2022 Best & Brightest Online MBA: Mirjam Eckert, Warwick Business School

Mirjam Eckert

Warwick Business School

“A passionate advocate for open-science, also dog-lover and sport-enthusiast with a creative streak and a stubborn head.”

Age: 41

Hometown: I live in a village near Lausanne, Switzerland, with a view of Lake Geneva and Mont Blanc when I peer over my computer screen.

Fun fact about yourself: In 2011 I participated in the Megavalanche, an enduro mountain bike race starting on the glacier in Alpe d’Huez at 3300m and placed a respectable 15th.t

Undergraduate School and Degree:

  1. BSc Biology, Imperial College, UK (1st class)
  2. PhD Molecular Oncology, University of Dundee, UK

Where are you currently working? I am the Chief Publishing Officer at Frontiers, a scientific publisher, where I have been working since 2014.

What achievements are you most proud of in your professional career? When I decided to pursue a career outside of academia – I was a postdoctoral research fellow at the time – it was a daunting step. Was I throwing away everything that I had worked years for in the lab? Scientific publishing turned out to be an exciting and rewarding alternative career path for me. Even though I told my first manager that I did not want to manage a team myself, I ended up overseeing the Publishing Division at Frontiers with now over 900 people and discovered that I am actually quite good at people management. Last year, my teams delivered on a hugely ambitious 5-year strategic plan to publish 100,000 scientific articles in one year (we achieved 89% of the target), an average 45% yearly growth. I am proud that my leadership and strategic initiatives supported my teams in this achievement, including two major departmental re-structures, as well as introducing a CRM system, instilling a growth mindset, and implementing an OKR-based performance management system (Objectives and Key Results).

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? I chose Warwick Business School for several reasons. The school immediately caught my attention when I was researching for an MBA course as it was ranked the number 1 distance-learning MBA by the Financial Times. I attended a taster lecture and read the detailed information provided and was struck by how dedicated Warwick Business School was to online teaching excellence. The custom web environment, which is being continuously improved, is a central part of their commitment to offering remote students an enriching environment. I liked the course modules on offer and that there were two in-person study weeks included (though due to COVID the second week was not able to take place unfortunately), as well as a research-based dissertation. Last but not least, my sister had completed her Bachelor at Warwick a few years earlier and had found it extremely stimulating and engaging.

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? In the context of the course being online, I really liked that the course material was clearly structured, always accessible, and downloadable. There was so much content made available to us, including videos, links to further reading, and (of course) the recordings of the live sessions. I was able to work full time and fit the course around my schedule, with a clear overview of what I needed to accomplish week by week. Thinking beyond the online format of the course, my absolute favorite part was the dissertation. I got to interview incredible entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and technology transfer officers as part of my research on how scientists acquired business skills and knowledge to create a new business.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? I had been hoping for, but was still very pleasantly surprised, by how interactive the students and lecturers were. Everyone was accessible, responsive, and helpful. I think people really want to ensure that the networking benefits of a distance-learning MBA would be just as powerful as other MBA courses. It felt like the remote set up meant students were more open to reaching out to each other and during live sessions people really engaged, shared their knowledge, and asked questions. On the learning platform, the comment sections were always lively as we worked our way through the modules, which also gave me an impetus to stay on track as you wanted to be part of these discussions. The group work was very enriching, and we had a lot of fun with some of the assignments, designing the marketing strategy for a drinks company or suggesting improvements for the operations of a social enterprise employing blind people.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? Given that these two experiences are twenty years apart, it’s a bit challenging to compare them directly also because my undergraduate degree was full-time and my MBA course part-time. Generally, I would say I was given more study material for my MBA and I could easily go back over the content and re-watch a live session for example as everything is online. This was in contrast to my undergraduate degree, where I relied on my lecture notes and used the library to find further information. During my undergraduate degree, I also had a set timetable, whereas during the MBA self-discipline was very important as I had to work through the course material more independently and had to make weekly decisions about priorities and pace.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program? Get yourself set up for success from the beginning and stick with it. This may sound obvious, but you need to have a strategy for fitting some serious hours of studying into your weekly schedule, every week. I was working full-time while studying so I invested weekends and holidays to complete the course in two years and consciously put some of my hobbies on hold. Think of the tools you will need. I bought a tablet to read and mark up the e-books and an InstantPot (not joking) to make it easier to cook for myself. Get your family, friends, and colleagues involved to support you. I received lots of invaluable encouragement and advice along the way. Engage with your fellow students: you will find that everyone is happy to help. If you have an issue, contact your course administrators as soon as possible; don’t wait until it becomes insurmountable. And above all else, enjoy the journey.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? I enjoyed the MBA and wouldn’t fundamentally change anything except to emphasize that I do feel some face-to-face interaction enhances the learning experience despite all the advantages of a distance-learning course. My one week of in-person teaching and networking was just amazing, and it was so unfortunate our second week got canceled. If I can offer one suggestion, it is to overcommunicate with the students and organize more peer-learning sessions at the beginning. Sometimes administrative requirements were not clear, and many students seem to ask the same questions. Sharing FAQs and regular newsletters would be very helpful in a remote setting. Some of the lecturers also made themselves available for 1-on-1 chats and question time, which was very helpful and this could be extended to all modules.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? I am a trained scientist and when my managerial responsibilities grew, I knew I had to accelerate my professional development in business and management. The MBA was perfect in the way that it gave me a broad, solid foundation in these areas, with clear relevance to my job and importantly a confidence boost for example in discussions with the CFO. I shared my knowledge with my senior managers and spearheaded a learning lunch series on leadership. I feel like I am contributing much more on the strategic level to the organization and particularly that I am “leaning in” more confidently for example by organizing bi-yearly strategy retreats for the senior leadership team, driving the agenda, and thinking longer-term about our competitive advantages.

Did you earn a promotion while in the program or immediately after graduation? No, I was already at C-level when I started my MBA.

Did you earn a raise during the online MBA program? Yes.

Number of Hours Per Week Spent On Online MBA: On average I would say around 12 hours per week, with a range of 10-15 hours depending on deadlines and overlapping modules.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My dream is to found my own company and to build a successful business from the ground up. I am solution-oriented and resilient, with many ideas and really like to work in a team to achieve goals. I believe that an entrepreneurial path even though it is very challenging can be a hugely rewarding experience. It would be a driving force to learn, improve, and adapt. I am passionate about helping people be the best they can be and would like to explore opportunities of how AI can be used to scale up the benefits of individual coaching and personal development.



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