Challenge yourself. Develop your soft skills. Learn from your peers. UBC MBA alumnus Uli Schulze Südhoff offers his advice on how to make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The UBC MBA at the Sauder School of Business has been good for Uli, who graduated from the program in 2004. As Service Director Central Europe for GE Renewable Energy, he manages a team of more than 140 people at a company he considers to be a perfect fit for him in terms of its values, its entrepreneurial ethos and its support for the professional development ambitions of its employees.
But that wasn’t always the case. After the program, Uli found himself working for an organization whose culture and values did not align with his. He hadn’t appreciated how important these things are and how they can affect a person’s professional development. No matter how much he liked the job, the company fit was not right.
Defining your values
This experience, together with a return visit to Vancouver where he met several incoming UBC MBA students, prompted Uli to approach Sauder’s Hari B. Varshney Business Career Centre to offer his ideas about how to get the best value from the 16-month MBA experience.
“The MBA program is about so much more than academics,” he says. “It’s a chance to find yourself and develop your soft skills. Having the time to truly explore who you are and what you want from your career is so valuable. The program offers so many opportunities to do that. Don’t waste them.”
Uli says that the program may be the only time in your life that you get the chance to focus exclusively on your personal brand. He recommends students to use the time to orient themselves, build their stories and define the values that are important to them.
“Understand who you are and what you want out of life,” he says. “Explore the types of environment you want to work in and the kinds of organizations you admire. Learn what motivates you and what will bring you closer to your personal objectives. Try things out, experiment, use case studies to try roles out of your comfort zone, learn how different functions operate together, and where you want to fit in.”
Learning from peers
UBC MBA classes are typically comprised of 50 per cent international students. All of them have unique personal and professional experiences and come from an incredibly diverse range of backgrounds. This, according to Uli, is among the program’s greatest strengths.
“Use the time during the MBA to talk to your colleagues,” he says. “Take the opportunity to work with them on different projects. Learn about their past experience, their backgrounds, their reasons for taking the program and their career goals. Understanding where other people come from and where they are going will give you valuable insight into other functions and industries, helping you determine what may or may not work for you.”
Uli says you can reinforce all of this by taking advantage of the international opportunities that the program provides, including Global Immersion and the International Exchange Program. He himself did a summer internship with BC Hydro and went on exchange to ESADE Business School, where he got the chance to study and explore the business culture in one of Sauder’s 36 international partner schools.
Enhancing your abilities
The experience was all part of Uli’s determination to develop the so-called soft skills that can take you from getting an interview to getting a job. He says they are a critical part of any successful career.
“The MBA program offers you so much more than the hard skills you list on your resume,” says Uli. “Use this time and the training offered during your program to develop the personal attributes that enhance your individual interactions as well as your job performance– empathy, teamwork, communication, leadership, sociability, and relationship management.”
Uli’s last two recommendations for current and future students in the UBC MBA program are to make full use of Sauder’s 34,000-strong global alumni network and to fully leverage what is one of the most prestigious brands in business education.
“UBC is a global brand for academic depth, particularly in the areas of finance and economics. As a UBC MBA you are taught by some of the finest business faculty in the world. If you want to stand out for employers, sell that experience.”