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August 18, 2022

15 years Executive MBA Bucharest: international orientation, regional roots

Premium executive education for managers in up-and-coming Eastern Europe: what was initiated as a joint education project by Erste Bank, OMV, and the WU Executive Academy in Romania in 2006 has, over the course of time, turned into a true Austro-Romanian success story. More than 370 managers filling executive positions both in Romania and far beyond its borders have already graduated from the Executive MBA Bucharest.

The anniversary is an excellent occasion to look back and, even more importantly, look ahead at what’s in store for the country’s arguably best MBA program.

Here to stay: the first students enrolled in the WU Executive Academy’s Executive MBA program in Romania’s capital of Bucharest in 2006; this year, the unmatched premium program for executives celebrates its 15th anniversary.

“Originally, we established this MBA program with our corporate partners OMV/Petrom and Erste Bank/BCR in the course of the EU accession of Eastern European countries to provide high-quality executive education to local talents to equip them with the expertise needed in our partners’ subsidiaries and to also contribute to furthering social responsibility and sustainability,” Barbara Stöttinger, Dean of the WU Executive Academy, recalls. After the collaboration with Erste Bank and OMV expired, the program soon established a name on the market. Today, it is considered the leading international MBA program in Romania, featuring the coveted triple accreditation (AACSB, AMBA, and EQUIS) held by less than 1% of all business schools in the world.

“This anniversary is very special for us: we have succeeded in establishing the Executive MBA also in Romania in addition to Vienna, and we have done so without the help of external partners. Demand is higher than ever, and with 33 students, the 2020 cohort was the largest in the program’s history despite the pandemic,” Stöttinger says.


 Excellent career prospects both at home and abroad


Since 2006, 371 participants have graduated from the Executive MBA Bucharest. “Romania is on an upward trend also when it comes to opening up to the world. For many young managers, a high-quality, internationally oriented MBA program kicks off an international career,” Phillip Nell, Academic Director of the Executive MBA Bucharest, says.

But highly qualified managers are also needed in the region: Eastern Europe’s economic performance was growing and approaching the EU average before the pandemic. According to an Austrian foreign-trade analysis, Romania was steadily overtaking other countries in the EU ranking before the coronavirus hit the world: with regard to economic output, Romania surpassed Greece in 2017, Portugal in 2018, and the Czech Republic in 2019; the country currently ranks 13th among the EU member states, the report reveals.

Program participants do not only hail from Romania but also from countries such as Moldova, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Hungary. “They are start-up founders, entrepreneurs managing SMEs, and executive staff from subsidiaries of international corporations,” Nell explains. “Some of our graduates have embarked on outstanding international careers in the West after graduating from the MBA program, now staffing top executive positions in high-pay countries such as Luxembourg and Switzerland.”


International faculty, top-notch classes, new focus areas


Participants in the Executive MBA acquire well-grounded, in-depth management knowledge based on the latest research and expertise of renowned international professors from the UK, the EU, and the USA. “We stick to our approach of training generalists in a scientifically sound and practice-focused way but have also incorporated new focus areas in current topics such as digital transformation,” says Philipp Nell, who has been the program’s Academic Director since 2017. There is, for instance, the module “Contemporary Challenges of Global Business,” which provides a framework for a deep dive into current topics and can be adjusted as needed.

In addition to essential subject-specific business know-how in strategy, operations management, marketing, accounting, and finance, the curriculum encompasses courses aimed at deepening and strengthening leadership skills: “Our new Executive Lab, which is flexible with regard to contents covered, provides a space for participants to work on their individual leadership skills,” Nell explains. The “Negotiations and Conflict Management” module encourages participants to reflect on negotiation and communication strategies. In video-based simulations and practice-focused exercises, they further develop the skills needed to excel in negotiations and handle conflicts.

The pandemic has prompted a stronger focus on the advantages provided by digitalization in the way the MBA is organized: “We started a virtual speaker series with international contributors from our alumni networks as an additional offer for our students, and we plan to continue these talks also after the pandemic”, says Adriana Georgescu, Program Manager of the Executive MBA on site in Bucharest. In these one-hour presentations, a start-up founder based in New York or a German senior manager, to name just two examples, share their insights gained in various management challenges.

“Special thanks go to our colleague Adriana at this point, who is not only celebrating her own 10-year anniversary as Program Manager this year, but has also played a major role in making the Executive MBA such a success story,” adds Barbara Stöttinger.


Stepping stone for entrepreneurs


For Catalin Putineanu, professionalizing his management skills was the biggest perk of completing the Executive MBA. After his graduation in 2008, he founded IB Cargo, an independent freight forwarder that employs almost 100 people today. Putineanu has remained the company’s managing partner to this day: “The Executive MBA was an investment in my personal development, a unique experience, a challenge, and a test of my professional skills. The program was a well-balanced mix of practice and theory that was solidly grounded in the region’s and also international business practices,” he recalls. The MBA program also helped him grow as a manager: “The up-to-date case studies that we analyzed in many modules really pushed participants to develop a much broader view of the real world. This helped me acquire new skills and perspectives, and it was also a great networking opportunity. The well-structured general-management education I obtained in the course of the MBA program really extended my perspective and provided tools that enabled me to use my experiences to found and grow a successful enterprise.”


Overview of graduates


With regard to industries, the majority of participants in the past 15 years worked in banking/finance/insurance (24%), followed by IT/telecommunications (20%), retail (8%), and consumer goods, the manufacturing industries, and the energy sector (6% each). 18% worked in finance/controlling, 17% were managing directors, 16% were employed in marketing/sales, 8% in operations, a further 8% in strategy/business development, and 6% in consulting.

88% of participants hailed from Romania, 3% from Bulgaria, 2% from Moldova, 1% from Austria, and another 1% from Germany. Their average age was 35 years, and they looked back on an average of 13 years of professional experience (of which they spent seven years in a management function).


 About WU Executive Academy:


WU Executive Academy is part of the University of Economics and Business in Vienna (WU), the largest business university in Europe and the second-best university in German-speaking countries. WU has enjoyed an exceptional reputation as a provider of managerial education for more than 100 years. The educational portfolio of WU Executive Academy includes MBA, EMBA, Professional MBA, Master of Laws, university certifications, corporate programs, but also various seminars, being one of the main providers of executive education in Central and Eastern Europe.



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