Working for one startup must be hard enough, imagine working for several. Aylin Schaer does exactly that. As a consultant and manager, Aylin transforms fledgling businesses offering up her expertise in finance and operations.
But getting there wasn't plain sailing. At her first big job, Aylin was turned down a pay-rise because she didn't have a master's qualification.
This led to her next step, an MBA at WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management. Now she credits her MBA with shaping a transformation from finance expert to a wider consulting role, where she has carved her niche working with some of Germany's top startups.
“I didn’t just want a degree, I wanted to develop”
After her completing her bachelor’s, Aylin moved directly into the world of work. She landed a job at food.de, an online supermarket startup, before moving to Lendico, a venture belonging to Rocket Internet—who incubate and invest in tech companies. At Rocket, she had worked her way into a financial management role responsible for 40 different ventures.
“Talking with my supervisor at Rocket, we set out plans for my development and a salary raise,” Aylin explains. “But since I didn’t have a master’s degree, I wasn’t able to go up the pay bracket.”
Aylin was left stuck on the ladder without a postgraduate degree, and the question quickly became how best to overcome this. At Rocket, her work was becoming routine and she recognized an opportunity to move her career to the next level.
“I didn’t just want a degree, I wanted to develop,” Aylin says.
To find out more, she visited WHU on an open day and got talking to some alumni. She had worried that the MBA program would not be for her and she wouldn’t fit in, but this wasn’t the case.
“They were all super grounded,” says Aylin. “The prospective candidates were super nice too and all had interesting and diverse career backgrounds.”
Aylin knew that for her personally, studying full-time was not an option. But WHU’s Part-Time MBA meant she could study on the weekends. It enabled her to continue her work at Rocket while working on her own personal development on the MBA.
Leadership and personal development on the MBA
Aylin worked hard to ensure she split her time evenly between work and study. Her employers were accommodating and allowed her to fit in group projects around work, while WHU remained supportive of her life outside the program.
“I definitely didn’t go out as much,” Aylin remembers. “Nights out were replaced with wellness and spa time!”
During the MBA, Aylin soon found the personal development and leadership components were integral to the program. The economics modules were a good refresher for Aylin, but it was the broader scope of the MBA that pushed her forward.
“These parts helped me understand what’s important to me and why,” says Aylin. “In leadership this meant better understanding what I want to stand for, and how I want to be perceived.”
For Aylin, having the confidence to be herself and develop her own personal leadership style was crucial for understanding the people she managed. It also helped her better realize when a role wasn’t the right fit for her and when to move on.
“I want to keep up the speed!”
When Aylin moved to a new job with German startup asgoodasnew, a company which refurbishes electronic products, she was able to evaluate everything differently. She stayed for a year, but wanted to push herself further.
Now as an interim project manager for Wemovo, a B2B mobility services company, and as consultant for INCEPT, a real estate company, Aylin is juggling several projects at once. She realizes that this way of working—as a drop-in consultant—is what suits her management style best.
“I wouldn’t say I get bored, but I quickly understand how things work,” Aylin explains. “After six months, some companies become resistant to change. I want to keep up the speed!”
Soon, Aylin will start as CFO/COO for another new company, undGretel, a natural cosmetics brand, where she’ll manage their strategy as they move online, setting up their financial infrastructure.
Being part of a strong alumni network
WHU provide one of the best MBA programs for women. Aylin understands the value of mentors and a strong alumni network, especially in an industry like finance which is traditionally male-dominated.
“Knowing that there are other great women from WHU is really empowering,” Aylin says.
Aylin is used to being the only woman at the table, but rather than seeing this as a deterrent, she embraces it as an opportunity.
“In a field like finance where everything is data driven, taking a more personable style can add big benefits to the direction of a company,” Aylin explains.
Now a part of this international alumni network, Aylin wants to show that anyone can do what she has done. Regardless of gender, she is keen to be a role model for those in junior positions.
“I want to help mentor younger women and men.” Aylin says, “If you’re confident enough you can do it. Just look at my resume!”