Female Leadership

Women of the Executive MBA: Chiara Pietrarota

On stepping out of the comfort zone and balancing an EMBA with family life

“After a few years in my current role, I was confident and comfortable, but I was ready to be challenged. When you work within one industry like mine, you tend to only meet people from within the industry or other financial institutions. I wanted to meet people with different opinions and ideas, to challenge the way I think and improve my leadership skills.”

Chiara Pietrarota is Credit Manager for Europe Arab Bank plc and has worked for the company for over 12 years. Like many EMBA students, Chiara joined the Kellogg-WHU Executive MBA looking for new insights and perspectives, ready to shake up her current modus operandi. Inspired by the recent graduation of her husband from the Kellogg-Recanati program based in Tel Aviv, she saw him develop throughout the program and decided she was also ready to start her own transformational journey. “I chose WHU for many reasons, one being its links to entrepreneurship. I am attracted to the process of entrepreneurial thinking, and FinTech is a growing industry in Germany. Of course, the name, reputation, and strong rankings of the school were also a factor. But I studied in Germany before and spent my Erasmus here – at one point, my German was better than my English!”

“Women often hold back from professional development. Just because we have children, we shouldn’t stop ourselves from taking these opportunities.”

Balancing an EMBA with professional and personal life can be an intense experience, demanding a lot of organization and time management. However, add the experience of becoming a new parent as you start the program, and the experience is intensified. “It really is an exercise of management and logistics,” reflects Chiara. “It can be tough, of course, studying and organizing your life with a new baby, but it’s doable. Having a support system helps a lot. It allows me to be 100% present in class aside from breaks when I need to breastfeed. But honestly, it works. Studying is challenging anyway, especially when you have been working for so long.”

The challenge, however, was something that Chiara welcomed. To have new stimulus and discussions with people from different cultures and industries. “The group work has been one of the most amazing experiences in the EMBA. We are all very different in background and character, but there is a lot of mutual respect between us.”

“A strong network is essential to me, which I found in the EMBA.”

Chiara also volunteers as Vice President for the Professional Women’s Network (PWN) based in Milan, an association with over 30 chapters worldwide. The association supports women in their professional growth., tackling issues such as gender imbalance in industries such as finance or in STEM. “I enjoy being part of the board, helping to set the strategy, and working on new ways to support our members more effectively. I get to put the leadership and strategy skills I learn in the EMBA into practice. I feel it helps when there are more female role models for women as they progress in their careers. I wanted to contribute in this way to those in the early stages of their careers. 

For anyone considering studying an EMBA – be brave and take the step. You need to step out of your comfort zone to do something different. Experience a new environment, be challenged by new ideas and people. Much like having a child, there is never a right time. You just have to go for it.”