My name is Vangelis Oikonomou, and I’m an Engineer by training, Pharma executive by profession and, of course, an iMBA graduate. When I finished my master’s degree and came back to Greece in 2006, I wanted something to bridge my engineering background with the corporate world; I decided to jump into Management Consulting to get a flavor of different industries, while pursuing my MBA part time. This would allow me, after two years, to have a holistic understanding of what it takes for the business wheel to roll – combining both a hands-on and an academic perspective.
It proved to be solid decision.
When I joined the iMBA career fair at the end of the second year, I was approached from Novartis, a significant player in the Pharma industry. At the time, I was failing to see how my skillset would prove valuable, or even relevant to what it takes to succeed in Pharma. But I was wrong. I was employed in 2009 from Novartis and today, 9 years later, I continue to grow within the organization, both in Greece and now in Switzerland, where our headquarters are. And Pharma business is ultimately not at all different from any other complex business; it’s still about people and collaboration.
It all boils down, I believe, with the combination of structured thinking, strategic and business acumen, a lot of common sense and also, critically, the understanding of the different functions in a complex, matrix organization: how each one operates, how to effectively communicate with everyone, which are their tools and metrics, and of course how to effectively work together in an influential and engaging way.
And I believe this is where the skillset acquired from my two years in MBA International kicks in – without even noticing it does: for two years, you get an overview of different topics, from accounting to operations, to human resources, to digital. Sure, 7-8 weeks are not enough to make you an expert. But, by design, that’s not the point! You cannot be a functional expert in 8 weeks. But you can set the grounds to be a leader. The point is to help you, as a future leader, understand the different elements so as to be able to effectively orchestrate and get the most out of any organization.
And what about the teamwork? Well this, crucially, is to help you understand how to motivate, engage and work effectively with diverse groups, people that do not necessarily think exactly like you do – but this is where the magic happens.
And, last but not least, the networking happens in so many levels. I have solid business acquaintances from our joint time in MBA International, people who are growing in the business world together with me. People I’ve also worked with since then, in the same or different companies. But ultimately, my best friends are now people I sat beside to during these two years, people whom I worked with during different modules.
Overall, joining this MBA was amongst my best decisions in life, and one whose benefits are so subtle, like everything you value in everyday life!