Category: IMBA Graduate Profiles
Energized About Energy
As a student in her home country of Germany, Kira Sargatzke (IMBA’12) wasn’t sure whether her undergraduate education would translate as a recognizable degree on a worldwide level.
After graduating from high school, she went to college while simultaneously working at international chemical company BASF. BASF sponsored her education while she was in school, and after graduating she stayed at the organization for two and a half years.
“When I graduated from my first study it was clear to me that I wanted to get another degree,” she said. “I wanted something internationally known and regarded because in Germany, I graduated with what’s called an English diploma degree in international business administration. It’s in between a bachelor’s and a master’s. Other countries don’t really know what it is, so that was the reason I wanted to get my MBA.”
During her first years at BASF, she rotated through several different departments, getting to know the ins and outs of the overall company. During her postgraduate years as a full-time employee, Sargatzke focused on the strategic planning department—where she was responsible for the monitoring of different business unit strategies, industrial strategies, and regional strategies. But despite the advanced knowledge and experience she obtained throughout that time, she felt going outside her country and company to learn in a different classroom environment would be extremely beneficial.
With her previous education and work experience, she wasn’t interested in a two-year MBA program. In Boston University’s International MBA program, students spend three months in China before coming to Boston to finish their degree in just 12 months. A lover of travel, Sargatzke felt BU was a perfect fit.
Despite heading into the situation with a bit of wariness about living in China, Sargatzke figured three months was the perfect amount of time to feel it out and get acquainted with her surroundings.
“We worked on an integrated project while we were [in China],” she said. So we had to investigate a few businesses there, and just seeing the similarities and differences between those companies and those in the western world was really interesting.”
After she graduates in May, Sargatzke wants to utilize the skills she learned in the IMBA program in a scaled-down work setting. She’s already spent time at a large corporation and feels she wants to apply the concepts she’s learned to a smaller company, where it would be easier to showcase her ability.
Her main goal, however, is to be challenged, and the field she feels could satisfy this need the most is energy.
“I’d like to work in a growing industry where companies are facing changing market requirements and new challenges in a very fast-paced environment,” Sargatzke said. “With renewable, alternate sources of energy, the possibility of creating sustainable solutions for the future is a strong personal focus. But in my old job, I was exposed to the more traditional industry of oil and gas energy, so I’m interested in that, too.”
Sargatzke has already taken several courses in strategy, such as corporate strategy for growth and strategy implementation, that have given her a highly positive outlook on her prospective career. Those classes, coupled with the different learning environment, has made the IMBA experience one she has no regrets about taking part in.
“What’s impressed me the most about this program is the collaboration and communication between professors and students,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s a cultural difference, but all of the professors here have been so approachable, and I’m learning a lot from both them and my classmates.”
By Michael Pina
Redesigning a Design Career
After graduating from England’s Teesside University in the mid-1990s, Phil Duffy (IMBA’12) figured he had two options he could pursue with his undergraduate degree in industrial design.
“With industrial design, half the school wants to go and design cars, and the other half wants to design things for the film industry,” he said. “I was the guy who wanted to design ships and rockets for movies, but in the UK the film industry is almost nonexistent.”
Knowing full well that getting a foot inside the entertainment industry’s door can be next to impossible, Duffy decided that as long as he was able to stretch his imagination and come up with new, fresh ideas on a regular basis, he’d be happy.
Instead of heading to work right away, Duffy, a longtime student of martial arts, decided to move to China and soak up as much of the nation’s culture as he could. He originally intended to spend about a year there, but stayed a total of 16 years.
“I worked three years for several no-name consumer goods companies as a design manager but then I landed a position at WowWee.” He stayed ten years at WowWee, a Hong Kong-based toy manufacturer, running product development for the company before deciding to start one of his own.
He named it Blue Monkey Toys. Duffy ran Blue Monkey for three years as a company that did a little consulting but also produced its own products.
“We made toys that would actually become creatures,” he said. “They could walk around the house, visualize where they were going, and avoid walls and stairs. They had personality.”
Despite having virtually no business education in his background, Duffy figured that his prior 13 years working at WowWee would see him through the difficulties that come with starting your own enterprise. But after three years, Blue Monkey Toys was forced to close.
“I made classic, big mistakes that you don’t make if you go and get your MBA first,” he said. “I didn’t have anybody working for me who specialized in finance or marketing. I had to play those roles and I didn’t know how.”
Feeling like he needed to reaffirm connections with the toy industry’s US market, Duffy decided to enroll in Boston University’s one-year International MBA program, where students spend three months in China followed by nine more in Boston. Here he’s learning how to prevent those same mistakes from happening in the future. He’s chosen marketing as his concentration, a decision he hopes will diversify his skill set once he reenters the field.
“Eventually I hope to get back to an entrepreneurial situation, should the opportunity come,” Duffy said. “But to start, I want to go back to design and look at it from a marketing point of view. Being at school has really helped me build up the marketing side and understand how a product can be a revenue-generating concept before it goes into development.”
The decision to return to school at the age of 41 was an easy one for Duffy. He knew he needed a challenge, and the intensity that comes with trying to receive an MBA in a single calendar year has provided more than enough intellectual stimulation.
“The international management side of things was all about an area I love,” he said. “And it directly relates to everything I did with my business.”
Once he receives his degree in May, Duffy plans to reenter the consumer product industry armed with the knowledge he’s absorbed in the past year. One of the most important classes he’s taken so far was Consumer Behavior, a course that deals with the psychology of consumers and their purchasing patterns. As a designer, that information is essential for Duffy.
“A lot of the time marketers will look at products and make decisions based on the numbers and the marketplace, but they’re not really looking forward,” he said. “When you have an 18-month timeline to come out with your product, you need to be forward thinking, and an understanding of design thinking allows you to do that.”
By Michael Pina
Alexis Lempereur, International MBA ’11.
Alexis Lempereur, International MBA ’11, talks about how an International MBA helped him transition from consulting to finance. By working in different cultural environment and working with current global issues, Lempereur explains how the International MBA program prepared him for real-world management issues.