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From Music To Social Impact: How An MBA Helped This Grad Switch Careers

After decades working as a musician, Louise McKay turned towards the sustainability sector. Here’s how an MBA at HHL Leipzig helped her discover her purpose and break into a social impact career


Fri Aug 13 2021

From playing the cello at the Oscars to working in a sustainability startup, Louise McKay has always sought purpose in her work. 

Louise started playing cello at the age of seven, working her way up to Associate Principal Cello at the West Australian Symphony Orchestra. But even as she was busy playing concerts all over the world, including the Academy Awards ceremony, she always dedicated time to teaching. 

“Teaching was a nice way to give back all of the experiences that I had as a student,” she says. “I wanted to share the love of music and culture with the next generation.”

Louise's desire to help others and have a positive social impact led her to expand her education, choosing to pursue an MBA at HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management. A fresh graduate, Louise now works as the operations manager for OpenSC, a startup driving responsible production and consumption with supply chain traceability and transparency technologies.

Widening her horizons with an MBA

During her musical career, Louise founded a startup called Ensembly, which was aimed to bring chamber music—classical music performed by a small number of performers, with one performer per instrument—to people who may not have the opportunity to go to a concert hall. 

“The process of building this business made me really think, ‘Wow, there's so much I don't know,’” Louise recalls. “I saw an MBA as an opportunity to grow, but also to learn all these things outside of this little music bubble I was in.” 

The diversity of backgrounds and viewpoints represented in the course broadened Louise’s horizons, just like she’d hoped for.

 “I thought music was really diverse because people come from everywhere, but actually, it's still all within one industry. Whereas with the MBA, you get to meet people from engineering, archaeology, you name it,” she says. 

“Getting all those inputs from classmates from different countries and different sectors, and being able to process them into something that helps everybody, was so interesting.”

Surrounded by people with all kinds of expertise and aspirations, Louise also learned to appreciate the value of her own unique experience and perspective as a musician. She quickly became aware that skills like teamwork and attention to detail, which are central to a musical practice, are highly transferable to the corporate world. 

28cf7a2ca9b9bbfb88f9b3482d56dc25a8ba27b7.jpg © Micheal Grebla 

From music to social impact

As her horizons widened and her confidence grew over the course of her MBA, Louise realized the importance of pursuing a career with a positive social impact. 

“One of the things I learned during the MBA is that everybody wants to make a difference,” she reflects. “You have to have a purpose in what you're doing. Otherwise, why do it?”

HHL Leipzig helped her incorporate that sense of purpose into her work, offering her opportunities to give back to the local community. She got involved with the Voice of Hope initiative, through which Master in Management and MBA students support refugees in their job search by sharing tips on writing cover letters and putting together a CV. 

“I wanted to keep that element of purpose in whatever work I do,” she says, which led her to turn towards sustainability. 

“As I learned about the different elements of a business, different elements of a supply chain, and the impact that each decision can have on the community, that made it even more critical to me that I didn't choose a job where I could harm the world.”

6234ef6acd9a4962fcf4d31120c790b494a84b63.jpg © HHL Leipzig via Facebook

Aligning career and values

Through her current role as operations manager at OpenSC, Louise gets to work with people who, just like her, strive to protect the environment and reduce inequalities. 

OpenSC is funded by the Worldwide Wildlife Fund and BCG digital ventures. “That partnership really focuses on trying to do what's good for the planet and humanity,” Louise explains. “Facilitating that work is really important to me.

“The wonderful thing about the work I'm doing now is that I'm surrounded by other people that also really believe it's worth taking the extra time and the extra resources to find a sustainable way to do things,” she adds. 

Without her MBA at HHL, Louise believes that she probably wouldn’t have encountered — or had the courage to pursue—such opportunities. 

“I would like to impart to any musicians or people in the arts or people that might be thinking about doing an MBA, but aren't sure if it's a good idea, that it's an amazing way to broaden your view of the world,” she says. 

"An MBA gives you a taste of so many different aspects of business, but also a macro view of the broader business landscape, and how you can find your purpose within that,” concludes Louise.

Student Reviews

HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management




Part time MSc Management

I decided on attending this program since it is 100% in English, the option for a Semester abroad, and it has a nicely designed curriculum. I enjoyed very much the studies at the Leipzig location (I do not live in Leipzig and was staying in Airbnb flats with other students during the course weekends). There was great enthusiasm within the students' group, the courses were challenging and we had experienced/diverse professors which added to the overall experience. HHL is focused on teamwork and is big on its network and career development which is a definite value add for students. I can recommend HHL to other students who want to sharpen their skill set to be prepared for leadership positions.




Impressive Journey

I’m doing my Master Part-time at HHL and love the Journey. The teaching is between good and outstanding. The service around the lectures is amazing. Never had to wait longer than a day for a response. The Network I was able to build and the lecture about entrepreneurship are the major takeaways which strongly influenced my future. I can strongly recommend the Master in Part-time at the HHL for a course with impact. But be prepared they will broaden your horizon and you will have to grow with it.





Horrible Experience

I am also a recent student at HHL. I would agree with your post wholeheartedly. HHL is brilliant at marketing, however, it's more like a Ponzi scheme. A lot of Indians happen to fall into this trap, including me. I joined HHL while letting ESMT go primarily because I thought Leipzig is a cheaper city to live in and the course is cheaper. Always remember if a deal looks too good it is probably a scam. The studies are extremely below average, the college has an abysmal career centre and the campus is a joke. Now let me give you some deeper insights : 1. Given that the college is located in EAST Germany- you need to understand that RACISM is a truth. The college runs MBA and MSc. (Management). MBA is a mere point of luring students as unaware students come to HHL with dreams and hopes of doing an MBA and getting placed. To break it to you softly: MSc is the FLAGSHIP program for HHL- this means 99% of the class is German, and they got offers from the likes of Mckinsey, Bain and Deutsche come to the Germans. Even the foreigners doing MSc. do not get a whiff of the opportunity- please understand- Germany is a "German" speaking country and not internationalised enough to include "English" as the business language. Nonetheless, HHL is such a weak school that it cannot do **** about anything- their placement cell always keeps on crying but they are of absolutely ZERO help. You will not get any scholarships like the Germans do here thanks to the Dean who promotes this divide between Germans and others by giving scholarships thatd more or less cover the entire tuition fees of the German students. 2. The Academic Director for MBA is definitely someone people look at and think that good there's an Indian there- he has absolutely zero value in HHL and in the research world anyways. He is only out there to lure you in to get a fatter commission-the more Indians he gets in the higher his commission and his job is SAFE. 3. The faculty is so horribly poor in their own research work and competence that you'd feel why did I come here. The only reason why some people come here: VISA and citizenship in a few years. You may also procure a job but with the HHL tag being so weak the salaries are way below AVERAGE. Free advice: So either way if you're planning to come to Germany either perfect your German or choose a different country because colleges like HHL get students from all over the world- after which they do not really give a damn whether you get placed or not- it's ALL BUSINESS TO HHL. I cannot speak about many other colleges, but, due to the sheer presence of colleges like Frankfurt business school, WHU and ESMT in bigger cities such as Frankfurt, Berlin and Dusseldorf provide better chances to network during the duration of the course. Do NOT come to HHL and waste your money. Your entire education and stay would cost 50 lacs, instead invest in BITCOIN or STOCKS. OR just do your Masters in Management from a public University in Germany which is way cheaper, has higher chances of scholarship and better placement opportunities. Hope this helps Thanks.