Alumni spotlight is a series of interviews where we feature alumni from various fields of business. Read as our alumni share what were the most important lessons they learned during their studies. How has studying at Henley impacted their careers and personal life? In addition, you will also get insights on what are the keys to success in each alumnus’ field of business.
Curious optimist diving into change
Michaela Ramm-Schmidt graduated from the Henley EMBA in 2020. Her passion for sustainable business was already there prior to Henley, however now she feels even more confident in making personal, value-based choices in her life as a whole. Michaela is also convinced that companies have a great opportunity to do good business by doing good with business. She is also a big fan of humanity.
Michaela is an entrepreneur in her own company WhyCo, helping customers to build a responsible business. In addition, she works part-time as an expert at the Baltic Sea Action Group, an NGO that she was previously leading as a managing director.
Michaela’s story on her Henley journey sounds familiar. At first, she chose the EMBA studies to learn more about the different aspects of managing an organisation, such as finance, strategy and processes. But like many who have graduated from the Henley EMBA, she ended up learning much more.
“The key takeaway from my studies was personal development and, in particular, the great impact of self-awareness and confidence in personal value-based choices on my life as a whole”, concludes Michaela.
Additionally, Michaela feels she now understands much better the different organizational functions and is more confident when discussing topics that earlier were unfamiliar to her. She thinks she is also more able to look at organizations and their role in society holistically, which is a great help in her work as a responsible business consultant. But, most of all, the Henley MBA helped her navigate in a turbulent world, find confidence in her own choices, and look at the future with optimism, despite everything that is going on right now.
Driving change is not simple – but a remedy exists
The topic for Michaela’s MRC (management research challenge) was spot on for all of us who are navigating today’s business environment. The MRC tackled driving systems change in the field of sustainable development in a complex multi-stakeholder environment.
“I chose the topic because I wanted to increase my knowledge about the scientific fundamentals of stakeholder engagement and driving complex societal change”, explains Michaela.
The research helped Michaela to understand what systems change means, how it happens in practice and why it is so hard. The thing that surprised her the most, was the critical role of truly constructive collaboration, listening and dialogue in driving societal change. Michaela points out that we often try to drive change with strict processes and plans, while change is messy, surprising, and non-linear.
“People’s emotions, especially fear, play such a big role in managing change, but our process charts often disregard them, and we do not have the time to stop and listen”, she says.
Based on her learnings, Michaela gathered a few guiding principles for herself. But she is not jealous about the list, so everyone is free to copy it with pride.
- See the change from different perspectives
- Be humble and listen – you never know what is going on in other people’s lives
- Everyone has something important to share and mostly people want to do good
- Share ownership
- My model is not the only one and a perfect model probably does not exist
- Be patient – this takes time
- Beware of your own bubble and avoid arrogance
A holistic and humane view is the key to success
Michaela thinks that we all need to learn to look at organizations and the society much more holistically and understand the interlinks between everything. The world is not a machine, and we cannot treat it like one.
“I believe that with deeply humane values and by appreciating everyone’s expertise, feelings, and views, we can find the path towards a healthier planet. It is not always easy, but at the end, it’s about our own attitudes and personal choices. Listening is a powerful tool, and we must take more time to think” says Michaela.
Who could argue with that? Let’s be humans.