Unlocking Success: A Journey Through EMBA-Global with Stefan Ritter

By Stefan Ritter, EMBAG 2023

How do you define success after completing a milestone? For EMBA Global alumnus Stefan Ritter, success came after two years of intensive commuting between Berlin, London and New York, countless hours of study, and balancing his daily job. But it was all worth it, as his career had a significant jump shortly after finalising his studies.

Stefan shares his story, accomplishments and learnings after completing the EMBA Global programme and how it helped shape his vision as a global leader.

Why did you think you needed a programme like EMBA-Global in your career at that point? What were your motivations and job roles back then?

Stefan: My unique background in both art and design in architecture as well as software engineering allowed me to succeed in my tech career. It allowed me to get promoted at SAP relatively quickly – from software engineer to VP of a business unit with $500m in ARR in just under seven years. As part of my role, I oversaw special projects for our executive board, including working with BCG on a significant strategic investment case that included M&A activity. Through this exposure, I realised I needed two things to move beyond my current career stage: firstly, a more thorough understanding of finance and economics; and secondly, a strong global network.

The EMBA Global was the perfect programme for me to help me with both goals. It is run by two B-schools renowned for their finance and investing curriculum and sits in the hearts of the global financial system. I walked away from the programme not just with a truly global network of brilliant people, but with new friends, whom I know will always be by my side.

What was that course/faculty/experience that exceeded your expectations?

Stefan: ‘Leadership and Organisational Change’ by Paul Ingram (CBS) – Truly understanding the science and empirical evidence behind good leadership, as well as learning proven techniques and tools that have been a game changer for my career. Additionally, Paul helped us understand our own values and life principles; without it, you lack the north star needed as a leader to make the hard decisions within an executive role.

‘Managing corporate turnarounds’ by Michael G. Jacobides (LBS) – Michael’s teaching was incredible; he made it an immersive experience and also had the strongest roster of high-profile guest speakers of any class. His class was the most practical, as it made us apply all the EMBA knowledge to turn a business around.

‘Capital Markets’ by Michaela Pagel (CBS) – As someone who never had a formal education in finance, Michaela’s class was eye-opening and made a step-change difference for me. I recommend her class to anyone who wishes to understand finance and capital markets better.

‘Behavioural Finance’ by Samuli Knüpfer (LBS) – Samuli changed the way I look at money from a professional, corporate, and personal perspective. His class was cutting-edge, often teaching content from studies that were just in the process of being finalised or had just been published that year.

What were the most important learnings and skills that you took from the programme and still apply to this day?

Stefan: Firstly, the global networking and finance skills which have been transformative for my professional and personal life. Secondly, I’d add the business mindset and crucial decision-making tools.

As an engineer, I learned how to design and work with complex systems that encapsulate high levels of abstraction. The programme made me develop a business mindset vital to succeeding as an executive, both for the macro and microeconomic environment. Much of it is intuitive, which is why many people are successful in business without formal training, but some topics require mathematical and empirical background to understand how to apply the tools.

As an executive, I take high-impact decisions every week, often under extreme uncertainty. During the programme, we were taught the tools to prepare for this scenario and exercised this type of decision-making in challenging classroom case studies. This allowed me to grow much quicker and become more confident in my new CPO role.

Have you used any of the career services and facilities throughout the course? Which ones would you recommend to EMBA Global students who wish to accelerate their careers?

I’ve used career centres, career fairs, intros to executive recruiters, and CV review services. I spent weeks working on my CV – I think bringing your CV up to standard is an absolute must. Also, we learned how to work with executive recruiters, how the industry functions, and who are the key players in each category. We also got relevant intros to our respective space, which gave me a head start when looking for my next role. At this career level, my future jobs will always come via executive recruiters and my network.

Could you share how your career has changed since graduating from the EMBA-Global programme and how you secured the new position as CPO at Immersive Labs?

Stefan: From my experience, it takes three things to be successful: hard work, having a strong north star, and being lucky – all these are achieved throughout or after completing the course.

Hard work seems obvious, but many people have the ambition but are not putting the necessary effort into the work. Doing a Global EMBA is not easy, as you must commute long distances for two years while still working full-time. You must learn how to prioritise and balance all professional and personal commitments. In return, the programme offers the mental resilience needed to be successful in high-stakes leadership positions.

A strong north star that is a compass for your decisions is vital for success. Having a goal and knowing why you put so much effort into it is very important. But changing your career is not a linear journey, so the other component of your compass is to reflect on your values, interests, and priorities. The programme helped me find my professional north star through exposure to various industries, executives, and leaders, as well as my diverse cohort.

Finally, there is luck, which is all about being at the right place at the right time. Attending higher education and building a broad network is about generating more opportunities and getting exclusive exposure to place you at the best time and place. A programme like this will give you more context and knowledge to make better and more informed bets on your future.

If only given three words, how would you describe you describe your experience within EMBA-Global?

Stefan: Challenging, Rewarding, All-encompassing.

Do you have any wisdom words for upcoming EMBA Global candidates?

Stefan: Be ready to push your intellectual, mental, social and physical limits – travelling in different time zones, learning from excellent faculty members, and meeting the most brilliant and diverse people worldwide. If you wish to enrol on the programme, my main advice would be to make sure you are at a stable point in your life (whether this is related to your finances, family, and/or friends), so you can go all in and make the most of it.

For more information regarding our EMBA-Global programme, click here.

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