The experience reports of our participants are just as multifaceted as the Mannheim MBA is. But everyone can agree on one thing: the twelve months at Mannheim Business School have been a formative time, from which they will benefit their whole lives.
Eilyn Meneses Villabona, Senior Market Strategy Manager EIMEA, Henkel AG & Co. KGaA, Mannheim MBA Class of 2014
“I feel I now have the tools to better manage projects and people, and I have learned to communicate more effectively with my colleagues. I also discovered many tools for strategy and innovation management that I use in my everyday work, and I love to go back to my folders and read my notes from my year in Mannheim. It was an entire year dedicated to both personal and professional growth, and I loved it.”
I have a technical background and I wanted to improve my ability to properly manage projects and drive innovation. I knew I wanted to do an MBA for a long time, and Mannheim for me was more than a top business school in Europe – it was an opportunity to learn a new culture and language, and to be exposed to one of Europe’s strongest and most diverse economies. MBS also has a broad network of innovative and established companies, and the program includes the opportunity to be exposed to and work for these companies for the final Business Master Project.
The Mannheim Full-Time MBA gave me the opportunity to work with people from different backgrounds, nationalities and styles, which not only allowed me to grow from the international experience, but also to learn from the different management styles.I feel I now have the tools to better manage projects and people, and I have learned to communicate more effectively with my colleagues. I also discovered many tools for strategy and innovation management that I use in my everyday work, and I love to go back to my folders and read my notes from my year in Mannheim. It was an entire year dedicated to both personal and professional growth, and I loved it.
Before joining MBS, I thought I had international experience, having worked in an international and multicultural company… I could not have been more wrong. Working in another country with 23 nationalities, diverse group assignments, and a broad spectrum of personalities every day obliges you to jump out of your comfort zone and develop the empathy and the understanding you need to communicate better and to build strong working relationships with others. On the personal side, I gained friends that I will cherish for the rest of my life and learned to become a more understanding individual.
Cassie Radford, Chief of Staff | Office of the Chief Operating Officer, Asia Pacific Japan at SAP, Mannheim Full-Time MBA, Class of 2018
“When I joined the MBA, I had no intention of leaving the aviation industry. However, the program gave me insight into other industries and the ways in which my skillset could apply outside of aviation. Having a dedicated career advisor offered immense value to me throughout the program. I have made the triple jump of country, function and industry. This certainly would not have been possible without the support I received throughout the MBA program and, specifically, the Career Development team.”
I decided to do an MBA following 10 years of experience in the aviation industry. Prior to the program, I had a reasonable amount of direct people leadership responsibility and operational accountability in my roles. However, I wanted to broaden my future opportunities by building on my commercial and business acumen. I specifically chose the 12-month full-time program as it allowed me to step out of the working environment for a short period of time to focus solely on my own professional development.
In terms of choosing Mannheim Business School, I was aware prior to making this selection that their teaching faculty is world-class and that the dedication the Program Management and Career Development teams have toward helping each student succeed is second to none. I certainly experienced this first-hand throughout the program, and my professional achievements since the program are due in large part to the support they each provided to me.
When I joined the MBA, I had no intention of leaving the aviation industry. However, the program gave me insight into other industries and the ways in which my skillset could apply outside of aviation. Having a dedicated career advisor offered immense value to me throughout the program. I have made the triple jump of country, function and industry. This certainly would not have been possible without the support I received throughout the MBA program and, specifically, the Career Development team.
In terms of career development, I had a single point of contact throughout the MBA – having a dedicated career advisor offered immense value to me throughout the program. The career advisors tailor their approach to each MBA participant and support a variety of scenarios, including participants who want to progress within their current industry or company, and participants who want to seek out new opportunities.
The Career Development team provided one-on-one coaching to participants, professional development workshops, simulated team and individual interviews, and networking opportunities through company presentations and site visits. These regular cadences helped me personally to develop some best practices around continuous personal and professional development, which will serve me well now and in my future career.
