2020 MBAs To Watch: Maximilian Noll, IE Business School

Maximilian Noll

IE Business School

Creative engineer and coder, experienced strategy consultant, passionate learner, caring friend.”

Hometown: Berlin, Germany

Fun fact about yourself: I knew how to fly planes before I knew how to drive cars.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Technical University of Munich, Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? McKinsey & Company, Senior Associate

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? No internship (1-year program)

Where will you be working after graduation? Undecided: In my own start-up which I want to develop during the MBA, or at McKinsey & Company as a Junior Engagement Manager, or in a tech company (e.g., in a product manager role)

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: IE Masters Scholarship; Active member of Entrepreneurship Club, and the Out & Allies Club (e.g., planning to organize a LGBTQ+ themed recruitment event with McKinsey in Spain)

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? The academic achievement I am most proud of did not materialize in a grade but in my confidence, thanks to how much I have learned about effective leadership from my professors and my peers. Together with my classmates, we have confronted various problems in case discussions and in workgroup projects – and together we found solutions. The class discussions I have had in the MBA have challenged my thinking and helped me learn more about effective leadership. One example comes from a class where we treated the motivation of employees and discussed the (real) case of a group of workers who were reorganized from a manual batch process to an assembly line yielding (in theory) a higher throughput of finished goods. Counterintuitively, productivity went down. When asked what to do next, I confidently opted for talking to the workers to identify the root cause of the problem. I also went along with the choice to give the workers almost everything they demanded to make their work environment more pleasant. However, I drew a line when it came to giving them the autonomy to control the speed of the assembly line. My initial reasoning was that the line workers should not have the autonomy to control the amount of daily production without control from management and engineering. It became evident, though, that together with setting the right KPIs for the team would boost production to higher levels than what was forecasted by engineering. My biggest takeaway here was to give more trust to all employees, given the boundaries in the form of performance management are in place, and thereby motivating them to achieve top performance.

Regarding extracurriculars, I am most proud of having started coding again. My first project is an application that will help my MBA class schedule events, organize information, and declutter our group WhatsApp chats. I am currently building the first prototype in Android by myself and the early feedback I have received from classmates is encouraging me to go on. When the prototype is finished and user feedback is positive, I will pitch the idea to investors.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I have some obvious examples to choose from (e.g., getting hired by a top consultancy, leading successful meetings with senior clients, receiving great feedback from firm leadership). However, I am actually most proud of a more unassuming moment that occurred during a transformation program that I supported as a junior consultant. Alongside my manager, I was in charge of setting up the client’s project management office (PMO), and this included training the designated clients in their new roles. We faced a lot of frustration coming from the clients, partly because of the looming change in the organization. At the same time, some of the PMO’s tasks were repetitive and, frankly, not all that exciting.

After a few unsuccessful attempts to coach and onboard the client team members in formal training sessions, I took the lead in asking the most resistant and demotivated client team member for lunch. I listened to her concerns and what she might need in order to find the new role more appealing. Among others, we established a work routine that reduced transactional tasks to a minimum and restructured responsibilities in the team to fit members’ specific knowledge and development needs. For example, the client with whom I had the session over lunch was eager to, beyond the project management tasks, share her technical knowledge with the organization. We reorganized the tasks so she would be responsible for the PMO’s knowledge contributions to the transformation program’s communications across the organization. As a result, her motivation (and that of the PMO team) rose significantly and everyone worked much more effectively.

