Maximilian von Hoyningen
Manager Corporate Relations at WWF Germany
- Program studied
- Current Location
Q&A WITH MAX
Define your experience in the IMBA in one word.
What were some of the main challenges that you encountered on your way? How did your master program and IE help you through these challenges?
Prior to joining the MBA program, I had worked in both consulting as well as started my own company. My key challenge in both roles was to focus on what is most important in order to get the job done. In consulting, you are usually overwhelmed by data, client expectations, and sometimes conflicting requests from superiors. In your own company, everything now depends on you and no one tells you where to get started.
What I got a lot better at was to focus on one goal or one solution, then determine what information I need or which steps I have to take to get it done, and disregard less relevant information or less impactful measures. I don’t know if this was because it is crucial to the cases at IE or a result of the work I did with my classmates, but I’ve benefitted from it since then.
How did your experience at IE prepared you for your professional career? In what ways do you think the program has changed your life professionally and personally?
What IE taught me was how to break down a business problem into its parts and then find a solution which solves the issue. Especially because of its strong focus on entrepreneurship, these solutions were usually to try something new. Personally, the MBA gave me the confidence to pursue new solutions against the usual pushbacks instead of finding the seemingly best traditional approach.
What was networking like in the program?
Personally, I got to know my fellow students outside of the IE premises. The workload is tough and leaves little time for going out if the ambition is to prepare all cases and projects; however, when you do, Madrid has an amazing selection of restaurants, bars, and clubs. The end-of-term parties, Sunday tapas in the restaurants of La Latina, and dinners with the whole section once a month were what built the foundation for my network at IE.
What was your favorite memory from your time at IE?
There were many, but the best moment at school was probably when my team won Venture Day. Our venture project had been the absolute focus of our studies for four months, it had proven to be a massive challenge since it was in technology and none of us had a tech-background, and that came with the biggest ups and downs of the program for us.
If someone was considering going to IE, what would you tell them?
Decide for yourself what it is exactly that you want to get out of the year: Is it a certain industry you want to get into, certain geography, certain company, certain knowledge… Based on that, choose which institution is the most suitable. Every business school has its focus industries and focus skills. Many of my fellow students went to companies that source from IE (which are available on the website). IE has an amazing reputation in LATAM with many students working in family businesses there. And still today I feel the curriculum is first-class in terms of what you can learn in a classroom on entrepreneurship (which turned out to be more than I had expected).
Why did you choose to study this program at IE?
I knew that I wanted to get the best education I can get on entrepreneurship outside of the US and then IE was the obvious choice. I also wanted to have it as hands-on as possible after 4 years of work experience, so the MBA case method appealed to me. Most important, two close friends of mine had been to IE and really liked the experience.
What is one thing you wished you knew, when you were a student? What advice would you give to students who are about to begin the program?
The people I know that got the most out of the program were the ones that managed to strike a balance. On one hand, they focused on their initial goal that brought them to IE. There is so much you can do in one year, and still not have enough time for everything. You will have to focus, and you must deliberately pass on some opportunities in order to achieve your goals. Note your goal can also be to find out what you want to do with your professional life, in which case I would speak to as many different people as possible and take a broad variety of classes. On the other hand, it helps to keep an open mind for what is left and right on your path – be it classes in a totally unrelated topic or events and people in Madrid totally unrelated to IE. Also,
Tell us about the IE alumni community and the impact they have had in your life and / or career.
At IE, I met a more diverse range of people than ever before, which really broadened the horizon for me. Today, it allows me to get in contact with people who have first-hand knowledge in an industry or region which I do not, and that’s great. The best thing is this applies to specialized industries as well as remote holiday destinations on the other side of the planet only locals know.
Tell us about your day-to-day at WWF?
At WWF, I am part of the corporate relations team. We are working with corporates mainly from the industries of food, finance, fashion, technology, FMCG, and construction to greatly reduce their ecological footprint and execute suitable conservation and transformation projects for them. Daily business for us is assessing the ecological impacts of various industries and companies, derive business transformation opportunities for them, which align their economic realities with ecological targets, and build networks with companies that support our cause. The ultimate goal is to ensure that both businesses and humanity thrive in the centuries to come.
Your background is very diverse, how did you go from consulting to WWF?
What I always look for in all my positions is a huge challenge in uncharted territory. Right now, society, companies, and legislators all switch their attention to sustainable development; however, no one knows how to do it right… yet. During my bachelor studies, e-commerce and online marketing were new and exciting. And while we have developed amazing tools and techniques in the lasts 20 years to sell products online, the market of sustainable development is still very underdeveloped. So while my actual role has not changed much over my career (I’ve always worked with companies to solve their key business challenges at that moment in time), I’ve switched to the kind of problems that I feel really matter for all our futures.
Do you have any advice for IE students and alumni who are looking to pursue a career in your field? What skills do you consider are needed to succeed in your field?
First: Conviction . To make the most of a career in sustainable business, it is crucial to believe in the cause that you are pursuing. Second, you will meet people with very diverse backgrounds and mindsets very different from your own, sometimes very un-business like, so openness is very important. And third, it is very different to convince someone to take a broader look on their business by taking social or ecological aspects into consideration, instead of just selling a new marketing strategy or a restructuring project. That’s why strong persuasion skills are elemental at the interface of business and sustainability and very much in line with the first two aspects.
What’s the best career advice you have ever been given?
Navigate your career like you would navigate icefloes. Only make the next jump once you know what the jump after will be. That advice helped me, first, to break down big career moves into several smaller ones, and second to focus in every role on what I need to learn in order to take the next step that I aim for.
What skills would you recommend job seekers develop in order to make them more competitive in today’s workforce?
I would focus on the fundamentals: Analytical and problem-solving skills. Considering how fast our world changes, your knowledge in a certain industry is probably outdated in one or two years after you’ve left it. Furthermore, this basic knowledge stays relevant if you fundamentally change your roles after the MBA.
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