Women in the Executive MBA: In Conversation With Judith Hoffmann

Judith Hoffmann started the Executive MBA Program at Kellogg-WHU in September 2016. At the start of her second year of the program, in November 2017, Judith and her husband welcomed twins. For Judith, using her maternity leave was the best time to study an EMBA – both professionally and personally. Six months before she graduated in October 2018, Judith spoke to us about her motivations behind pursuing an EMBA, her aims for the program, and what she’s taken from the classroom back into the workplace.

“I work for Samsung in the B2B space.”

This means I am responsible for part of the B2B sales of mobile phones and all the mobility products to professional customers, specifically the open market. My focus is the German market – we have a small team that takes care of customers in this area.

“I studied marketing and media but always wanted to gain some hardcore economic knowledge.”

I didn’t study economics and have often considered full- and part-time MBA programs as a way to gain this knowledge. At the end of my studies, before I started working, I took a long-distance learning course and have since taken other short courses but my motivation hasn’t really been there. I’m at a point now where I have some time, I have some money and I really would like to do this and accelerate my career. So, I looked around and decided I had to be all in – I need to invest this money, commit, and just do it.

“I wanted a program that was flexible and in the top 30.”

It was clear to me that if I do an EMBA then it should be at a leading school. So, I looked at the rankings and put together a list of what I could afford and a list of places I could get to. It had to be a program that was flexible to match my work schedule. In the end I had a shortlist of four schools – I talked to four, applied to two and in the end chose Kellogg-WHU.

“My whole career has been based in Europe and I wanted to learn more about the market in the US.”

There were two deciding factors that led to my decision to choose Kellogg-WHU. The first was that the program is based on campus. I didn’t want to go to a fancy location for a few days and do the rest of my learning online, I wanted to actually spend time with people. The second was that I wanted a program with a focus on global markets to supplement my career experience so far, which has focused on Europe.

“My aims were to meet interesting individuals and learn the fundamentals of business – I’ve already achieved both.”

My intention was to meet likeminded individuals who challenged me, challenged my thinking, and who would provide me with different perspectives. I achieved this from day one. As someone with professional experience but without an economic or business background, I view an EMBA as a way to learn the basics to take the next step professionally. So far, I’ve enjoyed the courses covering the fundamentals. I’ve never done finance in my life but discovered I enjoy it a lot. Business strategies was also a great course, as well as ‘Decision Making under Uncertainty’ – the latter was tough and although not my best result, it was enjoyable. It’s fun to drill down into the numbers.

“I’m amazed by the gap between what we discuss in theory and what we actually find in the workplace.”

I’ve definitely taken away the wish and determination to become a better manager and use what I’ve learned, especially the organization of people, ethics, and leadership. My plans going forward are to focus on myself to be the best manager I can be, and then to also try and look more into numbers. I’m not always the deciding person, but I think improvements become visible when the numbers make sense.

“I was pregnant in the second half of the first year and had twins in mid-November 2017.”

I’m using my maternity leave to study and am then going back to work in April. Despite looking forward to going back to work, I’m also sad to leave the children with my husband. Ideally, I’d like to spend another couple of months with them, but I also think it will be good to be back in the workplace. As the twins are so young, my husband comes with me to Vallendar and takes care of the children during the day and then we reunite as a family in the evening.

Marry wisely and you can make it work! In all seriousness, it takes both a husband and a wife to support each other on the right path. For us, as women in the workplace, the secret of future equality is for men to take on their fair share. Women need to accept this as well as men, and then I think we would be further ahead in achieving equality.