INSEAD Participant Interview
Transition to General Management
Vice President Technology Innovation
Michael Byczkowski, Vice President Technology Innovation, works for SAP AG, the world leading enterprise in software and software-related services (in terms of revenue). With its headquarters in Walldorf, Germany, SAP AG has locations in more than 130 countries. A German national with 20 years of international work experience in the utilities industry as well as information technology, Michael is an alumni of INSEAD’s Transition to General Management programme.
What are the skills and knowledge most essential to succeed in General Management and why did you choose INSEAD Executive Education?
First of all, it is indispensable to be able to see the bigger picture and its intrinsic dependencies across the different domains of expertise like production, sales, operations and finance, marketing, people management etc. Secondly, it is vital to strive for an open and cross cultural mindset and thirdly, it is essential to focus on your customers and what they really value. Together with its excellent reputation and truly global focus, INSEAD seemed to me like the perfect choice to address these three key elements.
Why did you choose Transition to General Management, and what were your overall experiences with it?
I primarily chose the programme in order to be able to understand a problem end-to-end and tackle it effectively; having studied Mathematics, this approach is very close to my heart. So what I was looking for was not a specialist training that gives you deep insights into single topics but a training in which I could learn a much broader approach and how to understand business situations and challenges more broadly - how the various dimensions relate to each other and what the holistic consequences of decisions and activities are.
This programme really opened my mind and gave me an entire new perspective on many things! I can truly say that it is the best programme ever, and my only regret is that I did not do it earlier! It was such a positive experience for me that I have since recommended it wholeheartedly to close friends in similar situations.
What kind of impact have your experiences at INSEAD and Transition to General Management had on your work and/or your career so far?
The programme has really helped me to place emphasis on the value side of the business instead of solely looking at the cost side. Understanding what a customer really values brings great opportunities to enrich and innovate our offerings in a very targeted and sensible manner.
My perspective on Marketing as a holistic discipline and its importance for the business changed completely, thanks to the integrated approach taught in this course.
What were you least expecting before arriving on campus, but were pleasantly surprised by?
I was always aware of INSEAD’s reputation as one of the world’s best business schools, but the high quality of teaching really went beyond my expectations – not only from an academic and research point of view and how our professor extracted the real essentials of a given theory or approach but also how they helped us transfer the learnings into practice and complemented them by real-life cases.
I was also very impressed by the multitude of great and open-minded people I have had the pleasure of meeting.
Do you think that INSEAD’s famous cultural diversity had an effect on your learning?
Absolutely, and this is one of the primary reasons why I chose INSEAD. One could learn how people with different cultural, industry, and company backgrounds tackle the very same problems; this also showed how heterogeneous groups and teams can drive a topic much further than one could do with a set of very like-minded people.
Our group was among the nicest people that I have ever met - after the first two weeks of training, we had already transformed into a real team. I've implemented a private LinkedIn group just for our class where we stayed connected during the break between the two modules. We organized a get-together prior to the second module and are now looking forward to our reunion. In the meantime we stay in touch via informal meetings during our various travels, communicate on LinkedIn etc.
Why did you choose the Fontainebleau/Singapore session?
Having lived with my family in Singapore for some years and engaging regularly with customers, partners, and colleagues all over Asia, it was important to me to embrace Asian business culture not only from an academic perspective but also immerse myself directly into the matter.