The Business Negotiations subject is perhaps the best course I have ever taken. It reflects the changing nature of business and the skills that successful leaders need in order to be relevant now and in the future. As participants, we were really pushed to our limit to empathize with others and drive win–win solutions. Despite working internationally with diverse workforces prior to the MBA, the Cross Cultural Awareness and the Ethics & CSR courses also had a profound impact on me. I now work in a large multinational, multi-generational business and I find that I am drawing on the learnings of these courses on a daily basis.
Finally, a personal highlight was the end-to-end approach that Mannheim Business School takes in creating gender equality: through the admissions process, scholarship opportunities, dedicated topical workshops and the formation of the Women in Business Club following the completion of the program.
Gonzalo Bustillo Restrepo, EU AMXL S&OP Manager at Amazon, Mannheim Full-Time MBA, Class of 2017
“Individual counseling sessions with the Career Development team helped me understand how human resources departments work with their stakeholders and what their modus operandi is when analyzing candidates. Through this process, I was able to present myself successfully in my applications and job interviews.”
I decided to do an MBA because I believed it was the right path towards acquiring the tools I needed to continue developing personally and to boost my career. My motivation to do my MBA in Germany was to get to know and adapt to the pragmatic and hard-working German culture. A world-class academic level and the international experience were further major criteria that contributed to my decision.
With its triple accreditation, top positions in international rankings, and great value for money, Mannheim Business School quickly caught my attention. Further investigation into the school’s didactic approach confirmed that the Mannheim MBA was indeed a perfect match. I liked the small, practical and close-knit cohorts, the integrated knowledge, and the interesting and nurturing challenges.
I was able to learn from an incredibly wide range of personal and professional experiences, not only due to the diverse backgrounds of the teachers (which may be expected) but also from the equally important rich backgrounds of my colleagues (many of whom I now call friends).
There were several bonding activities, both for the entire cohort and for the various Business Master Project (BMP) teams, which I will keep in my delightful memories box. In particular, I will laugh and enjoy remembering all the different BMP pitching presentations. Preparing the slides and the actual presentations was simultaneously funny and very stressful due to the sometimes different opinions. But at the end of the day, we achieved a good and satisfactory result, and I became a more multifaceted person while learning and working with my classmates. I learned to understand more perspectives when evaluating situations and decisions to drive businesses forward in collaboration with the various stakeholders involved.
Valuable insights into the German job market completed the MBA experience. Individual counseling sessions with the Career Development team helped me understand how human resources departments work with their stakeholders and what their modus operandi is when analyzing candidates. Through this process, I was able to present myself successfully in my applications and job interviews.
Ana Luisa Varela, Senior Manager Controlling Hapag-Lloyd AG, Mannheim Full-Time MBA, Class of 2019
“Having career development was very helpful in getting to know more about the German job market and what key elements to focus on when looking for a new job after the MBA. They provided many insights into the job search process and on how to successfully tackle every step of the application process. There was also someone who constantly reviewed our application documents and gave useful advice throughout the year.”
I decided to do an MBA because I wanted to continue developing my career by strengthening my soft skills while having new experiences outside of my comfort zone, meeting new people, and learning from other cultures in a different country. The Mannheim Full-Time MBA was the perfect choice for me as it is a very prestigious international one-year program in one of the most stable economies in Europe. The fact that it is based in Germany was crucial for me because there I could not only have opportunities for work afterwards, but also learn a third language. Finally, compared to other programs with similar characteristics, the Mannheim MBA has the best return on investment.
The Mannheim MBA had a big impact on my career as it gave me the opportunity to connect with and learn from colleagues with very diverse backgrounds and ways of thinking, allowing me to polish my social and communication skills within an international environment. Additionally, it was a key factor in entering the German job market and being able to take new and challenging positions in other departments.
Having career development was very helpful in getting to know more about the German job market and what key elements to focus on when looking for a new job after the MBA. They provided many insights into the job search process and on how to successfully tackle every step of the application process. There was also someone who constantly reviewed our application documents and gave useful advice throughout the year.
The opportunity to study and learn with a diverse and international group of top-level colleagues was definitely a highlight of the program. Additionally, getting the chance to connect with colleagues and learn first-hand from their experiences was very refreshing and changed my attitude to work and dealing with daily life situations.
