Reaching the goal with lots of coffee, humor and focus: Digital MBA successfully completed as Presidium scholarship holder

The original version of the following interview was published in German in the second issue of this year's GoetheSpektrum, the employee magazine of Goethe University, Frankfurt.

Eva-Christina Mohr is a senior auditor at Goethe University who normally checks work processes for correctness, regularity, expediency and efficiency. In 2019, she was given the opportunity to complete the part-time Master of Digital Transformation Management (MBA) at Goethe Business School as the second scholarship holder of the Executive Board. In the following interview, Eva-Christina shares how the master's program benefited her job and what she took away from the time.

 

GoetheSpektrum: Ms. Mohr, the MBA aims to impart leadership skills for the age of digitalization. What impulses would you like to set personally?

Eva-Christina Mohr: From my point of view, companies today need leadership more than ever. For me personally, this means in particular giving responsibility to employees - so that they have the freedom to develop and the opportunity to contribute new ideas. As a person, but also as an internal auditor, it is important to me to be involved and integrated in decisions. In the audit reviews, I try to have a developmental approach. I am interested in implementing this cooperative management style, whether it is as a coordinating auditor or as a contact person for the audited areas. To this end, I listen to different perspectives on processes - gladly also in open discourse - and I am interested in finding solutions that are designed sensibly and really include all those involved.

Are there any lessons you can pass on from the time during the MBA program?

One lesson is definitely this: "Learn as much as you can from the people around you. You'll be surprised at the knowledge and experience others have to offer." The students in the MBA all came from different industries, some had studied medicine or law, worked for consulting companies or in the pharmaceutical sector, and came from the USA, India or China. It was precisely this diverse mix that provided a good platform for a lively exchange of ideas.

The lectures were great for constructive discussions, and I learned an incredible amount from the know-how and experience of my fellow students - which is another reason why it was a unique study experience for me.

Another thing I learned was that there is a huge difference between management and leadership. Steve Jobs put it very aptly: "Management is about persuading people to do things they do not want to, while leadership is about inspiring people to do things they never thought they could."

How was the study program organized?

The program consists of four semesters: three semesters of lectures and exams; the fourth semester is for writing the thesis. The part- time format of the program is designed in such a way that you have lectures every other week on Fridays and Saturdays, so every other weekend is "free". In the evenings and on the weekends off, I wrote assignments or met with my team, on-site or online. And although I'm a fan of digitalization: There's nothing like personal contact. I also always found the lectures more interactive in person than via Zoom.

On what topic did you write your final paper?

The title of the thesis was "Young People's Study Aspirations in IT - A theoretical perspective". In principle, the aim was to analyze factors that influence young people's decision to study IT. Based on two prominent behavioral theories, the social cognitive theory and the theory of planned behavior, I developed a theoretical model that also captured gender differences. Using the model, I then examined which influencing factors, such as subjective norm - that is, the perceived social pressure to perform a behavior - play a role in this regard.

The Master of Digital Transformation Management is designed as a part-time course of study. How can career and MBA studies reconcile in reality?

It is always a challenge to complete a part- time MBA alongside a full-time job. Personally, I think that the support of the university, my supervisors and especially my family has been crucial for my success. I was given every other Friday off from work and could then concentrate fully on the lectures. But in all honesty, without the backing of my employer and my friends and family, I would have described it as a "mission impossible".

You graduated heavily pregnant or with a baby - how did you accept this challenge? And has your view of management broadened again as a result?

You have to be an organizational talent to combine studies, job, child, household and in my case also managing a house construction at the same time. Especially at times when my daughter slept particularly badly at night, I got up in the morning and sometimes didn't know how I was going to survive that day. There were times when I barely slept a wink myself because I was busy half the night rocking the baby back to sleep. Many parents of small babies probably know this feeling of complete exhaustion. A lot of coffee helped me during this time, a very large portion of humor, and I never lost sight of my goal.

In such times, you learn extremely well to work in a focused manner and to set priorities in parallel. At the same time, I learned to delegate tasks and to ask for help and support. I will hopefully be able to draw on this time and the experience gained for a long time to come.

Interview: Imke Folkerts