Women in the Executive MBA: In Conversation With Archita Fritz

Archita Fritz graduated the Executive MBA Program at Kellogg-WHU in October 2018. During the course of the program, she was pregnant and gave birth to her second child. Earlier this year, we spoke to Archita about her motivation to start the program, her international career, how she balances family and study, and the benefit of having more women in EMBA programs.

“Developing a story, educating, engaging, and empowering people – I love it.”

I’ve been with Stryker, a medical device company, for 15 years. A few years after graduation, aged 24, I moved to Quebec to lead the quality efforts of our hospital beds and mattresses division. It wasn’t until I moved back to Michigan, that I got into marketing. One of the VPs had seen me give a presentation and said, “if you ever need a job in marketing, give me a call”, and that’s exactly what I did - I didn’t even have an interview. It was crazy but I appreciated that he trusted me enough to give me a chance.

Five years ago, I was given the opportunity to grow our European, Middle Eastern, and African business. From the whole of Europe, we chose to live in Germany because my husband is third generation German. We’ve built our family here and love living here.

“I learned quickly that it helps to listen, learn, and then lead.”

Moving from the US to Quebec was a big culture change. The move happened quickly and overnight I was expected to give a 20-minute presentation every week in French, a language I knew nothing about. Aged 24, I was tasked with overhauling the quality systems in the entire plant in preparation for an FDA audit. I spent a lot of time on the assembly line speaking with team managers, and they saw the efforts I put into developing relationships. Together we came up with ideas and how to implement them.

My current job takes me all over Europe and the Middle East, but I truly live in Germany. The move to Canada happened more or less overnight and I did a lot of cultural learning on the job. When I moved to Germany I was moving a husband and a family, so I did a lot of research to know what that transition would look like. Compared to the US, the culture is quite different – from the friends you make, to the social relationships in and out of work, and the engagement with the language and in the community. Over here my whole community is based outside of work, whereas in the US my entire community of friends were all from within Stryker.

“During the 60 minutes I spent reading and analyzing the article, I realized I wanted the academic rigor back in my life.”

I’ve wanted to do an MBA since graduating in 2006, but it was important for me to gain real business experience first. All of a sudden, 10 years had passed since my undergraduate degree.

I started researching programs when we first moved to Germany, and then I fell pregnant with my first child so it took a backseat again. Shifting my focus away from work was a challenge, so I asked my family to set me a task to put me out of my comfort zone academically. My sister asked me to read an article and discuss it with her. Initially I thought it was the most ridiculous task, but it was in fact my trigger point to pursue education again.  

Two months after the birth of my first child I was commuting to work and saw an advert for Kellogg. I’d always wanted to go to Northwestern, it’s one of the best marketing schools out there. After seeing the advert, I did some research and was astounded to see I can get that education right here.

“The power of the Kellogg-WHU network will be exponential as I look to the following months and years after graduation.”

My goals for the program were to have discussions about business in the real world, to talk to my peers about what has been successful, what hasn’t, and how we can take those learnings back. Studying at Kellogg-WHU has been a great experience and so much of that has been down to the diversity of my classmates.

The collaborative support and engagement of the global network has been phenomenal throughout, even just on Whatsapp. I can send a message saying “Hey, I’m working on this at the moment, any thoughts?” and the immediate feedback is unbelievable. I’ve also been in touch with a few folks from the global network on a 1-1 level because we’ve had conversations about workplace challenges and can bounce ideas around.

“While studying on maternity leave, I’m seeing ideas I’ve never had the space for before.”

I’m currently on maternity leave - my second child was born eight weeks ago, right on time like a true EMBA baby!

It is hard of course – I miss my kids and the older they get, the more they understand. So, I compartmentalize. I come here and focus, and then I go home and focus 100% on my children. You find a way to make it work for your family. My parents came from India for three months because that was what my family needed. For women who choose not to do the program when they have kids, that’s okay too – you have to do whatever ensures you’re 100% for your baby, and for me that’s doing this program.

Studying during maternity leave requires discipline for sure – every Saturday and Sunday I have to lock myself away for a few hours to read, study, and prepare. If you’re working full time and don’t have a family, then those four hours are necessary too.

“Ten years ago, I didn’t imagine I could be married, have children, and do an EMBA.”

It would be so beneficial to have more women in EMBA programs. During project work and presentations, you can really feel the difference. The men on the program feel the same way too. Having more women helps challenge them and their perspectives on leadership, for example. Whether we realize it or not, women do lead differently.

“Own your own career because no one else will run it for you.”