Personally, I can also add that the one-week Digital Strategy course at SDA Bocconi in Milan exceeded all my expectations. There, we were challenged with a real business case in which we had to take a winery into the digital domain by applying all the tools we had learned by then.
Nishant Mittal, Team Lead at Mercedes Benz AG, Mannheim Full-Time MBA, Class of 2018
“I was interested in the automotive industry and the Mannheim MBA gave me an opportunity to apply for a job in this sector. It worked! Not only did I move into my industry of choice, I also moved to a new country. The MBS Career Development journey provided a very useful orientation right from the start since I was new to Germany and had no prior experience, both of hiring processes and what recruiters look for here. I tried various options in my job search. Running them by the Career Development department saved me a lot of mistakes and time. Their guidance was essential.”
I had reached a point in my career where the major part of my work was business related. There were a few instances where I felt the lack of marketing, finance, and other business-specific knowledge. Also, I wanted international exposure. Learning to manage people and teams was my next personal milestone for which I wanted to put myself in an environment where I could get maximum exposure to different cultures.
The MBA at Mannheim Business School offers all of the above. When choosing a business school, I compared various criteria such as international MBA rankings, the internationality of the classes, and location. I was looking for a country with a good job market, where I could see myself living and get a good return on my investment. Mannheim Business School came out on top.
I was interested in the automotive industry and the Mannheim MBA gave me an opportunity to apply for a job in this sector. It worked! Not only did I move into my industry of choice, I also moved to a new country. The MBS Career Development journey provided a very useful orientation right from the start since I was new to Germany and had no prior experience, both of hiring processes and what recruiters look for here. I tried various options in my job search. Running them by the Career Development department saved me a lot of mistakes and time. Their guidance was essential.
To sum it up, it was a memorable year full of friendships, events, minor difficulties, and some really good times. The teachers at MBS obviously imparted first class academic and business knowledge, but the network I built during my year in Mannheim is even more important. For me personally, the best part of my year at Mannheim Business School was spending time with people from so many different cultures.
I have learned so much about people’s behavior and working styles that I now feel way more comfortable working alongside people from across the globe. This has already helped me in my current job, especially because I am and will be working on various projects in different locations in Germany, UK, USA, Japan, and China in the first two years.
Nhu-An Christian Tieu FT MBA Content, Global Business Operations Expert at SAP, Mannheim MBA Class of 2016
“The material and tools I learned during the program serve as an anchor to which I can relate in my daily work, and have helped me become a well-rounded professional. My personal highlight was the phase at the end of the MBA: creating a business plan with my Multi-Competence Team, which meant spending days in ideation, going out interviewing people to validate thoughts and simulating how it would be to start our own business.”
After working as an engineer for three years, I wanted to take on more responsibility and understand more about business and how companies operate in general. To achieve a change in industry and role, I saw the MBA as the best platform to achieve my goals within a very short period of time.
The Mannheim Full-Time MBA was an easy decision for me as it fit my three most important criteria:
I was lucky enough to change my career completely, as I landed in a post-MBA leadership program that specifically recruited from Mannheim Business School. The material and tools I learned during the program serve as an anchor to which I can relate in my daily work, and have helped me become a well-rounded professional. But most importantly, I have developed personally and, thanks to our diverse class, learned how to work with colleagues from many different cultures.
The program was a fun experience. I have lived in Germany for most of my life, but studying in Germany in a class of more than 50 international professionals with diverse backgrounds made it feel like living abroad. Some of the most significant experiences were the many social and sport activities, a great study term abroad in Singapore, and a network of former classmates whom I meet at alumni events and beyond.
My personal highlight was the phase at the end of the MBA: creating a business plan with my Multi-Competence Team, which meant spending days in ideation, going out interviewing people to validate thoughts and simulating how it would be to start our own business.
Bharati Malar Periasamy, Salesforce Consultant at NTT Global Data Centers EMEA, Mannheim MBA Class of 2016
“The Social Sustainability Project and Business Master Project were the most significant experiences for me. The satisfaction of seeing the final outcome is immense, especially knowing that everything started off with hasty scribbles on flipcharts and whiteboards, unstructured and messy, but never lacking in enthusiasm or absolute confidence! The journey of refinement, trial and error, group dynamics and simply learning together was what made my MBA experience worth it.”
