2024 Best & Brightest Online MBA: Jocelyn Tillner, ESMT Berlin

Jocelyn Tillner

ESMT Berlin

“I have solutions to every problem, am always open for discussion and happy to help.”

Age: 36

Hometown: Berlin, Germany

Fun fact about yourself: I am professionally trained to taste and evaluate beer.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Diploma in Food Chemistry – Technical University Berlin; PhD in Clinical Chemistry – Imperial College London

Where are you currently working? ESMT Berlin Institute for Deep Tech innovation as a Research Assistant / Venture Manager

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In one of my previous jobs, I was working for a large group of companies that has operations in Europe, the US, Asia and Australia. For historic reasons, the different entities operated relatively independently, including their R&D/ innovation functions. I was part of a cross-functional team that set out to change that. We set up a company-wide network dedicated to coordinating the innovation process globally, and collaboratively developing and commercializing new products. I took a leading role in the process design and also acted as a speaker for the network’s advisory council. Not only did the program lead to the commercialization of several successful products, but it also fostered a level of collaboration across sites that we previously hadn’t thought possible. I’m still very proud of that.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? At the time, I had a job that required me to commute between London in the UK, where I was managing a team, and Nuremberg in Germany, where the company was headquartered. The online MBA allowed me to stay in that job and do the coursework in my own time. I chose ESMT because of its focus on entrepreneurship.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? The close connections with my fellow students. I was worried that we would struggle to interact in a meaningful way, but I’ve made some very close friends along the way.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? It was completely different, not just because it was a business as opposed to a science degree, but also because it was so much more self-directed. It was also a lot more applied and designed to be used immediately in working practice. It included a lot of assignments in which we had to draw upon our own work experience, and that really helped me translate what we were learning into tangible skills.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? I now work at the business school I studied at, so it gave me that direct connection – but doing the course also inspired me to explore a more entrepreneurial work environment. When I started the course, I was working at a very traditional company. Last year, I decided to join a startup, but when I came across the Institute for Deep Tech Innovation (DEEP) at ESMT through one of my electives, I realized that was something I really wanted to do. DEEP connects science and business by bringing together scientific and technical founders with experienced mentors and providing essential business skills. So, doing the MBA on top of my science degree put me in a prime position for the job I am now doing.

Did you earn a promotion while in the program or immediately after graduation? I actually enrolled in the program because I had just been promoted to my first team management position a year prior and wanted to improve my management skills and business knowledge. When I moved to the startup (as per the previous question), the fact that I was doing the course was one of the key reasons the startup founders wanted me on their leadership team. The same was true of DEEP.

So, in summary, the course did not help me earn a promotion, but it did help me make the career pivot (away from pure science into science-adjacent management) that I wanted to make.

Why did you pursue an online MBA program instead of a full-time residential program? I had just been promoted and didn’t want to have to take time off. I was doing the MBA to become better at my job rather than to start a new one (Although I did end up changing jobs in the course of the program.) Doing the degree alongside my job allowed me to put a lot of the new knowledge into practice immediately, which was very gratifying.

Number of Hours Per Week Spent on an Online MBA: 15-20

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? In the long term, I aim to have a leading role – Chief Technology or Innovation Officer – in an organization that makes a real impact in the food industry to enable the transition of our global food system towards a net- and nature-positive value chain to feed the growing world population.


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