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Why MBA: EBS Business School

For Amercian Jon Reifschneider, the corporate world is more interesting than working for NASA. He tells us why he chose Germany's EBS Business School to open up career options

Tue Dec 21 2010

From a graduate scholarship to work with NASA, to a full scholarship to the EBS Business School, Jon Reifschneider travelled the miles from his home state of Delaware to Germany for his MBA.

Having finished his one-year MBA program in January 2010, Jon tells us why he chose EBS Business School and how the program has helped him in the entrepreneurial world.

After a Bachelors and Master degrees in Engineering, doing an MBA was a big change for Jon. He had worked with global communication company SES for around two years, but realized that the communications industry wasn’t his cup of tea.

“I’ve planned to do an MBA from the time I was young. And in the US, an MBA is almost a requirement for some positions, particularly in upper management. It was an important step towards a career in management.”

After his undergraduate degree in Mechanical engineering at the University of Virginia, Jon spent six months working as a researcher for NASA. Amongst other things, he was involved in cost analysis and creating a database for technology development projects in NASA.

He was also a part of the development team for a next-generation space shuttle design. Following NASA, he did a Masters in Engineering Management at Duke University and worked with SES in New Jersey before moving to Luxemburg.

“Working with NASA was a great experience. It was a very different experience to working in the corporate world. It’s something I enjoyed but… I think I enjoy working on the corporate side a little bit better.”

Since he was already in Europe, going to a European b-school was a natural choice for him. A fluent speaker of German, he wanted to experience life in Germany.

“I’d never spent any time in Germany, and I was already working in Europe in Luxemburg.

“I’d already spent time in two schools in the US. I wanted a different kind of experience and to understand their culture.

“Germany is the biggest economy and one of the most important countries in the European Union; and from an engineering perspective it makes sense as Germany is known for its engineering and technical industry.”

Jon’s situation was unusual. He applied just to two schools: EBS and Mannheim University. He didn’t have sufficient work experience for Mannheim, but he was happy to win a full scholarship to EBS.

“I applied to EBS as its one of the top three programs in Germany. I wanted to go to a university which had a reputation. The program is very international with professors from all over the world. I had the opportunity to spend a semester abroad, and I went to India’s IIM-A, which was a big thing for me. I had a really great time there.”

Though he went to Germany in part for a new experience, he didn’t find Europe and the US very different. That’s why he enjoyed the chance to experience life in India.

In terms of the structure of the course, he liked EBS a lot.

“Since it’s a shorter program, they cram a lot into a very short time. Instead of choosing a couple of classes, and having them every week at the same time, they had a module system, where some classes went for only two weeks but we met everyday for those two weeks, sometimes 8 hours a day.

“I really liked this structure which was intense but really interesting. Everyday was different, and your schedule was never the same and it made us stay on our toes and look for what would happen the next day.”

Even before finishing his course, he discovered his entrepreneurial side, and founded 31Projects, an online platform for students to connect with companies and social organisations for hands-on experience.

“We have students from 25 different universities across the US from different MBA programs. We match them up with consulting-style projects for different businesses and organisations that need help.

“We had a public launch of the web platform at the beginning of September. It’s been going well since then.”

Though he didn’t begin his MBA with the intention of starting a company, the course at EBS came in useful.

“If you start a company, as the founder, you are pretty much doing everything. So the finance, accounting, marketing, sales, public relations, managing the operations – you have to have a lot of different skills – which the MBA provides the foundation for.”