I had been working in market research for five and a half years when I realized that I wanted to be more involved in the “next stages” of what I was doing, i.e., marketing. Research showed that marketing is highly competitive and experience is practically a prerequisite, but, as I did not want to start from scratch and lose more than five years’ work experience, I decided to do an MBA.
I had already learned German years ago and figured that doing an MBA and working in Germany could be a possible option for me. The bonus was that I could keep in touch with the language – I was rapidly losing fluency in it without the opportunity for practice.
I began to research business schools in Germany and MBS was top of all the lists in rankings. Then I found a personal contact who was an MBS alumnus and picked his brain. Once satisfied with my research, I never looked back. In fact, I waited an extra year, just so I could go to MBS.
Before joining, I was a little apprehensive of the master thesis being a group project. I can say with certainty now that it makes complete sense. All that group work throughout the year equips you for work in the real world, where one very rarely works individually. Being dependent on others for an important goal pushes one to motivate and bolster the team, and not to work in silos, because, at the end of the day, their work also reflects on you.
While I certainly do not apply all the numerous tools, models, and case-study lessons on a daily basis at work (that is not how they are meant to be applied anyway), it is always a nice moment when I can draw the link between a topic being discussed at work and an MBA tool that applies to the situation. It usually brings a different perspective to the table.
The Social Sustainability Project and Business Master Project were the most significant experiences for me. The satisfaction of seeing the final outcome is immense, especially knowing that everything started off with hasty scribbles on flipcharts and whiteboards, unstructured and messy, but never lacking in enthusiasm or absolute confidence! The journey of refinement, trial and error, group dynamics and simply learning together was what made my MBA experience worth it.
In my opinion, the best thing the MBA equipped me for was working with different cultures and nationalities. For someone who did not have much global experience, it was at first unnerving to be thrust into a multinational team and to gauge how to best proceed to ensure we got to our goal and best utilized our strengths. With each assigned team, it was a different process of finding the right balance. That is something that can only be experienced, and I cannot think of any other opportunity I could have had in my life where I could interact intensely with that many different nationalities.
Jean-Christophe Irigoyen, Vice President M&A - Project Manager at Emporion GmbH, Mannheim MBA Class of 2013
“My daily schedule comprised German lessons after classes, rushing back to finish up project work with my group through the night, revising as we go along before Friday’s exam and attending company networking events. I also had to juggle between applications to graduate programs and business plan competitions. And oh, not to forget waking up at 5.30 am every other weekday to make it to the rowing club in the cold.”
It is one of the most common questions I have been asked in several interviews. And I must confess this is probably the most important. Yes, really. Why did I apply for an MBA? What did I want to achieve, to change in my career and my life? It is actually quite hard to say. Of course, as everyone, I probably wanted to move to the next career step: an MBA is a perfect way to do so. Though if I try to get deeper than this, there are probably other motivations. I think it has to do with my previous job: it was also my first position; I learnt a lot within the almost 5 years I spent in my former company, an advertising agency, but at the same time, it made me realise I had potential for more. My until then academic formation, a master in history, was nevertheless limiting me and after several talks with work partners, I decided to apply and make a move. Deriving from this first thought, I was then expecting the best from the studies I was to undergo. This is why I decided to apply at Mannheim Business School: it is the best MBA offer in the leading European economy. The choice was easy. I believe it is a question each candidate should try to answer honestly before even starting the application process. One needs to know what one wants to achieve to be able to measure afterwards success.
