A charismatic Polish woman, living in the lovely city of Verona, working for an American company with international experience behind her and now halfway through her studies on the International Flex Executive MBA program at MIP Politecnico di Milano – let me introduce you to Manuela Andrzejewska, one of my international classmates and by now a good friend, thanks to the opportunities offered by the digital era.

Manuela started working when she was only 18 years old, while studying for a qualification in Business Administration in Poland. After working for 10 years in consumer electronics sales, she decided to change career by moving to England, but with the clear objective in her mind of going back to Poland within a short time. Studying English helped her to fit in well with the local culture. A native Pole with a good knowledge of German was a perfect fit for Corning, an American company with offices in England, European headquarters in Germany and a factory in Poland. For Manuela, it was the successful beginning of a long, professional journey with an international company.

Living in different countries (England and Germany) and working for 13 years with the same company, gave her the opportunity to move from sales into marketing, facing an international experience and continuously interacting with people from all over the world. Smiling, she confesses that although her plans to return to Poland did not quite work out, ultimately, she settled in Italy after falling in love and getting married to an Italian. Now Italy is her home. I have set up an interview with her to learn more about her decisions and feelings during this difficult stage of her life.

Manuela, what mostly attracted you to an EMBA program? Why did you decide to pursue the International Flex EMBA at MIP?

Well, let me say that the telecommunications industry is dominated by men and despite some progress in women’s representation and progression in the workplace, there is still significant ground to cover in bridging the gender gap. As a female in a male-dominated industry, earning respect can be a struggle. In this sort of situation, I felt at the beginning that I had to adopt a stereotypically “male” attitude toward business: competitive, aggressive and sometimes overly harsh. But this is not who I am. Remaining true to myself and finding my own voice was the key to getting respect from my male colleagues and customers. As a woman, I had to learn to build up my confidence, to cope better with feelings of failure, to learn from my mistakes and never to give up. Having said that, I am continually striving to learn and improve myself to better fit in with a constantly changing world. With more than 23 years of experience, it was the perfect time for me to benefit from an Executive MBA program. The work schedule is very demanding, and the only opportunity was to go for a distance-learning program. The Flex program offered by MIP was the perfect choice for me, providing both flexibility and accountability to successfully fulfill the study requirements. At the beginning, I was afraid I would feel alone during this very important journey in my life, but I soon realized that the program was scheduled mostly on a teamwork basis, which means that we are in touch almost every day through different digital channels. Overall, the MIP platform supports me perfectly, enabling me to keep up with the weekly studying schedule by giving me the opportunity to access, online or offline, the clips and all the study documents even when I am traveling, always permitting me to make the best use of my time.

How do you organize and fulfill the needs of your career, family and MBA studies?

Three things stand out like a stone: organization skills, prioritizing and a lot of help and support from my husband and family. I have to plan way in advance and to stay very focused on my objectives. I have to wake up earlier every day than before, but I enjoy doing that. When I moved to Italy, I had to learn a different way of working: I had a home office and went on a lot of business trips. Technology helped me a lot. With my laptop, phone and video conferencing, I am passionately managing the distribution channel in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, by developing and implementing channel marketing activities for a selected groups of channel partners. Seeing our partners succeeding gives me a lot of satisfaction and therefore, Channel Management is for me a very fulfilling career. 

How are you applying your MBA learning in your everyday work?

Working remotely, I spend most of my time on the phone. I have to execute projects, achieve tasks remotely with a global team and this is what we master at MIP – virtual teams who get together and in a short time have to deliver an assignment. You have to learn about each other quickly, discover your strengths and deliver the final work on time. It helps me a lot to develop skills which I can use in my day-to-day job. Of course, this studying period at MIP has helped me a lot to see the company’s priorities from a different perspective. Every course is adding value, by filling the empty spaces in the jigsaw of my knowledge, facilitating my understanding of decision-making processes within the company. A broader understanding of my skills and knowledge gaps helps me to make better choices and take better decisions, working for an international company.

What advice do you have for women in business considering an online Executive MBA? 

Go for it! Challenge yourself and get out of your comfort zone. You will learn that everything is possible, (even business statistics 😊). My advice to all women who are considering applying for an EMBA is to believe in yourself, believe in the value you can bring with your professional success, whether you want to improve in your current role, change jobs or go to a higher career level. Whatever your reason for choosing this path, you will gain an experience which will help you in the fast-changing world and give you an opportunity to learn from people from different industries. It will help you to broaden your network, make good friends and get a deeper insight into yourself.