Why a MBA / Leadership Development Program (vs. direct hire)?
I was attempting a career switch, changing my industry, geography and functional area all at the same time. The leadership program saw my past experiences outside of the industry as a plus, and also offered me quick exposure to different parts of the business. This gave me the opportunity to learn and show direct impact to the organization within a shorter period of time than a direct hire opportunity could.
What are the key advantages / disadvantages of being on a MBA / Leadership Development Program?
The exposure you gain to senior management is an advantage commonly quoted in leadership programs. Same for Roche, each trainee has a mentor on the senior leadership team who would guide us throughout the program. But I think one should also not forget the relationships and connections you build at the working level. This is highly beneficial at Roche, given its decentralized organizational structure and its employees move on to different long-term assignments frequently.
Whilst gaining broad knowledge of the company, a key disadvantage of being on a program would be the lack of depth as you move on quickly from one role/ project to another, without having a full picture of the end-to-end process. This could become a deterrent for future hiring managers taking you on for your first full-time position if he/ she do not believe in the goals of the program. Hence, it is important to choose a program that you see senior managers investing their time and resources into.
How does the MBA / Leadership Development Program fit in your career goals?
This may be similar to my other answers, but the Roche Business Perspectives program focus on leadership development and its flexibility in allowing me to plan my rotations around my personal goals with no limitation on geography/ functional and business areas were key drivers to my decision. It was one of the only programs that would allow me the broadest experience possible in a short span of 2 years, which I see as important in building an international career in the long run.
How strongly did you weight the location of the program?
This was a key criterion as my experiences thus far were limited to Asia. I was interested in a program that does not limit its participants to one/ a few locations because of their nationality or where they had prior experience in. Roche was one of the few programs, which was truly global- I had free will in determining where I would like to move to for each of my 6-month rotations.
What to look for in a MBA / Leadership Development Program?
It is important to know the reputation of a development program in the company. Some key indicators to look out for could be, if you had senior managers involved in the interview process. And I would definitely also recommend speaking with the program’s alumni. Through these conversations, I was able to focus on programs that were more aligned with my goals as alumni could shed light on their post-program experiences. They could also share insights on the reputation of the leadership program within the company.
Can you summarize the recruiting process you went through and how look it took?
The Roche interview stood out for me as it was the only interview that also involved interviewers outside of the sales and marketing departments. The overall process took 3 months and I had 3 rounds of interview. Each round consisted of multiple one-on-one interviews. For instance, the 2nd round had 3 separate interviews with program alumni. The interviewers were friendly, but the questions were clearly aimed at understanding the type of leader you were.
What were the required skillsets and prior experience and how were they evaluated (behavioral interviews, case studies, assessment center, panel interview, etc)?
Having prior working experience outside of your home country is extremely valuable. It is important to see that you are able to successfully navigate across cultures. Therefore, do not worry if you came from within or outside the industry, as long as you can articulate and show the business acumen that you possess through your prior experiences. Roche is a people oriented company with a unique culture that places a lot of emphasis on its values and leadership principles. Check if you identify with these principles before applying. It is a good litmus test to check for personal fit.
What advice and tips can you share with those interested in MBA Development Programs?
I think knowing your “who” and “why” is important. Believing strongly in “why” you chose to do the program will carry you through the continuous discomfort of readjusting every 6 months, not only to your new work environment but also building up a new social network from scratch.
Also, being in a development program is a long-term investment. You may not see immediate benefit in the broad understanding and wide network that you have gained. Therefore it is important to feel connected with “who” you are working for, ensuring that you truly identify with its mission and understand its culture. Remember that you are in it for the long haul.
What does your average workday consist of?
This really varies from rotation to rotation. But I think one constant would be the frequent video calls and face-to-face meetings that you will have. Roche believes in having the human touch when it comes to working with each other, so you will always have colleagues who are keen to help you learn and succeed. Even if you cannot meet each other in person, which is common for Perspectives program participants, web conferencing has been a common tool that we use to keep in touch.
What are the major challenges or obstacles you have encountered during the program?
The pressure to learn and deliver starts from day 1 but it is made even more challenging in a big organization like Roche. That meant that you had to be proactive in speaking with others for advice on the multiple stakeholders involved in your project, which can be confusing in a matrix organization. It takes effort and time to come to understand the lingo and processes which may differ from division to division.