I am proud of this because not only was I able to resolve a problem with rather easy means but also because the change made a real difference for the clients. It was during this time, as a young consultant, that I learned the true value of listening.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite MBA professor is Juan Carlos Pastor, who teaches Leading People and Teams in the first term. He teaches the class by demonstrating the material instead of lecturing it. In every session, we go through a staggered case with a challenging leadership situation. At each stage of the case, we discuss the issues and possible solutions before moving on to the next stage of the case and see how our decision turned out. Competing views in the class find arguments for and against their decisions and challenging situations are sometimes played out in role plays in class. What is special about Juan Carlos is that he really does not seem to have a script for his class but accepts the class as individual as it is. Only in the end, would he summarize the findings, provide theory, share his thoughts, and connect the dots.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? I enjoy the meetings of the entrepreneurship Club the most. We gather regularly at different events, ranging from casual bar nights to panel discussions with entrepreneurs. It is a great opportunity to test your idea, discuss issues you have with your venture, and just make friends who have similar interests. Again, it shows the entrepreneurial spirit of IE.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose IE Business School for its focus on entrepreneurship. At IE, I have found many like-minded people who are interested in founding companies or joining start-ups besides the classmates who plan rather typical careers in financial institutions or consulting firms. Coming from consulting myself, this type of environment was new for me and it has helped stimulate my entrepreneurial thinking.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? – Entrepreneurship is in the school’s DNA. Core classes include Entrepreneurial Mindset and Entrepreneurial Venturing. After the core period, there are plenty of options of pursuing entrepreneurship as well (e.g., start-up and venture labs). Therefore, I would recommend to applicants to carefully reflect on if this is something they value in an MBA program and their classmates’ profiles. If yes, the school is probably a good fit for the applicant and vice versa.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I would probably have waited a year to gain just a bit more professional experience. When I joined the MBA, I had not yet led a complete team at work, but just coached junior colleagues. In many leadership discussions in the classroom, it is helpful to have some real-life team leadership experience to bring to the table.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I most admire Amelia Nielsen. She took the decision to pursue an MBA after more than seven years of work experience. What I find admirable about her is her intrinsic motivation to improve her leadership effectiveness.

Two examples:

  • Once Amelia told me that when she was promoted to a management position, she was faced with a lot of challenges in her team from lack of motivation, inability to receive feedback, and failure in basic project management. She recognized that even though she might not have caused these problems, she was still the owner of them. When she did not find mentors in her organization to coach her on how to cope with the situation, she decided to still do something and tackle the problem on her own. She gathered materials, e.g., from Harvard Business Review, and implemented what she deemed necessary. Soon enough, her team began to perform much better under her leadership.
  • Amelia took on the role of class representative in my section, a role that entails a number of additional responsibility and tasks on top of the already packed schedule of a one-year-MBA. She fulfills this role with a lot of dedication and frequently stresses in conversations with me how much she has already learnt from the position.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? I was most influenced by a close friend and former colleague at McKinsey. Before I started my MBA, he was the only person who knew me well personally and had done an MBA himself. When I told him I was considering an MBA, he reassured me that it was the right choice. Given the long and deep relationship we have, I trusted his advice. (He was right: I enjoy the MBA to the fullest and the learnings are very valuable for me.)

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? Turning around a business in trouble: leading a troubled business into profitability is a challenge that excites me

Designing and introducing a product to market: truly understanding design thinking and then successfully launching the product is something I want to learn.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? – “Whenever I need anything – a discussion partner, advice, or an open ear – I can always hit up Max.” 


Languages and Traveling: The two inseparably go together for me. I have never gone on a trip without buying a language course book for my destination’s local language and studying it while I immerse myself in the culture. Disclaimer: I didn’t manage to become fluent in Mandarin, Japanese, or Arabic this way but it has worked well for Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Swedish.

Running and Fitness: Feeling comfortable and healthy in my body is important to me, the more so in a fast-paced career as consulting or at business school. I do not run to compete with others but I am proud of having completed a marathon once – a great physical and mental challenge.

What made Max such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“Max’s contributions both in and out of the classroom have been consistently excellent, and he provides thoughtful insights during discussions and small group projects. His work is of the highest level and I am pleased to see how he has been able to adapt to every situation and share his knowledge with others, and thus enriches the classroom experience. Given his background in consulting, Max takes time to also coach those classmates who are interested in the sector as a career post-graduation.

Max came to IE to pursue his passion for entrepreneurship and with the goal of launching his own venture. He is also continuing to use his knowledge in coding a programming background and this, combined with the teachings of his entrepreneurial classes, will undoubtedly be a benefit when he creates his own app. Upon first meeting Max, it is clear that he is focused on learning and improving himself and in helping those around him do the same. It is a pleasure to have him at IE Business School and I look forward to what lies ahead for him.”

Paula Robles
Executive Director of the International MBA at IE Business School


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