Her management career has flourished since then, and she is increasingly confident in taking on new business challenges. She told us honestly about the contents, the difficulties and the benefits of the Executive MBA programme.
Why did you decide to do an MBA?
I have a law degree from ELTE University, but I am a career changer and I have never regretted my decision. After graduating from university, I was awarded an HAESF overseas scholarship, and, on my return from America, I immediately decided that I did not want to go back to the legal profession. I was more interested in business topics. I switched for sales, and all the time I felt that there was a gap in my knowledge. I didn’t learn comprehensive economic, financial or business management skills at the university, so I missed them. I started to lead small and large sales teams relatively early on, and I felt that in order to set an example, to build and lead teams and develop strategy, I needed this comprehensive knowledge.
Why did you choose the Corvinus?
I did some serious research before deciding which programme to choose. I was working in Hungary at that time, my base will always be here, and I didn’t want to leave the country completely, so I was looking for a programme that is conducted in English at a Hungarian university. The offer by Corvinus was very strong at that time, too. I knew that I would have to write a thesis, so I would really need to do a lot of research, and I liked the fact that the admission procedure was very rigorous. However, the most important point for me was that we received a dual, Hungarian-Dutch degree at the end of the course. The programme is run jointly with the Maastricht University, which, I think, has resulted in offering absolutely marketable knowledge that is competitive at European level, too.
What did this programme mean to you from a career point of view?
Doing the MBA opened a lot of doors. I was actually in my fourth semester when I was contacted by Amazon through LinkedIn. They were looking for someone with the profile I have for their nearest office, i.e. to Bratislava. They needed someone who had recently obtained an MBA degree, or was about to get it in the near future, and had a background in sales and international account management. Obviously, it was very difficult to get the position, because the admission procedure consisted of multiple rounds, but they really wanted to know what they could use from my MBA knowledge, what experience I had gained there, what subjects I had, and how that knowledge could be linked to Amazon’s strategy. As soon as I finished the programme, I had Amazon’s offer in my hand, and I knew I would be moving. One of the biggest professional challenges of my life was to build an account management team there from scratch and hand it over to the young and talented Slovakian staff I had already trained.
What has the Dutch university added to the programme?
We were to have classes in Maastricht, but, unfortunately, they were cancelled for our cohort, due to the Covid. We had two intensive, ‘Summer Camp’ type weeks with the Dutch lecturers, which we would have otherwise attended in person there, but it was all conducted online. Some of the lecturers in the programme came from Corvinus, others from the Dutch university. Actually, I think they were trying to strike a certain balance. In practical terms, this meant that we had to take online exams and defend our thesis in front of two forums, meeting the requirements of two universities. The requirements were similar in many ways, but there were some differences – that was the biggest challenge for me.
How well have you been able to combine your studies with work?
I was able to manage both studying and work, but I’m not going to lie: it is very difficult. In those two years, I actually spent every weekend studying. Many of us sacrificed our holiday entitlements so that we could always attend the lessons from Thursday to Sunday or from Friday to Sunday, without being absent. This is obviously related to the fact that we acquired really deep and thorough knowledge in the end. We had a lot of papers to be submitted and plenty of homework. I remember when we were studying economics and statistics, I was able to finish my calculation assignments after working time or on free weekends only. During these two years, my entire professional focus was on the MBA and on making the most of the programme. So far, when someone asked me about it, I have never made a secret of it – it takes a very firm decision to go for it.
In the end, was it worth investing all the work and time in it?
For me it was, because now I can say that I have international knowledge, owing to this team of lecturers. After the programme, I have never felt, neither at Amazon, nor now, working for another American company, that I would not be up to the mark. I was still working for Amazon when I was approached by Formlabs – a market-leading 3D printing technology company – to come back home to Budapest, and I’ve been direct sales manager for the entire European, Middle Eastern and African markets ever since. The things I learned have been parts of my daily work for years. I feel I have the background knowledge to do my job. The programme gives you a foundation that you can build on, obviously depending on your field of expertise. It helped me a lot in business development and international strategy making, for example in the development of key account structures. I am very grateful for this programme because I can take on more and more responsibility with confidence. In my current job, I now have control over a bigger budget and I also manage an even bigger team than I had before at Amazon.
Are there people you keep in touch with from your class? Has a community been built?
I keep in touch with a lot of people, mainly online. The networking part of the programme was very good, even though we actually spent a year and a half online, and only the first semester was conducted in person. A very interesting aspect is that there were about forty of us in this class, but only six women including myself. To this day, a few of us still talk quite often, helping each other with advice and discussing professional issues. This is a particularly important topic for me because I wrote my thesis on the professional situation of young women. My thesis examined how girls aged 12-18 are educated in Hungary, and how they could be developed and supported so that they could study with the same confidence as men and dare to apply for a job or choose a career they can do well. I don’t mean only that there are fewer women in science programmes, but that there are fewer women in management as a whole. During the programme, it was also important for me to meet female executives who served as role models for me. These were not only Hungarian executives, there were participants from Croatia, Slovakia and other countries, too. We were able to build a small network in Central and Eastern Europe.
You mentioned role models. Does the training include a mentoring system?
Yes, and we had several classes where we considered potential coaching aspects and the lecturers offered to connect us with business people. For example, we were delighted when the Managing Director of Wizz Air, József Váradi, was invited to one of the classes. We spent an hour and a half talking to him about all sorts of issues. One of the highlights of the programme was that they tried to invite the current players of the business scene, and we could ask them questions. We were also given a mentor to ensure that we received the right guidance. I was able to discuss my current workplace issues with my mentor at the time, and we also focused on where I would like to go next, what my long-term plans were and what I needed to improve on.
Were they trying to build or develop a kind of executive role?
Yes, and there was a lot of role play, where we acted out different situations. For example, we discussed how to behave if someone reporting to me is not performing well, how to give them clear, immediate feedback in the performance assessment, and what future goals should be set for them. It was important to understand how we ourselves could become mentors and lead by example as executives. For me, all the knowledge related to people management was very useful in the programme. In addition to economics, we learned how to be good executives who communicate clearly and effectively with people.
written by: Tünde Taxner