2018 Best EMBAs: Iris Pioch, UCLA (Anderson)

Iris Pioch

UCLA – NUS Global Executive MBA (GEMBA)

“Committed, empathetic, modern, optimistic, compassionate, creative and eager to learn.”

Age: 51

Hometown: Landshut, Germany

Family Members: My husband Uli, my twin daughters Elisa and Emily and my son Luis.

Fun fact about yourself: Whenever I was at campus, I was mistaken for a professor!

Undergraduate School and Degree: I completed my first business degree in Regensburg, Germany with an exchange semester in Oxford, England. 15 years later, I completed an MBA in Marketing awarded by the Technical University in Chemnitz, Germany.

Where are you currently working? I have been working for ebm-papst, the market leader in industrial fans, for almost 15 years, currently serving as Head of the Strategy Department at the group’s headquarters in Germany. Before that, from 2014 to March 2018, I was posted to Singapore to build up a Marketing Department to serve Southeast Asia.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: As a fully qualified pilates instructor, I know how to focus on the essentials.

As a fully committed mother, i.e. the general manager of a family enterprise, I know how to get the best out of my team and foster growth in every aspect.

As a fully dynamic marketing specialist, I know how to engage with people and get them out of their comfort zones to do something worthwhile – the bone marrow donor project I organized went way beyond anything my company ever dared to dream – the response was phenomenally positive and made headlines!

And as a fully empowered business woman with a solid grounding in marketing and strategic development, I know that the willingness to learn more and to embrace change are my power tools to success in a corporate environment still dominated by male values.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? There was hardly any time for extracurricular achievements, to be honest. I was busy sorting out my children, staying atop of my work and study, and try as best as I could to get a bit of sleep in in between all of that.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? When I started at my current company 15 years ago, I was officially a Marketing Assistant. Initially, I was simply tasked with communicating the messages our headquarters gave me to our B2B customers in our market segments, in addition to some local public relations in the region where my company was located. Due to my commitment and my success in these tasks, my superior rewarded me with my own department where I hired, trained, managed and had an incredibly rewarding time with a team of four marketing specialists. I then moved on to set up the marketing and communication department in Southeast Asia, being in charge of one of our main emerging markets.

In my wildest dreams, I could not have seen this on my cards when I was a child from a poor and uneducated family. I am proud of my willpower and determination and of this urge to always go for more and see what else I can achieve.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? All of our MBA professors were tremendous experts in their fields and did a superb job in sharing their knowledge and passion for their subjects in an engaging way. However, when tasked to pick only one, let me choose one from each business school:

At UCLA, it was Professor Carla Hayn. She is so experienced, professional, knowledgeable and at the same time so approachable and easy-going. She is, quite simply, my role model. Thank you for being such an inspiration!

My favorite Professor from NUS is Professor Kulwant Singh, for similar reasons like Professor Hayn: his excellent knowledge and experience paired with his unparalleled down-to-earth attitude and his unrivalled sense of humor I will fondly remember.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? I gained big “insights” from our Leadership module. Mainly because we used so many frameworks, which helped me be a better colleague, manager and leader. I can only recommend this course!

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? My first two degrees were from European Universities (Germany and England). That is why I was looking for an international program which combined two other important business regions: North America and Asia. Many of my colleagues thought I was crazy to choose a program overseas, but it is my firm belief that you need to know as much as you can about other regions in the world if you want to stay competitive with your business in our global village. Going for this global MBA simply made a lot of sense to me. And I didn’t get disappointed!

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I enjoyed getting the chance to meet so many people from diverse cultures and backgrounds with different working experiences. I am honored and proud to say that I now have friends all over the world. My very own private network spanning the globe – I feel so lucky and blessed!

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? The most important lesson, and one which I want my children and my team to take to heart, is that you can do anything if you set your mind to it. There is no limit to what you can achieve once you are willing to work your butt off to make it happen!

At work, this has helped me in getting my team to deliver extraordinary results – they know I believe in them and if they are willing to leave their comfort zone and go the extra mile nothing in the whole wide world is going to stop them!

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? While I was doing my MBA, both my daughters were in their last year of high school, which gave us the opportunity to study together at the kitchen table. This enabled us to motivate and help each other.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Be absolutely sure that you have the understanding and support of your family as you definitely need to make sacrifices in terms of time you can spend with them. And don’t stay silent – network and let people know you have something to offer that they might be looking for. Advertise your assets, build your own brand! And market it properly! The investment in such an MBA program can pay off quickly if you communicate your new skills and profile. So go for it!

What was your biggest regret in business school? At times I would have liked to vent my frustration in adequate terms – and in English. However, my command of English is sufficient for academic purposes, but to express your heartfelt distaste of exams or looming deadlines for assignment, I wish I had taken a few courses in “advanced expletives in English” as well!

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? My classmates were all a great bunch of people. It is hard to pick only one. However, I most admired Jakob who is only in his early thirties, has got a PHD, runs a family business, is a devoted, loving father and husband, has a heart of gold, excellent manners and, last but not least, has always been more than patient and shared his vast knowledge to answer even my dumbest questions!

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…my colleagues at work could not really explain backgrounds or reasons for decisions or the intricate working of our corporate culture. It simply boosted a notion I had had after I had finished my apprenticeship in a bank and wanted to know more about what makes the big business world such an exciting challenge.”

“If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…a teacher!”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Wherever I will work in the future, colleagues should not be looking forward to the day I retire!

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you?  As a hard-working, passionate businesswoman who always has a smile on her face.

Favorite book: I love the instructional “For Dummies” books, because they make even the most complex matters easy to understand.

Favorite movie or television show: Trevor Noah’s Daily Show as I love the power of political comedy: Humor can be mightier than a sword.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? At my age, the list is no longer that long, most of it has been ticked off by now. But yes, there are two big items left:  Travelling to see Machu Picchu and visit New York as often as possible!

What made Iris such an invaluable addition to the class of 2018?

“Iris Pioch has been a stand-out contributor to the UCLA-NUS Executive MBA Class of 2018 from the very beginning. Apart from her valuable remarks in class discussions stemming from her unquestionable expertise in marketing, her strong multinational exposure in Europe and Asia, or her twenty years of management experience, Iris has also played a huge part in establishing the open and collaborative culture that characterizes this cohort. In one of her first days at UCLA, Iris approached a busy Program Manager and said, “I have also managed large events, so I know what you are going through. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help.”

While it is this friendly, helpful, and inclusive leadership style that might first strike someone upon initially meeting Iris, she has also proven herself to be just as much of a leader academically. In her capstone field study project working with Siemens, she has taken on an extremely complex go-to-market strategy that requires Siemens build out a multi-party, multi-industry ecosystem in order to be successful at launch. She has gone above-and-beyond her research requirements during this key aspect of her MBA experience at UCLA-NUS. This is evidenced by her four-hour, one-way drive to an international trade show in order to gather more primary research to validate her (and her team’s) findings. Remarkably, she did this just days after moving to Germany from Singapore and decided to take last-minute advantage of this trade show now being “nearby” to her home. With marketing strategy being a critical component of this project, her contributions to her team’s analysis and recommendations have taken it to a new level of ecosystem development. Just as importantly, Iris’s contributions to the project have also improved the learning of her classmates, which has not been lost on them.”

And his is just one example of what makes Iris Pioch such an invaluable addition to the UCLA-NUS class of 2018.”

Christina Marentes
Associate Director of Admissions for UCLA Anderson Executive MBA and UCLA-NUS Executive MBA

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