I believe I needed to get ready on different levels; of course a full-time MBA is a serious investment in money and time, but also a bet on the future: as did most of the students of the batch, I left a stable work and left professional life away for a whole year, and the registration doesn't come with a guarantee to find a new job, so I really needed to believe in me and in the program. This is a calculated risk, but still a risk. I find it adds some fun to the whole experience. For the rest, the application process was pretty straight-forward. GMAT, case study, a couple of interviews. I don't say it was easy, but I believe if you prepare well on this, it will be feasible. One element I actually didn't expect was the multicultural aspect of the batch. I knew there would be several nationalities, I didn't know there would be 24! This is one of the most beautiful aspects of this MBA, to be able to exchange on a daily basis with people from literally the five continents. If you are applying for an MBA or are thinking of doing so, I would recommend you to keep this in mind and to prepare yourself to others. Be open, let other points of view, other approaches blow your mind. You'll come out of the experience way richer than when you entered.
The Program Management seriously tried and provided us a smooth start in the MBA. Those who wanted it could apply for a pre-course of financial accounting (a proper survival kit for people like me who never had anything to do with this before) and we also went through a week of integration, to get to know each other. This week was full of team-building activities (I cannot recall half of them to be honest) and was pretty lean-back. If I had known, I would have enjoyed it more. After this, we were done with being relaxed for the rest of the year. But one good thing lasted for the whole year, namely the group feeling. There is competition, sure, but it is a fair and healthy one. Joining your MBA batch, joining MBS, people actually join a family. This feeling is reinforced during the whole year through regular group activities, such as group assignments (and there is a new group in each class, so at the end everyone worked at least once with each colleague), but also and mostly through extra-curricular activities. I ended up doing more sport than ever during this year, starting with the preparation for the rowing competition. This meant waking up very early in the morning twice or three times a week (yes, they did not stop the classes for us, so we had to train before), but this exceptional experience strengthened us as a group. By the way, we won the cup against WHU Business School. This feeling of belonging together is finally maintained via all the networking events that the Program Management and the Career Services Team organise regularly with alumni from different companies or via regular get-togethers. I came to work with other students, I think I found friends. Once I entered MBS, I became a true Mannheimer, and the feeling will last.
The second and third term consisted of mainly one week courses – shorter, but more intense. My daily schedule comprised German lessons after classes, rushing back to finish up project work with my group through the night, revising as we go along before Friday’s exam and attending company networking events. I also had to juggle between applications to graduate programs and business plan competitions. And oh, not to forget waking up at 5.30 am every other weekday to make it to the rowing club in the cold! Term 2 and 3 really took a lot of time planning.
Yet, one has to really find time to relax. I remembered on two occasions, actually finishing exams on Friday and rushing off with luggage from the ECD to join my classmates on ski trips! We even had a bachelor party in Amsterdam for two of our classmates, all squeezed between our elective courses!
Some IT schools describe the first months of studies as "the swimming pool", either you swim or you sink. Well, the first term at MBS is maybe not that cruel - people here, starting with your colleagues, will not let you sink, but you definitely need to learn to swim. And you need to learn fast. Once the real classes began, we were put directly in front of reality. There is enough theory, don't misunderstand me, but from the very beginning we were confronted with practical exercises and, even more stressful for everyone, with grades. We had one year only, and we all wanted not only to graduate, but also to be good at it. Each grade counts in this regard, so we understood very fast that we needed a full commitment if we wanted to make the most of this year. I talked earlier of believing in me as well as in the program. This couple (individual/program) is for me the core of the MBA: we got the chance to be offered a top-notch education, but it was only as useful as the efforts we wanted to put in it. It is my MBA, because it is what I made of it. I believe that each MBA experience is unique. Each one of us had his or her own one and each of us bears the responsibility of making it or not a great time.
Once I got used to the rhythm, I must say that I started enjoying the rest. It is not that it got simpler: I still had to learn tons of new things, work on complex projects, hold presentations, work at the weekends, but at one point I just got the pace and this complexity became part of the daily life. I just didn't think that much about it anymore. In this sense, if term 1 was the somehow rough adaptation term, the following terms 2&3 improved me in that they made me (and the other students) more able to deal professionally with complex issues in a short time. I was able to test the reality of this improvement in the last sprint: term 4 and the Business Master Project. My group and I had the chance to have a very challenging project at adidas. Two months to deal with new issues, assess problems and provide proposals for improvement. The company itself is great and the team in which we worked was very helping and committed, but it was for the four of us a real challenge. Furthermore, it was the first time we were pretty much on our own: we had to define everything ourselves and find the resources to overcome difficulties and work as a team. I think we managed this well.
