What stages in your life have had the greatest impact on you and why?
There were several. Basically, two influences have always shaped me particularly strongly: first, people who served as role models for me, either positive or negative, in terms of how things should or should not be done; and, second, challenges I had to cope with, such as my first executive position. Back then, I joined a company and became the leader of a team of nine who cooperated with many external partners. And as the subject matter was relatively new to me, challenges were coming at me from all directions. That was tough but provided a great opportunity for me to learn a lot—about myself, my job, the subject matter and my strengths and weaknesses as an executive.
Did you originally want to pursue a career in a different field? If so, why is it that nothing has come of your plans?
Yes, I had very romantic ideas! When I was about seven years old, I wanted to become a "researcher" for the first time. I had a wildly romantic image of researchers—David Livingstone, Indiana Jones and Jane Goodall all rolled into one. I wanted to visit foreign countries to discover something or someone. As a university student, I was lucky enough to be involved in some small-scale research projects. Because I was passionate about my research, I was successful at doing it, and, as a result of that, I got a job at the Academy of Sciences immediately after graduating. In reality, however, being a "researcher" is much less exciting than you would imagine.
How and why did you come to work for OMV?
When I joined OMV, I was still studying for my MBA degree. I had previously worked on EU projects as a project manager for several years and was freelancing as a diversity consultant and trainer. It was through a diversity project and some events in the USA that I first came into contact with OMV. Last year, I was alerted to the fact that they were advertising for someone with my qualifications and experience. As the idea of working in an international company had fascinated me for quite a while, I submitted my application—and here I am.
What has changed in your career as a result of your MBA degree? How did the program (state-of-the-art knowledge, skills, networking) support you in reaching your career goals? What concrete career opportunities (promotions, new responsibilities, etc.) have opened up for you?
My motivation for attending the Executive MBA (Global) was twofold. On the one hand, I had been working as a consultant for international companies such as Microsoft and Shell for many years without ever completing formal business training—a gap that I wanted to close. On the other hand, I was keen on broadening my horizons by learning in an international environment. I knew the MBA would provide me with a perfect opportunity to do all that.
Now, shortly after graduating, I can say that I have definitely been able to broaden my horizons thanks to the MBA. Some of the topics covered were of great interest to me; I will certainly explore them in greater detail in the coming years—and there could be no better place for me to do so than a huge international company. I am also more flexible now as I can work in areas I could not have worked in prior to completing my MBA. My peers and the networks I have gained access to through them are, without question, the assets I have benefited from the most. Our class was very diverse, and during the 14 months we spent together we had plenty of opportunity to get to know one another well. This has allowed me not only to learn a lot from my classmates but also to build a network of excellent contacts who can help me deal with certain issues.
What was your biggest professional/personal success?
That is very hard to tell because each success is unique the moment you enjoy it. Right now, I am happy about the fact that I have succeeded in establishing a completely new area that already produces positive results in a company employing 30,000 people. In my current position, I am responsible for both getting OMV's workforce to support our new sustainability strategy and developing projects to proactively involve them in it, making sure, among other things, that executives are committed to our social projects and that employees can participate in talent management and have a say in drawing up agreements on objectives.
What are your goals for the coming year? Your goals in general? Is there still something you absolutely want to do?
I am an avid traveler! When I decided to take the MBA, I had actually planned to do something different, namely to travel around the world. The idea is still at the back of my mind, but if it is not going to happen, working abroad for some time may be a good alternative. Let's wait and see.
What do you consider a “great luxury”?
Being free to decide for myself what to do and how to do it.
What was the last book/movie you really enjoyed?
Our financial accounting textbook for the MBA. (No, I was talking tongue-in-cheek! Although it was a very good book, I would not say that I enjoyed it.)
Joking aside: "This Book Will Save Your Life" by A. M. Homes. It is about an LA stock speculator who turns his life upside down and, in doing so, begins to realize what gives him pleasure. The story is not spectacular but very well written.
How would you characterize your philosophy of leadership? Has it been influenced by a leadership role-model?
As an executive, I think of myself as someone who helps others to do a good job by creating the right environment. This involves not only telling people clearly what they are expected to do, motivating them and supporting them—if and when necessary—but also allowing them freedom to make their own decisions. In my opinion, being able to work independently and feeling appreciated are two of the most important factors of motivation for almost all people. Those for whom this is not true need somebody who tells them exactly what to do and makes decisions for them. Therefore, as an executive, you also need to be a good judge of character who knows how to best get different people involved.
How do you recharge your batteries when you are not pursuing your demanding career?
I take time out to do something I like—either alone or together with friends. It is important to me that the activities I engage in provide a nice counterpoint to my daily routine: if my job requires me to sit at my desk for hours, I will spend time in nature; if I constantly have to talk with many people, I will meet a few close friends or enjoy my own company.
If you could change places with anyone for a day, who would it be?
Barack Obama. I know this sounds terribly unimaginative.
I would be extremely curious to see what your day is like when you are the president of such a powerful country.
Why would you recommend the Executive MBA (Global) of the WU Executive Academy? What did you like the most?
The program as a whole leaves a lasting impression on you. Of course, everybody will find different aspects particularly valuable. I, for one, have strongly been influenced by the international residencies. They allowed us to look at countries such as Russia, India, China and the USA from a special perspective. We were students, but we also gained deep insight into the ways of doing business. Not so much because of the topics we covered in class but as a result of experiencing things on the ground and learning about taboos. It was very revealing, for instance, when people did not answer certain questions or prevaricated! As my peers came from countries like Russia, Saudi Arabia or Canada, to name but a few, they were often able to give an expert explanation of what was going on behind the scenes.
My motto in life …
I can do anything I put my mind to!
I can laugh about ...
A lot of things! I have a good laugh virtually every day.
Mistakes I am most likely willing to forgive …
I have no idea! Pretty much everything—we are all humans, and humans make mistakes.
I would spend my last money on …
It depends on how much money I have left; assuming it is only a very small amount, I would spend it on a bar of chocolate.
In 20 years I will …
... hopefully still be doing things I enjoy!