Best and Brightest Online MBA 2022: Mirjam Eckert, Warwick Business School


“A passionate advocate of open science, also a dog lover and sports enthusiast with a creative side and a stubborn head.”

Age: 41

Hometown: I live in a village near Lausanne, Switzerland, with a view of Lake Geneva and Mont Blanc when I look on my computer screen.

Fun fact about yourself: In 2011, I participated in the Megavalanche, an enduro mountain bike race starting from the Alpe d’Huez glacier at 3300m and I finished in a respectable 15th

Undergraduate School and Degree:

  1. BSc Biology, Imperial College, UK (1st class)
  2. PhD in Molecular Oncology, University of Dundee, UK

Where are you currently working? I am Chief Publishing Officer at Frontiers, a scientific publisher, where I have worked since 2014.

What accomplishments are you most proud of in your professional career? When I decided to pursue a career outside of academia – I was a postdoctoral researcher at the time – it was a daunting step. Was I throwing away everything I’d worked for years in the lab? Scientific publishing has proven to be an exciting and rewarding alternative career path for me. Even though I told my first manager that I didn’t want to manage a team myself, I ended up overseeing the publishing division of Frontiers with now over 900 people and found that I’m in quite good at managing people. Last year, my teams delivered an extremely ambitious 5-year strategic plan to publish 100,000 scientific articles in one year (we reached 89% of the objective), representing an average annual growth of 45%. I am proud that my leadership and strategic initiatives have supported my teams in this achievement, including two major departmental restructurings, as well as the introduction of a CRM system, the establishment of a growth mindset and the implementation of a performance management system based on OKR (objectives and key results).

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? I chose Warwick Business School for several reasons. The school immediately caught my attention when I was looking for an MBA course because it was ranked number 1 in distance learning MBAs by the FinancialTimes. I attended an introductory lecture and read the detailed information provided and was struck by Warwick Business School’s dedication to online teaching excellence. The personalized web environment, which is continuously improved, is a central part of their commitment to providing distance learning students with an enriching environment. I liked the course modules offered and the fact that there were two weeks of in-person study included (although due to COVID the second week unfortunately could not take place), as well as a research-based thesis. Finally, my sister had completed her BA at Warwick a few years earlier and had found it extremely stimulating and engaging.

What was your favorite part of an online MBA program? In the context of the online course, I really liked that the course material was clearly structured, always accessible and downloadable. There was so much content available to us, including videos, links to further reading and (of course) recordings of the live sessions. I was able to work full time and fit the course into my schedule, with a clear outline of what I needed to accomplish week by week. Beyond the online format of the course, my favorite part was the thesis. I was able to interview amazing entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and technology transfer agents as part of my research on how scientists acquired business skills and knowledge to start a new business.

Ohat was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? I had hoped, but I was still very pleasantly surprised by the interactivity of the students and lecturers. Everyone was approachable, responsive and helpful. I think people really want to make sure that the networking benefits of a distance MBA would be just as powerful as other MBA courses. It felt like the remote setup meant students were more open to reaching out to each other and during the live sessions people really engaged, shared knowledge and asked questions. On the learning platform, the comment sections were always lively as we went through the modules, which also encouraged me to stay on track because you wanted to be part of these discussions. The group work was very rewarding and we had a lot of fun with certain assignments, from designing the marketing strategy of a beverage company to suggesting improvements for the operations of a social enterprise employing blind people.

How does your online experience compare to your classroom experience as an undergraduate student? Since these two experiences are twenty years apart, it’s a bit difficult to compare them directly also because my undergraduate degree was full-time and my MBA course was part-time. Generally I would say that I was given more study material for my MBA and I could easily go back to the content and rewatch a live session for example as everything is online. This contrasted with my undergraduate degree, where I relied on my lecture notes and using the library to find further information. During my undergraduate degree I also had a fixed schedule, while during the MBA self-discipline was very important as I had to work on the course material more independently and make weekly decisions on priorities and rhythm.

What is your best advice to a candidate for success in an online MBA program? Set yourself up for success early on and stick with it. It may seem obvious, but you need to have a strategy to fit a few hours of serious study into your weekly schedule, every week. I was working full-time while studying, so I invested weekends and holidays to complete the course in two years and consciously put some of my hobbies on hold. Think about the tools you will need. I bought a tablet to read and annotate e-books and an InstantPot (no kidding) to make my cooking easier. Get your family, friends and colleagues involved to support you. I received a lot of invaluable encouragement and advice along the way. Engage with your classmates: you will find that everyone is happy to help you. If you have a problem, contact your course administrators as soon as possible; don’t wait for it to become insurmountable. And above all, enjoy the trip.

What would you change about an online MBA program? I enjoyed the MBA and basically wouldn’t change anything except to point out that I think some face-to-face interaction enhances the learning experience despite all the benefits of a distance learning course. My week of in-person teaching and networking was just amazing, and it’s such a shame that our second week was cancelled. If I can offer a suggestion, it is to overcommunicate with students and have more peer learning sessions at the start. Sometimes the administrative requirements were unclear and many students seem to be asking the same questions. Sharing FAQs and regular newsletters would be very useful in a remote environment. Some of the lecturers also made themselves available for one-on-one discussions and question and answer sessions, which was very helpful and could be extended to all modules.

How has your online training helped you in your current job? I am a scientist by training and as my managerial responsibilities increased, I knew I had to accelerate my professional development in business and management. The MBA was perfect as it gave me a broad and solid foundation in these areas, with obvious relevance to my work and, above all, a boost of confidence, for example in discussions with the CFO. I shared my knowledge with my senior managers and led a series of leadership learning lunches. I feel like I contribute a lot more at the strategic level of the organization and in particular that I ‘lean in’ with more confidence, for example by organizing bi-annual strategic retreats for the management team, driving the agenda and thinking about our competitive advantages in the longer term.

Did you get promoted while in the program or immediately after graduation? No, I was already at C level when I started my MBA.

Did you get a raise during the online MBA program? Yes.

Number of hours per week devoted to the online MBA: On average, I would say around 12 hours per week, with a range of 10-15 hours depending on deadlines and overlapping modules.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My dream is to start my own business and build a successful business from scratch. I’m solution oriented and resilient, have lots of ideas and really enjoy working in a team to achieve goals. I believe that an entrepreneurial journey, even if it is very difficult, can be an extremely rewarding experience. It would be a driving force to learn, improve and adapt. I am passionate about helping people perform at their best and would love to explore the possibilities of using AI to increase the benefits of individual coaching and personal development.



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