Female Leadership

Cristina Capelli and the Kellogg-WHU EMBA

How inclusion and diversity create impactful leaders

For Cristina Capelli, her passion lies in numbers which has led her to a successful career in finance. You may be forgiven for thinking that a love for numbers has always been a focus in her career. However, her path to general finance was more of a coincidence. “I originally wanted to train to be an artist in Milan. Instead, I passed my admission exam at Bocconi in business administration, and I went on to study for a master’s degree in finance, accounting, and controlling. For me, I put passion into everything I put my mind to, and I became passionate about finance, and everything related to it.”

While art remains her hobby, she describes finance as painting a clear picture of a company’s past, present, and future. “Finance is a language – the numbers speak to you. There is a lot to learn from them if you look closely and can understand them.”

“My development is something I can control; it depends on me and my commitment to it.”

As a senior manager with a corporate role in Germany, Italian-born Cristina realized that she had reached a roadblock and was ready to develop beyond her current skillset. She felt that she needed new insights into other business areas such as strategy or innovation to progress as a leader. After researching further education and an Executive MBA, her decision to join Kellogg-WHU was relatively quick. 

“I consulted with some senior leaders about what I felt I was missing and came across the idea of an MBA. My first email to the admissions team was in late June, and I officially joined the program in July. It happened fast, but it was the right decision for me.” Having experienced an international environment throughout her professional career, such diversity in the Executive MBA was also crucial for Cristina.

“Kellogg-WHU is the perfect combination of international and German networking. I want to remain in Germany with my family but also expand my global network. I like to be challenged by different perspectives, and I think the best results come from those in diverse teams. I am very pleased to see such diversity represented in our EMBA class. The program is the perfect solution for my needs. I have a broader picture and see development already after only two modules, and there is still so much to learn.”

“For me, the people and an inclusive culture in a team and organization are fundamental.”

For Cristina, inclusion and diversity as a leader and in business are essential. Diverse opinions, ideas, backgrounds, and perspectives can ultimately improve team output. “Our market and customers are global, so it makes sense for us to be as diverse as they are both from a team perspective and as an organization. Everyone can develop and learn from each other. And that is what is most important to me: that everyone feels included and valued. Everyone should be able to work in an environment that gives them the freedom to be their best.”

Unsurprisingly, it is the trust and respect she places in people that underpins her leadership philosophy. While she shares that this is part of her core values, she also had role models in her professional life that helped her shape these along the way. “Mentorship is important to me as a leader – I have had a few in my career, and three of them were women. One of them supported my decision to move abroad with my family and three small children; she convinced me that I could manage it. She gave me the confidence to meet that challenge, and now my children speak at least three languages, and I want to continue the international journey. Such support and mentorship from your leader can be powerful.”

How does Cristina sum up her experience so far at Kellogg-WHU? “This was the best professional decision I ever made. The learnings are huge, and they happen quickly. You meet so many people from different professional backgrounds, and you find yourself part of an international family. But you also start to think beyond the box, more strategically and innovatively. The EMBA is a wonderful journey that transforms you as a leader and allows your talents and network to flourish. I know that at the end of the EMBA my journey will continue with the rest of my cohort.”