On the other side, MBS requires the different groups to conceive and realise a mandatory social project during the year. The idea behind the project is that, having the chance to do an MBA that promises us to a great professional future, we need to give back something to society and help people with less luck. I like this mentality and MBS is completely honest in this regard, this is not a mere PR measure to look more human. We were lucky and were able to do our project with an association working with kids from less favoured backgrounds. Those kids had passions they could express within the association: sports, art, music. We thought of giving them on the one hand the opportunity to express themselves towards a broader audience and also, why not, to gain new skills that would be of use in their future. This is why we worked together with them and helped them create a blog about their association and their activities. I think we did well, the kids showed commitment and I believe they enjoyed the project. From my point of view though, I enjoyed this project probably as much as they did, I really liked to see their passion in it. These are probably the elements I didn't expect from the MBA. In this sense, it exceeded my expectations.
This is definitely the hardest part of the year. After building not only relationships, but also true friendship with some of the colleagues, I realised it was already over. Yes, I was happy to graduate, I was happy to have it finally behind me, to be able to take some rest. Finally. But at the same time, I'd be lying if I would say that this satisfaction was not slightly flavoured with sadness. I achieved each of my initial goals with this MBA, but this year also brought me way more than what I was expecting. I am a different, better person on a professional point of view: this year revealed some aspects of me. I also think it made me think about myself and also change for something better. MBS is now a part of the definition I would give of myself, it reshaped me somehow. I am done with my MBA, I am definitely not done with Mannheim Business School.
Pablo Gálvez, Vice President & BoM, Europe, South America, Middle East - Head of Sourcing, Supply Chain & Supplier Quality at PKC Group, Mannheim MBA Class of 2011
"The Business Master Project turned out to be a consulting project. For two months, we worked hand in hand with a leading company (market leaders such as: Deutsche Bank, A.T. Kerney, TRUMPF, SAP, BASF, Heraeus, BOSCH, BMW, etc.) developing a Lead Indicator Management System to anticipate market movements and therefore enable them to steer the company more effectively. The CEO came to the intermediate presentation (8,000 employees worldwide) and the Board of Management attended the final presentation. Management in the UK took a flight to Germany for the presentation that day, so yeah, the project was taken very seriously."
The Survival Kit
The decision was made and before I came to Mannheim, all important organizational issues were taken care of, requiring just a little cooperation from my side. The MBS Program Management Team stands for quality and responsiveness. I have rarely experienced dealing with such an effective, diligent and friendly team. Financial aid: MBS gave me the option to get a loan from a financial institution in cooperation with the school. Of course there was some paperwork to do, but I was continuously supported by MBS. The conditions were fair. Residence Permit: As a European I didn't require a residence permit but this was something which MBS helped my colleagues with. It is always a hassle to go through bureaucracy, just like anywhere else. Apartment: In advance, I was provided with the guidelines for student apartments including pictures, prices and services. Within only one week, I had the contract for my apartment. For 390€ per month, everything was included: water, heat, electricity, high speed internet and cable TV access. Of course, this was not a 5 star hotel but to me it was Mannhamas! It was really warm in the winter when it was snowing outside and - thanks to good isolation- pretty chilly during summertime. The apartment was full of light, with a large window and a door window leading to a shared balcony. The Rhine river was located only a couple of meters away. The internet connection was totally reliable through the entire year. Videoconferences via skype or watching the Champions League via streaming was not an issue - perfect quality. Besides, I had a little kitchen with simply everything, a private bathroom, and cable TV. MBS was only a 15-minute walk away. Food: Food in Germany, especially in Mannheim, is very cheap if you come from any other Western European country or North America. During the week, I typically had lunch at the University dining hall (Mensa) for 2,50€ (soup, salad and main dish), but sometimes I got a bit more fancy and ordered a menu at a restaurant (German, Indian, Japanese, Thai, Italian...) for only a couple of Euros more! It only took me a couple of minutes in order to walk to all these lovely restaurants. There were a lot of supermarkets, too, which were quite cheap and offered good quality!
