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My opportunity to grow in uncertain times
Executive MBA / 10 June 2021
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Executive MBA Class of 2021
Julie is Team Lead R&D at Evonik Operations GmbH and works in product development for new precipitated silicas. She holds a PhD in Physical Chemistry (Molecular Spectroscopy) from the University of Alberta and is an alumni of the Executive MBA class of 2021.

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In 2019 I started the Executive MBA at Frankfurt School and the programme was as great as advertised. We had a diverse cohort with lively discussions during classes and many evening events to socialize and network. I was loving learning about topics I had only superficially explored before. It was as expected, a chance to grow professionally and personally. To learn about various aspects of the business world and challenge one’s self in an intense program.  It was an exciting time and the next year was shaping up to be life-changing. I just never realized how life-changing it would be.

2020: Covid-19 hit, and everything flipped upside down. Everything was chaotic and every manager and leader needed to quickly adapt. Decisions were made even as information was coming in constantly and changing multiple times a day. Everyone in our class had just too many balls up in the air at the same time and the hours in the day were still limited.

The focus was on getting through this major disruption: Our class decided to postpone one module during the height of the chaos. In a few months, everything will be back to normal, but then a few months later, it wasn‘t over. We needed long term solutions. Frankfurt School implemented various solutions to get us back in the classroom (virtual and eventually in person/hybrid). It was an exercise in prototyping done in real-life.

Although the situation was not as it was at the beginning of the programme, it gave perspective that it is always possible to improve things and find solutions. They focused on their main objective: provide high-level education and the best possible experience to the students. I am a positive person and seeing the response from Frankfurt School sparked even more desire for finding the important things in life.

Changing jobs during the crisis

The EMBA journey introduced me to topics that I had never had a chance to learn and industries from other students where I could see parallels and connections. This started a self-reflection process in me since the first week in class. Then quarantine made me more introspective, evaluating what is truly important and seeing how my current path was or was not aligned. I think I was not alone in this situation. Two major insights crystallized:

  1. Health and family.
  2. I wanted to learn about a new industry with new materials and products.

Luckily, I had an opportunity open to me which combined everything, and I jumped at it. I was prepared to put the work in to learn a new field and industry and expand my network further. Was I hesitant? Was I scared to change positions during the pandemic? Was I excited? Was this a great time to change? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. Seeing how it was possible after 6 months of virtual meetings to have meaningful discussions, build relationships, and even learn through video conferences, I was sure that this could translate to onboarding programs as well.

No lemons, only lemonade

I started my new position at Evonik Operation GmbH, I have loved learning the new field and drawing connections between previous work and new projects. The team which I am fortunate to work with is great, even with the limitation of corona restrictions. I can only imagine how it will be when the team can collaborate in person and have coffee breaks together, face-to-face!

Onboarding during these times has been different, but possible. It takes some additional effort, but it is amazing how now it is possible to ask for virtual coffees to any new colleague or contact and the response will generally be positive. This has been a change since early 2020 which I hope remains long after. I have been able to quickly build a network within the new company despite not being able to travel and being mostly in-home office.

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