2022 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Tobias Machus, CEIBS

Tobias Machus

CEIBS (China Europe International Business School)

Age: 35

“Passionate and ambitious achiever, who seeks challenges and lifelong learning for continued growth.”

Hometown: Braunschweig, Germany

Family Members: Girlfriend Sarah and Labrador Sam

Fun fact about yourself: Still dreaming about going to the Olympics one day, thus still figuring out which sport might allow me to do so!

Undergraduate School and Degree:

University of Graz – Master’s in Business Administration (M.Sc.)

University of Graz – Doctorate in Business Administration (Dr. rer. soc. oec.) (ongoing)

Where are you currently working? Volkswagen AG; Group Audit; Head of Strategy, Reporting & Steering

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Member of the Class Committee Team and captain of the class soccer team. Active in soccer and fitness clubs for past 30 years, which also includes the education of youth athletes.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m proud of having mastered all the different challenges we were faced with during the program. The diverse subjects and tasks, including all kinds of individual assignments and dynamic group work, require a lot of personal flexibility, passion and interpersonal skills.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I’m most proud of having found my own leadership style, with which I feel comfortable as it enables me to inspire my teams and demonstrate my passion to them. Seeing the people around me growing and tackling challenges which others consider as “Mission: Impossible” gives me a great feeling of fulfilment.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? There are many professors who fascinate me by proving an admirable mix of academic excellence and benevolence. As I cannot name all of them here, I want to specifically mention Prof. Yuan Ding, Vice President and Dean, and Prof. Bala Ramasamy, Associate Dean and Director of Global Executive MBA Program. They personify great leadership in the way they navigate the school and the program throughout these years of unprecedented challenges related to COVID-induced shutdowns and restrictions.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? There are mainly three reasons: First, CEIBS, with its main campus in Shanghai, has developed to become one of the most influential economic and cultural centres worldwide. It focuses on China, but also strives to link East and West together. Second, CEIBS Global Executive MBA stands for educational excellence, which is evident in its rankings as one of the best programs globally. Third, and perhaps most crucially, I could feel the dedication and excitement of the entire staff during my first guest visit on campus.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? The biggest lesson is about the power and value of relatively small, diverse teams, which operate in an environment of curiosity, openness and respect. I was amazed by the results that we produced in such working groups with extremely challenging timeframes throughout the program. At work, I’m trying my best every day to create the respective conditions and atmosphere in every group that I’m able to influence.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? To be fair, I had it much easier than many of my classmates to balance work, family and education simply because my partner and I do not have any kids yet. Nevertheless, it was still challenging to juggle all the different roles and tasks, particularly during months with several intense on-site modules and the accompanying pre- and post-assignments. One principle that always helps me to navigate challenges is focus. These days, where distractions are all around us, I consider it absolutely crucial to reserve and use time slots for target-oriented and concentrated work. For me, this works brilliantly to keep motivation up and get things done.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Be brave and just do it! For the decision regarding which school and program to enter, look behind the scenes. The people (academic staff, but particularly the team in the back) make all the difference. During the program, stay curious and remain open to advice and feedback, but do not expect others to tell you how to deal with issues; find your own way.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? I’m still quite used to being at school due to my doctorate, which I’m working on in parallel with this program. For me, combining insights from all three strands, work (practice), doctorate (theory), and MBA (blending both) proves to be extremely educational and valuable.

What was your biggest regret in business school? The biggest regret, one that I share with my classmates, is that we could not enjoy our planned overseas modules and associated events, due to COVID-related travel restrictions. However, the school has proved to be very imaginative in offering alternative options, which include providing these modules as non-credit courses after graduation as soon as travel restrictions are lifted. I hope that many classmates will take this opportunity, so that we can celebrate our reunion at the same time.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Again, it’s difficult to only name one as there are so many inspiring minds. Since I have to make a choice, I select Neil Wu, Partner at Roland Berger. Neil impressed me during our group work as he is extremely fast in connecting the dots. He drafts a complete concept before I even start thinking. Furthermore, he successfully manages to balance his growing family, a challenging and fast-moving job, and the GEMBA program at the same time. Finally, he contributed substantially to winning our most important soccer matches.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? CEIBS Global Executive MBA is a part-time program, allowing students to proceed with their jobs. Online alternatives are without doubt worth considering as the rapid progress in technical tools for online communication allows the development of game-changing online concepts. However, I think, particularly for leadership education (for which the understanding and experience of interpersonal relations and group dynamics is crucial), the benefits of personal exchange with physical presence on campus are still unmatched.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? To remain true to the motto: “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe” (Simon Sinek). For me, purpose is key. I want to make a contribution to a greener and more responsible world, and I consider this in all my actions. My ultimate goal is to maximise my sphere of influence to really make a difference and inspire as many other people as possible.

What made Tobias such an invaluable addition to the class of 2022?

“Tobias was a natural choice for this nomination because he has made such an outstanding contribution to his GEMBA class and the program overall. As a student with the top GPA in the class, his academic prowess and dedication are evident. Furthermore, Tobias enriches his classes by offering insightful questions and topics for debate, whatever the subject matter. He balances his GEMBA commitments with his ongoing doctorate in a seemingly effortless manner, without ever compromising his performance or participation in any assigned task. Tobias is just as committed to participating in non-curricular aspects of life at CEIBS. He is a valued member of the CCT (Class Committee Team) as sports coordinator, and on the soccer pitch he displays near-surgical levels of precision and skill! The fact that Volkswagen fully sponsor Tobias’ GEMBA studies is indicative that – despite his relative youth – they recognise his inherent leadership and strategic-thinking capabilities as clearly as we do. His recent promotion is thoroughly deserved, and I look forward to witnessing his career blossom further.”

Professor Bala Ramasamy
Associate Dean and Director of Global Executive MBA Program


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