joined us and actively participated in the meeting.

During the dinner my classmates raised various questions to Mik, e.g. what the females’ managerial styles, their strengths and weaknesses. We talked about roadblocks that lie on a female’s career path and opportunities that enable a woman to pursue career objectives.

At the dinner Mik recounted notable situations from her working experience and shared valuable insights. The one I liked the most is that a woman leader is not the one who betrays her femininity by accepting a masculine “way of conduct”; on the contrary, she can benefit from capabilities that are intrinsic to her nature. Women are attentive to people’s needs. Most female managers are good at motivating their team members and ensuring a positive working environment. Such an attitude has a great pay off. When a manager needs her subordinates to carry our task she formulated, they are there to act and support her.

Nevertheless, a female leader is not the one to be liked by all her subordinates and peers, she is the one to direct and lead. Mik commented that in certain situations a female needs to take a strong stand when protecting her ideas or actions plan in order to win battles in the sometimes harsh world of business. Being a ‘tough cookie’ is an advantageous strategy for a female leader as it also yields a benefit in the form of appreciation on the part of male colleagues.

The discussion was not solely focused around the leadership topic. Mik shared a story on her career development that led to her current professional occupation. The remarkable fact is that Mik did not compromise her interests when building a career, quite the opposite, her personal field of interests and working preferences led her to further preferment. The majority of her professional career Mik has been involved in the work she admired and this fact contributed a lot to her job and personal success.

I have drawn several conclusions from the discussion with Mik and statements of other participants. They convinced me that in order to attain success in a professional activity and be able to realize your potential, you need to discover your own life interests and values and stick to them when shaping your career.

Taxing the tall?

It has been known for some time that tall people earn more than their shorter counterparts (if you don’t believe it, just read this article). As sad as it sounds, there is not much that can be done about it, right? Well, that’s exactly what I thought when I first heard about the bad news (I am not very tall), but Harvard professors Mankiw and Weinzierl’s newest work puts a (theoretic) end to the social injustice by concluding that tall people should pay higher taxes than short ones. Isn’t that just genius?