Kay-Oliver came to Chicago Booth to add a strategic layer to his already strong set of functional career experiences.
One of the reasons I chose to pursue my MBA at Chicago Booth was because I wanted to add a strong strategic layer to the very much functional career path I had followed prior to joining the program. The academic rigor and quality of the faculty and class were a real draw. It’s a strongly research-based program, which means you get state-of-the art frameworks from the experts who’ve developed them. It’s not secondhand learning, which was really important for me. The fact that you’re also engaging with very experienced executives in the classroom really produces a thoroughly challenging and freethinking environment.
Coming from Germany, where many universities tend to have very theoretic lectures, Booth was a real departure. The program strongly draws on interaction and enables you to engage in dialogue with your professors and classmates, which challenges you to come up with your own ideas, and to develop good arguments to support them. That was definitely something that set the school apart, in my opinion.
Another important aspect of the program was its focus on self-reflection. I believe that a lot of leadership comes down to managing your own energy first, before you’re able to manage the energy in others. And the way that Chicago Booth facilitates that concept is by encouraging you to reflect on your personality and experiences and what it means to be an effective leader. You start to think differently about the actions you’ve taken previously as a leader, which can inform you about how you should aspire to lead in the future. It allows you to consciously develop your own leadership style and apply it within your own position.
There’s a commitment to continuous learning in life and a major part of that is having the ability to question the current state of things—including yourself. Questioning current ideas and theories and engaging in fruitful debate to give yourself the confidence to go on to great things in your later business life. Business is getting increasingly global, and it’s extremely important to understand the dynamics of our global economy. You’re exposed to that firsthand at Booth. The high level of engagement helps you understand how business is conducted in other countries and makes you more sensitive to their approaches and habits. It really helps you to see so many different perspectives and challenge some of the assumptions you’ve had throughout your own career.
Booth definitely helps you to reframe the things you’ve done previously in your career. You learn to think more strategically about your experience and your company’s current actions and plans. And that in turn helps you to make better and more informed decisions about your future path. That was a major factor in my ability to join GE right out of school, in a leadership role.
Now, at GE, I’m building my own team and I’m using many of the frameworks I learned at Chicago Booth. The program really helps you to make better decisions in terms of who to recruit for which position, which tasks to delegate to whom, and how to build your organization across different countries and even continents.