Retrospect: Two Years Later

When choosing an MBA, there are several factors that you have to take into consideration. Does the programme fit into my personal and career development plan? Can I afford the programme? What are the pros and cons to doing this MBA versus the other? And the list goes on. Every current and past student has had to make their list of why to choose St.Gallen and it was no different for Toronto-native, James Kurz, Full-time MBA alumnus class of 2011.


James started his education with a Bachelor in a dual degree in Economics and Commerce at the University of Toronto. Post-graduation, he worked briefly in the banking industry then shifted into medical technology. Within the medtech field, he executed consulting and market research projects covering various global market segments and technologies for a leading medtech business research firm.


After gaining several years of professional experience, he decided it was time to pursue his MBA. Deciding on where to study is not to be taken lightly and there are countless factors to take into account; James chose the St.Gallen MBA for the following reasons:


1. As a stepping stone to international work experience


2. To change industry: ideally he wanted to pursue a career in clean energy or sustainability and St.Gallen had great professors and offered courses on sustainability, something many MBAs did not offer


3. Studying in the German-speaking part of Europe was also a bonus as he has some German heritage and had previously studied basic German in Toronto


What are your lasting impressions and memories from your time at the MBA?


I had a great time in St.Gallen. I had the privilege to build strong friendships with incredible people from around the world. The class in general was full of accomplished, interesting and smart individuals, many of whom made a lasting impression on me. St.Gallen is a small town and sometimes there is not much to do, but with a great group of people, it is easy to have a fun time.


I was also very much impressed by the quality of the instructors. Most were highly accomplished professors who also had significant non-academic business experience. The small class size made it easier to directly interact with and learn from professors. As for some specific memories:


- A group of us organised weekly basketball
- A great sledding trip in the mountains graciously organized by two Swiss colleagues

- Travelling to Denmark with 3 other students to develop a case study with a large wind power company. During the trip we were given access to top level people in the company and the resulting case study was used in a future class.


What happened after graduation?


Post MBA life, especially for non-European people, can be difficult with regard to job hunting. After several months of searching (and burning money!), I decided to return to Canada and continue my search there. A couple of weeks before my flight, however, I got a call from a Berlin-based company I had applied to earlier. The position I initially applied for wasn't the right fit, but I had followed up with a call discussing my application and they remembered me when a more appropriate position came open. I did a telephone interview with them, then - two days before my flight - a second interview in Berlin and a week later (in Canada) got an offer from them. That should be a big lesson learned for any MBA grad: always follow up after any application.


What do you currently do?


For a little over a year now, I have worked as a consultant for Apricum, based in Berlin. We are a strategy consultancy (offering many similar services to, e.g., BCG or McKinsey) with a sole focus on renewable energy. Examples of the types of projects we do are building market entry strategies, developing technology commercialization strategies, merger and acquisition advisory and more.


How did the MBA help with your career?


The MBA helped me secure my current position because of the following:


- The HSG brand helped with my application
- It is a well-known university in the German speaking region
- I learned a lot from the classes, specifically the renewable energy and sustainability ones
- The many renewable energy-related opportunities that St.Gallen had to offer (e.g., internships, clubs, extra credit assignments) allowed me to demonstrate my industry interest


Any last remarks?


I'm happy to say that, even though it was a wild roller-coaster ride, it mostly went according to plan. I wanted to work in Europe and change industry by working in the energy field. In the end, it was a great outcome, although it came close to not happening. An MBA is a big investment of time and money; make sure to look at the risks and rewards of such an investment carefully and be sure to have a fallback option. Another key thing to point out is, although Career Services at St.Gallen are friendly, qualified and dedicated, there is only so much that they can do for you; they give you the tools with the instruction manual and we have to make the effort to read the manual and use the tools.

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