The Part-time MBA as a Career Boost
Changing Careers from Engineering to Consulting with a part-time MBA
This interview was first published in 2018.
After a career as an engineer at RWE, Robert Riesebieter decided to do a part-time MBA at HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management. With his broader professional profile and new international experience, Robert is now taking a new professional direction at McKinsey.
“I went through a complete change of perspective.”
Robert, you have a master’s degree in energy engineering and worked for several years at the energy supply company RWE. What made you decide to do a part-time MBA degree in 2016?
That was a long process. In 2014, I started to look at the alternatives of doctoral studies versus MBA more intensely– deciding between a specialization or a broader positioning. For example, I visited the e-fellows MBA fair in Frankfurt and attended a few HHL event. It soon became clear to me that it should be an MBA course.
I was impressed by HHL’s part-time program, its good reputation and the campus in Cologne. Furthermore, HHL’s part-time MBA program offered the opportunity to study abroad at one of the 130 Partner universities. That was the compelling argument for me.
What did you particularly like about studying for an MBA at HHL?
The good reputation and solid training. I also liked the supportive atmosphere and the friendly interaction with one another. One event was definitely a key experience for me: I visited an HHL talk in Cologne with Sven Afhüppe from Handelsblatt, Prof. Hermann Simon from Simon Kucher & Partners and the former HHL dean Prof. Andreas Pinkwart.
The event was professionally organized and the concentrated knowledge on stage was impressive. It felt authentic, down-to-earth and I had the feeling of being on the same wavelength with the other guests of the event – all this together strengthened my decision.
You studied at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business until recently. What made you want to study in the US?
I have been abroad often during my previous studies and also at the beginning of my career, but never for a long time in the USA. Because America is the home of the MBA and this degree has a different standing there than in Europe, I wanted to do the optional study abroad term at a renowned American business school.
When I was nominated for the term abroad by HHL last year, I was very happy–- and not disappointed: My stay in Chicago was fantastic. Besides the great city I enjoyed the attended lectures very much and met many interesting people. It is a great opportunity to strengthen the international component of the MBA and to get to know a different perspective.
Robert studied the part-time MBA program at HHL’s campus in Cologne. Throughout his studies he worked as an engineer at RWE AG in the position of Manager Central Staff Department.
Today Robert is Senior Associate at McKinsey & Company based in Cologne, Germany. He advises clients in the energy and power sector with a focus on operations and strategy. His areas of expertise include capital projects, operations & maintenance and manufacturing.
To what extent does the MBA benefit your career?
My fellow students and I realized early on that there are three levels at which we learn in MBA studies: First, the contents of the lectures. Secondly, the experiences of fellow students, which we share in the discussion. And third, that you learn a lot about yourself. By constantly pushing yourself as close as possible to your performance limits, you learn a lot about how you deal with stress and how to set the right priorities.
Especially as an engineer, I noticed how I went through a complete change of perspective during my MBA studies and now approach problems in a completely different way. As an engineer you often strive for a technical solution, but in the MBA you learn that there are many ambiguities and different ways to solve a problem.
How did the HHL Alumni Network help you during your MBA?
It was an HHL alumni who approached me about McKinsey in April 2016. The Alumni Chapter NRW had organized an event at the management consultancy in Düsseldorf and there I talked to an HHL alumnus who works at McKinsey. I told him a little bit about my professional profile and he said that they were looking for people like me. He offered to connect me directly to one of the partners. I let the thought sink in for a few months, but he really didn’t let me go anymore.
Six months later, I contacted the partner at McKinsey, sent him my CV and started the regular recruiting process. The MBA helped me a lot to work on the business cases, to which an engineer does not necessarily have access.
You offer a preparation seminar for the Entry Test in Cologne for those interested in studying at HHL: What message do you want to give the participants?
I gave this preparation seminar last year and it was a lot of fun. It’s cool to get in touch with the candidates, to give my perspective and to be available as a contact person. Most of those attending this preparatory seminar no longer need to be convinced of the Part-time MBA or M.Sc., which is why I would like to give them some tips for their studies: Stay on the ball right from the start.
HHL offers a great platform for acquiring a great deal of knowledge on a broad basis, in a supportive atmosphere and allows you to take on different perspectives – this opportunity should be used to its full potential!