First Days, First Week
I arrived at Mannheim a couple of days before the program started. I had spoken with several students (the MBS Program Management provided me with contact details of current MBA students and everyone was immediately available for me with answers about the program, living in Mannheim, etc.) and I knew I would be fine. During those days,I decided to go for a run by the Rhine river and walked through a lovely park. It was just beautiful to go running, biking, and rollerblade skating. Soon I was sitting in the MBS Lecture Hall attending classes. The first week was an introductory one: We gained access to iConn (interface platform for students, program management, and professors) and access to wireless internet across the entire University of Mannheim. We got our student ID card in order to be able to access MBS buildings and libraries, we took professional pictures for the profile book, had a kick-off dinner with the entire class, worked on business case studies, attended workshops, and were divided into Multi Competence Teams. There were some fun ice-breakers and a cross-cultural training with interesting personalities from all over the wolrd: China, India, Russia, USA, Germany, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Belgium, Great Britain, Turkey, Pakistan, Spain - wow!
Second Week, Buckle Up
The intensity of the program varied each week. There were really tough days, on which I had to catch up with lectures and case studies during the week as well as long nights of little sleep, during which I studied, prepared a case study or a presentation. On average, I had classes from 9.00 am to 6.00 pm (lectures) plus several hours of group work almost every day. But in the end, this was a worthwhile investment. There were also fun times: Lots of jokes, laughing, coffee breaks, or having pizza for dinner with my team mates. Classes officially started at the beginning of the second week with a lecture about Decision Analysis.
The first semester seemed to be less intense than the rest. However, we had to get used to the system, the new people and dynamics first of all. Furthermore, we had to dedicate much time in order to really dig into fundamental subjects such as Financial Accounting, Marketing, Managerial Accounting, Corporate Finance, or Macroeconomics. I enjoyed these subjects very much with very insightful and down-to-earth lectures that gave me a solid ground for the upcoming ones. Company presentations and business forums already started in the first semester. Leading international companies visited us during the whole year, it was a great chance to start networking. Other highlights were: A big party in November after our first exams, Glühwein to warm up in December, delicious chocolate crêpes to get some sugar after the demanding semester, dinner together with all colleagues to say goodbye to 2010 and the end of our first semester.
The good thing about the second semester was that the intensity did not vary anymore, it was intense the whole time! Lectures from 9.00 am to 6.00 pm every single day plus daily group work (case studies one after another including presentations every week until the end of June) as the subjects are running weekly at full capacity. However, in this semester I had Strategy, Information Systems, Organizational Behavior & Change Management, Ethics & CSR, Innovation Management, Company Valuation, Consumer Behavior - subjects that were easier for me to grasp. Even though each week was an intense one, we had a couple of weeks off since I had not taken certain elective subjects. This gave me the opportunity to rest a bit, finish late assignments and prepare for te upcoming weeks. The best thing was the number of guest speakers (business professionals - executives) that professors invited for lectures. They gave excellent speeches and presentations. I will never forget one evening during Consumer Behavior in March, it was still cold outside, when I was listening to an executive from Saatchi & Saatchi speaking about their Lovemarks Model, of how products, services or organizations that build relationships with their consumers cannot be explained rationally, but create loyalty beyond reason. The whole class was completely in silence and absorbed. We had many lectures like this one: a turn-around case in the toy industry in the midst of the financial crisis (Strategy); the dilemma of expatriates when sent abroad for several years (Change Management); how the executive board of a multinational made decisions during the crisis literally throwing business plans to the garbage to focus on their liquidity (cash position, or blood as it is said); the ethical dilemmas that a Top Manager faces when having tremendous power (Ethics & CSR) - oh how I loved doing the MBA! Having decided on what to do as our Social Project, it was already time to start working seriously on this issue. We were going to help an NGO by providing them with plans to be more efficient in reaching out people and help them execute on it.
