John Epars

Country of origin: Switzerland

Group Strategic Planning & Business Development, Romande Energie

I graduated with a BSc in Electrical Engineering and worked before the MBA as a project manager in the energy sector in Switzerland. Facing my first managerial challenges, I realised that deeper knowledge of business and communication would help me make the most out of this position and any job I would do in the future. Indeed, the problems I faced often involved operational, financial, human and strategic components – frequently all at the same time. I believed that an MBA was the perfect stepping stone for my aspirations.

Advice 1: Get sufficient work experience before you enrol in the MBA

I waited five years to get the critical amount of experience to share and reflect on during the programme. I advise everyone to get to know the business world before the MBA and to take the time to study full-time abroad. You will be much more creative and open to new ideas if you take the time to focus fully on the programme outside of your working routine.

Advice 2: Select an MBA programme that suits your needs

I decided to study in the UK because of the excellence of British education and the high level of multiculturalism. I especially wanted to develop my ability to work in harmony with people from Asia, India and Eastern Europe. Three main reasons drove me to choose Lancaster over other universities in the UK:

The programme

The MBA content is ‘action-oriented’, with three consultancy experiences, a module taught by Kevin Roberts, Worldwide CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, and even a module that includes company visits in China. Twelves months was the correct duration: not too long to get bored but still giving more time for reflection than a part-time MBA. Additionally, the Lancaster MBA has a very good reputation in industry within Europe.

The structure

The relatively small size of the programme, with around 50 candidates per cohort, allowed us to interact during lectures and to receive focused individual advice.

The campus

The campus, situated outside of the city, fostered networking in the cohort and with students from other graduate programmes. Living there, in one of the six colleges, has been a key contributor to the excellent ambiance in our cohort and to the success of knowledge sharing.

What I really appreciated is that I learned practical information taught by teachers with strong industry experience. The Mindful Manager module was the most powerful module on leadership and personal development I have attended. It developed my self-awareness and gave me precious tools for my personal life and my future managerial positions. Finally, the module taught by the CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi has been a tremendous and unique opportunity to develop my ability to communicate with executives.

Advice 3: Work hard, play hard

After the MBA, I got selected for the MBA ISP programme in the partner University of St Gallen, in Switzerland. This ten-week complementary program aimed to provide profound insight into the European business world. We visited and got to know the management team of companies such as BMW in Munich, Roche in Basel and the Notenstein Private Bank in St Gallen.

Besides working hard, we also played hard, in Berlin and Zurich, for example. Thanks to the Lancaster MBA and the ISP, I have now friends and prospective business partners from all continents.

Advice 4: Prepare for your career post-MBA well before the end of the programme

The combination of the Lancaster MBA and St Gallen University careers offices provided a great support that helped me to secure a job as soon as I finished the programmes.

I am now working as Group Strategic Planner and Business Development for Romande Energie, a major electrical utility company in Switzerland. I report directly to the CEO and work on a daily basis with the management team. I very often use learning from the programme, especially from the strategy, the leadership and the Mindful Manager classes. I would never have access to my current position without the Lancaster MBA.