2020 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Sonia Sciampagna, ESADE  

Sonia Sciampagna          

ESADE Business School

“Authentic, social, and always seeking adventure by traveling and making this world a better place.”

Age: 40

Hometown: Hannover, Germany

Fun fact about yourself: I’m not sure why, but I am always doing something that scares me. I started diving at a turtle dive site and ended up diving with sharks. Now, I’m a rescue diver.

Undergraduate School and Degree: High school degree from St. Ursula School, Germany; Certified Banking Specialist from Banco Santander, Germany; Degree in European Business Studies from the University of Osnabrück, Germany (exchange student in marketing at Diego Portales University of Santiago, Chile); currently an Executive MBA student at Esade Business School, Spain.

Where are you currently working? I am working at Kennametal, an American tooling and industrial materials supplier founded in 1938 by Philip M. McKenna in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. I am an HR manager, responsible for the payroll for the German and Swiss markets. The company is listed on the NYSE and has 10,000 employees worldwide and a revenue of US$ 2.38 billion dollars.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work, and Leadership Roles: Before starting college, I went to Canada, where I began to volunteer with Santropol Roulant, a meals-on-wheels NGO delivering food to the elderly and people who are homebound due to diseases such as multiple sclerosis. The idea was to deliver food and spend time making conversation and helping to alleviate the loneliness for a while and inspire with positive energy.

When I was in college, I did an international student exchange in Chile. I signed up for a marketing subject, Social Communication, where we designed a communication strategy to help the NGO Un Techo Para Chile boost their fundraising and volunteer recruitment. The professor worked regularly with that NGO and put our communication strategy into practice.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? During my time in Chile, I was amazed at how easy it was, being the only foreigner, to fit into the working group with my peers. I was fascinated by how we were thrown straight into the work of professional fundraising communication specialists and were able to come up with a strategy that was implemented. Un Techo Para Chile was able to increase funds and recruit young volunteers, which was its goal.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I was working as Head of Online Training for Export Markets at SEAT S. Although things were going well, I began to wonder what I really wanted to do with my life. The outcome was my departure for Swaziland, in Africa, where I worked as Financial and Human Resources Coordinator for Doctors without Borders, an NGO providing medical care to people in life-threatening situations. In Swaziland, they were doing a tuberculosis and HIV project. During my assignment, the Ebola outbreak in other countries forced us to re-plan our budgets. Within the HR area, I introduced a new benefits and remuneration program for all local staff in the mission. Today, I am happy that, in addition to my professional work, I was a good friend to the people who had to deal with upsetting situations, such as domestic violence or palliative care patients. I now know that moving to an NGO and spending the next five years working with NGOs was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. It made me proud to have the courage to transform my career and contribute to a mission that saved lives.

Who was your favorite MBA professor?

Beatriz Soler – Amazing how much she can teach on the launch of black toilet paper. I will never forget the concept of a polarized market and how a consumer good can be transformed into a precious, luxury “must-have”!

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I started to review the rankings of the best executive MBAs in Europe, visited some schools, and arranged phone calls to assess how the schools worked. I also talked with people who had done the different executive MBAs, all of whom drove me to the same conclusion: namely, that only I can choose the right school for me because only I know what I am going to do with this MBA and what I am looking for from a specific program. Well, I found that my values and ambition to be part of a new generation of leaders with a deep social consciousness were reflected in the ESADE Executive MBA program.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I appreciated the first study tour in HEC in France; it made us grow together. It was enriching to visit the start-up incubator in Paris and do dynamics such as establishing a digital transformation roadmap or working directly with the leaders of various start-ups in that short time. I am still connected with ViiBE, the emergency video call facilitator, via LinkedIn. I think ViiBE even offered a special tool during the Covid-19 lockdown to enable people to stay in touch.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work?
I was surprised by how much-advanced marketing changed the way I look at how we do business. Imagine you work in the pharma industry and you come up with an idea to get rid of or share all the company’s patents. Would that be career suicide? Well, it would be in line with the idea that having 10% of an enormous market generates more profits than having 100% of a micro-market!

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? It was a few weeks before my birthday. My family and friends were coming from Germany. The location for the celebration was all set and I was about to go to Paris for our study tour at HEC. That week, Storm Gloria swept over the beach of Barcelona and guess what: the beach bar I had planned to celebrate my birthday at was destroyed by the storm and no longer existed. As in many houses that stormy night, the rain got into my home. That week I went to work as usual, went directly to Paris. Once I got back home, I arranged to have my home renovated and found a place for over 50 people in just two weeks. It was just before the Covid-19 outbreak in Spain and the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona had been canceled, which was the only reason I was able to find a free place and hotel rooms for my spur-of-the-moment guests. Two weeks after my birthday, Spain went into lockdown and nobody was traveling anymore.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Only you know what you are going to do with your executive MBA. The best you can do is try to project your professional future and consider your values and identity to choose the best MBA program for you. To do that, I recommend visiting the school if possible before starting an MBA.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? That going back to school makes you the same student you were in college. No way! It is much more fun and challenging and you enjoy it a lot more.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Daniel Mandado: Daniel’s resilience inspired me from the very beginning. Dani is a team leader in Operations at Cargill, responsible for a big team. During the Covid-19 lockdown in Spain, he continued to work, as he is part of an essential industry. In addition to his work, he organized outdoor activities and took full responsibility for organizing a hike in the snow on a winter day.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I came back from a mission in Mozambique and knew I wanted to start my own business.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I would like to own my own business and combine profitability with a social dimension. Hopefully, it would be a Montessori School offering self-empowering and mostly unplugged education, with enough funds to raise orphans together with the other kids.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Sonia had the courage to pursue her dreams, and she is amazingly successful and kind.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? I would love to have my own family and get the chance to spend some time in Australia and New Zealand.   

What made Sonia such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“Her international experience, multicultural background, and social commitment are inestimable attributes that make Sonia an added value for her EMBA cohorts. She is a very curious and polyhedric person.”

Michele Quintano
Associate Dean of the Executive MBA


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