This semester was still very intense. On the one hand, we had subjects such as HR Management, Corporate Mergers & Restructuring, Global Information Management, International Marketing, Production Operations, Strategy Global Corporations, and Taxation - with exams, presentations, and case studies. Again, all of them were incredibly interesting topics with open discussions in class, in addition with guest speakers almost every week during lectures. On the other hand, it was time for all MCTs to do the Company Project as well as the Social Project. Attending presentations and preparing well for the Company Project was important as we knew we would be intensively working with the companies for two months. By this time, if not even earlier, many of us were working on our CVs and preparing for job interviews. We were attending MBA fairs, job fairs, company presentations, and optional company visits to Porsche, BASF, or Amazon. In this semester I finally started seeing the finish line. Time was moving fast and I knew that this great year would be over soon. Until then, I celebrated it at the Biergarten, enjoying the good weather and drinking some beer with my class mates!
Company Project & Master Thesis
I thought I would be able to slow down and work on my applications for the time after my MBA - but no! After attending school for 10 to 12 hours a day and then switching to the Company Project and the Master Thesis, my MCT and I thought we would have all the time in the world. Yes indeed, we had all the time in the world working on the project and the thesis. It was tough and demanding. The Business Master Project turned out to be a consulting project. For two months, we worked hand in hand with a leading company (market leaders such as: Deutsche Bank, A.T. Kerney, TRUMPF, SAP, BASF, Heraeus, BOSCH, BMW, etc.) developing a Lead Indicator Management System to anticipate market movements and therefore enable them to steer the company more effectively. The CEO came to the intermediate presentation (8,000 employees worldwide) and the Board of Management attended the final presentation. Management in the UK took a flight to Germany for the presentation that day, so yeah, the project was taken very seriously.
Everything is within reach at Mannheim Business School. We attended classes in two different MBS buildings: The MBS Lecture Hall at Mannheim Palace (Schloss Mannheim) and one at Dalbergplatz (Education Center Dalbergplatz), right at the heart of Mannheim downtown. With our ID cards we had access to University libraries and multiple quiet places to study, but we could also study at MBS facilities.
Time for Everything
Whether you want to play soccer, go swimming, go to the gym (free for students), play tennis or basketball, play cricket or go skiing - there is time for everything if you get yourself organized. We did most of the sport and leisure activities as a group. We managed to play indoor soccer almost every week and participated in a fun soccer tournament in Leipzig against other business schools and companies across Europe. Some colleagues trained several months, starting in spring time, for a rowing contest in Cologne that took place in July; they loaded a whole bus of MBA Mannheimers to cheer them up that day. Thirty of us, including the program management, participated in the Mannheim marathon, which takes place every year. Going out for a beer with your best buddies fortunately did not require any planning nor training.
How difficult is to find a job in Germany without speaking German?
I distinguish between finding a job and already having a job/working. Finding a job in Germany with absolutely no German skills is, of course, difficult. I would say that it is as difficult as it is in any other country where you do not speak the language. The good news is that finding a job in Germany with intermediate German skills is relatively easy if you meet the background and experience requirements (and of course you are genuinely motivated to continue improving). Once a German company offers you a job, chances are good that you will stay in that company - if you want to. Working in Germany, however, is easier compared to other countries, because German companies are very open, very international and they all pretty much speak English. Still, speaking German is a must. I took advantage of the German courses offered for free by MBS and attended two different levels for 9 months. This required some energy, but in the end, you do not only have an MBA degree, but also German skills. Take it seriously!
Why do you do an MBA?
"To learn" you may say. Good! To learn, not to be taught. Although the lecture standards are pretty high, the diversity at MBS in terms of nationalities, backgrounds and experience is huge and needs to be balanced. My advice: You are in the driver seat and should be responsible for your learning experience. The professors will teach you something, but the learning process itself takes place within you. Go the extra mile, deepen your knowledge, ask tons of questions, research for pure pleasure even if something is not part of the exam but simply interests you personally. Start sending out CVs soon enough (March-April). I have been there and it takes time; an MBA is not the Master of the Universe. Be disciplined when it comes to learning German, this will be the the factor of differentiation. Discipline weighs ounces, regrets weigh tons. Be aware that Germans are very respectful and will switch to English for you at any time, but this does not help you. Broaden your horizon!