While I was making sure that my tie was looking sharp on the Friday morning of the Executive MBA’s opening week, the questions that had been clouding my thoughts the previous weeks popped up again: what did I get myself into? Will I be able to handle it? And, most importantly, is it worth it?
These questions were a recurring theme of the opening week. Still, I was able to quickly find the answers: I entered a highly demanding but highly rewarding programme full of motivated and highly capable colleagues that will push each other to learn fast and apply our learnings in our current environments. Although it will be very demanding, given the support network I have and my willingness to succeed, I will be able to handle the experience. Furthermore, I want to self-reflect on my leadership skills, expand my toolbox to improve in the areas where I am not as strong and identify how other successful leaders apply these tools in real-life scenarios.
It will be worth it! Not only do we have a very strong faculty at our disposal, but the environment is one where everyone feels able to share their experiences without fear of retribution. This enables us – the students – to speak freely while challenging our pre-existing ideas.
The opening day was mostly used to clarify organisational topics: where the modules take place, the structure of a typical module, how the grading works (class participation, in-class presentations and take-home assignments) and how to access and use the learning tools. Lastly, we had a chance to talk with several alumni, which helped clarify questions that we might not have been comfortable asking the staff. Every presentation we saw was concise, essential, and delivered effectively; however, the most important aspect of this day was the possibility of getting to know other members of our cohort and other MBA programmes starting on this day. Another recurring theme throughout the day was that Frankfurt School (FS) and the Executive MBA will allow us to expand our network. The day ended with a “bang” with speeches by FS CFO Karolina Kristic, Vice President for Academic Affairs and FS Professor Dr. Claus Rerup, several alumni from different MBA programs and finally, a surprise: playing the drums to the rhythm of African music.
We had a team-building weekend organised at the Lufthansa Center in Seeheim. On Sunday, we learned that a team has different stages of development: forming, storming, norming, and performing; it was then clear that all activities carried out the day before were there to accelerate the forming phase and guide us through the storming stage. All students attending the Executive MBA already have leadership experience and often strong personalities, which was obvious from the fireworks that were figuratively flying around during the exercises. Therefore, I believe that this weekend is crucial for the cohort to have a pleasant experience.
The first module was Executive Mindset and was taught by Professor Thorbjørn Knudsen and Professor Lorenzo Massa. In my opinion, it is the perfect module to start since it forces us with a more technical background to break away from the technical mindset and start thinking as an executive. It was also a brilliant example of the high-pace format of the programme: six days with pre-readings that gave the cohort enough context to discuss the topics, case studies that allowed us to apply the learnings to real-life scenarios and presentations that enabled us to overcome obstacles – our very highly motivated cohort kept prolonging the sessions, so the time to prepare was next to none – and leverage our resources to deliver the best possible product.
I am glad that the opening week is completed, but I am thrilled about the journey my colleagues and I will embark on in the next 18 months. It will be an exhausting period, but I am sure that it will be extremely rewarding. My goal is to emerge as a better leader with an expanded toolbox to handle strategic and critical situations.
Finally, I believe that a strong support network is essential to succeed. Therefore, I am happy to have my wife and my boss supporting me in this wild journey I decided to embark on.