Luka is clear on the benefits that CEMS provides future leaders. Now a leading light with the Mastercard Global Healthcare team, Luka is inspired by all styles of leadership. She says:
“In my career immediately after CEMS, I felt that I was well prepared to work as a Corporate Banker at Deutsche Bank and now, as a Director of the Global Healthcare Center of Excellence.
Today, I am still very involved with CEMS because it really connects you with great people. For business it is very helpful. I aim to be involved with CEMS every year. I’ve been on CEMS juries and hosted a Mastercard CEMS Skill Seminar. As a CEMS Alumni I feel you can capture the CEMS spirit by engaging with the new cohorts and learning new things. Being a CEMSie is shorthand for saying “let’s go do it,” and that spirit as well as the structure learnt during my CEMS studies is a solid base. “
In conversation with Luka:
What does leadership mean to you?
I learned early on what it takes to be a leader with my first experience at University as a young teaching assistant, leading tutorial classes for Mathematics, Statistics, and Pre-Master Econometrics students. I figured out that you have to be prepared, and relay the content in a simple way, making it digestible and approachable. In my role at Deutsche Bank, I realized that you have to become someone that people trust and by delivering repeatedly at a high standard, you gain that trust. While at Mastercard I came to see that defining responsibilities is key but to know the people you are working for is even more critical. Everyone is different so getting the best from them requires patience and knowledge of them, rather than just getting the job done.
Leadership also means ensuring the project has elements of fun within it along with a real purpose. This is great in my current position at Mastercard Global Healthcare, where everyone has a connection to healthcare as it affects everyone. Hence, when reaching out to clients or colleagues, everyone loves to engage, as our projects will have a real impact on healthcare in markets around the world. This is the vision and to be a leader is to be visionary. You first must know where you want to go in order for people to want to follow, and I like the challenge of this formative process. Being a leader is being able to see the big picture and being able to see all sides of a project but knowing what information is necessary for different stakeholders. What I enjoy the most is that you can shape projects, you can build and achieve something together with a team. “I will never forget the people behind the numbers,” which was my CEMS graduation quote, is something I really believe in. People make things happen.
What advice would you give to people regarding leadership?
- Build your network internationally - it is hugely important to appreciate the cultural perspectives especially if you want a global role. A team in India will work very differently to one in the UK and then in Germany.
- Push ahead with passion - find something you really enjoy working on, find the projects you want to get involved with and push forward.
- Be people-focused - To really build something you need a team that believes in your and you in them. That way you will always get everyone to go the extra mile.
Remember that leadership and its meaning may change as you progress from student to mid-career alumni to senior-level alumni. Different styles are inspiring, and you can learn a lot from them. I have two leaders I greatly admire but they are very different, one is extremely emotionally intelligent in their leadership style and the other is more matter-of-fact. Both are viable - to learn to lead is to appreciate that. For you to learn to lead it is what is authentic to you and who you are.
I believe that leadership is something you both have but can be learned. No one is a perfect leader, and it takes practice and experience. I prefer having 360 feedback as that is valuable for professional development. You gain a lot of learning. I do feel that being a female leader has many benefits and while in my earlier career, I felt I had to prove myself, especially in the trading floor environment what I have gained is experience that has been less about gender and more about how you work with people of all ages.
What would you recommend about CEMS to others?
Within CEMS you get exposed to a lot of leadership early on - Business Seminars group work is a CEMS component where someone needs to lead. So you can already start to practice. And you also have exposure to cultural diversity so when you reach the workplace you already have an understanding and appreciation of that complexity.
The CEMS International Business Project is very good because it mirrors real professional life. You have no control over the people in your group, you need to work out timelines and boundaries and much more - this is what working life is like. And here the CEMS spirit comes into its own. The international aspect, the fact that people want to achieve more, that CEMSies do all of this but with that extra part which is fun, these CEMSies push ahead and they have more to give and receive.
I truly believe that a CEMSie is partly made and partly learnt. The CEMS person is that person who is already open and international and wants more of that. They want to learn more and CEMS helps them open their eyes to more. What I appreciate is that I can be with CEMSies in your peer group and others, and you can see where they might be in 10 or 20 years’ time. It is inspiring and it is looking and living the CEMS values. Being a CEMSie is both the skills you learn and the drive that you have yourself.