Becoming more self-reflective: A chat with Andrian Gaju, MBA

Welcome to a new series wherein we chat with alumni and current EMBA participants. A number of topics are investigated from the learning, professional, and social experience of the programme attendees both past and present. These are individuals that contributed to our on-going success with their heartfelt comments and suggestions. We, the programme administrators, are proud to have them among our lifelong learning journeys.

Our first chat is with an alumnus who graduated in 2023. His thesis entitled Crisis Management in Uncertain Times. The research provided deep insights into contemporary management issues: The aim of this study is to investigate how individuals and organisations should perform during a crisis. By considering the most recent crisis of the pandemic, i.e., COVID-19, the study attempts to identify the best viable solutions to tackle such situations in the future. Besides this, the study highlights the importance of decision-making during uncertain conditions. Based on interviews with several top managers, the present study reports how organisations were impacted during the crisis, with COVID-19 as a model example, and how they managed to solve the problems in this uncertain time.

Originally from Romania, Andrian now makes the Czech Republic home with his wife and young son. Andrian is a CEO of a large European enterprise, shares with us his Visions and Thoughts of the EMBA programme. Andrian has also presided as a guest lecturer during course sessions which, we hope he will continue to do so in the future.

As always, Andrian, thank you for this, and best wishes and luck in all your future visions, career, and family.

For us to get to know you better at the same time, how has MBA Programme helped you? How have you managed especially you with your travels and hectic schedules?

As you correctly mentioned, I am constantly on business trips. As we speak, I am on a business trip now in Romania. We are setting up a new venture here. As for the MBA program, if we can travel back in time, it was a roller coaster for us, especially the cohort I was part of. I started with your session. The module on intercultural management was the first one I did, and it was on-site. Immediately after that, we were forced by the circumstances to go online, and things changed from there. Now, getting back to your question or reflecting on the situation, it is challenging being a top manager, a father to a young kid, and a husband, being responsible for the things that I have in my life, and on top of all, it was extra-challenging to do an MBA degree. But reflecting on all, this teaches you something. It teaches you that although I thought I was efficient in time management, I had to become even more efficient at it. I had to find time. The most challenging part in this regard was planning Fridays because Friday is a workday for all of us. As a manager, Friday is the day for work-related decisions. Friday is still the day for delegating tasks and solving issues. Friday is the day the business is still alive, right? But as a manager I had to prioritise MBA studies over my work. And in this phase of my career, I truly learned to delegate. Before starting my MBA studies, I had a micromanagement style of leading teams, but the MBA taught me that I needed to learn to delegate more. I needed to let things run its course. I needed to see what happens. People make decisions. People make mistakes. Just let them do it and get experience. Let them make decisions without me and see where it goes.

When did you enter the programme? Why did you continue with the programme given the circumstances of the day?

May 2020. First, I was always interested in returning to the so-called student bench because I graduated from the University of Economic Studies in 2006. And all I did, as I like to call it, was jump into the corporate jungle and learn my way through. I understood how to survive. I understood how to grow both personally and professionally. I learned things by doing them, but I was always curious about how things were structured or written in the books. As a manager, I was and am still reading many self-help books, management books, and books written by experienced professionals worldwide. I was always curious about going back to university and studying how things are, or better said, why things work as they work or are done as they are done. Or what is the name of this process or this principle? It was my main motivation why I joined the MBA at VŠE. I wanted to get back to the student bench to understand why things are done as they are.

How has the programme help you with, you know, your social life, your professional life?

During the MBA programme, everyone I interacted with was people with diverse backgrounds, of different nationalities, and from distinct cultures. All of this brought different viewpoints. We analysed different questions, topics, and terms, and it was fascinating how one simple phrase could spark an hour or two of debate, and the teachers were respectful enough to let us debate constructively. I remember that during one of the modules, we were discussing the topic of corporate silos that often happens within big companies. It is a situation when different teams from the same company will not talk to each other. We analysed the reasons, the outcomes, the results, or the lack of results that could happen. During that discussion, there were so many different viewpoints. Although we were of the same age and had the same managerial experience, we had drastically different angles on how we looked at the problem, how we would approach it, and how we would solve it in our day-to-day work. So, back to your question about how the programme has helped me. Before the MBA programme, I was more concerned about what I was doing and not how I was doing it. Getting to know so many amazing people during the MBA programme taught me to be far more self-reflective and ensure that others are brought along in my journey of completing tasks and achieving goals, be they personal or professional. And I want to say a grand thank you to all the students and teachers involved in this programme.

How has the programme enriched you? Do you see people differently now?

I do. That would be the short answer but let me expand on that. During our conversation, you touched on an important topic – family. I noticed what a significant role my family played during my MBA journey because they have been supportive of me going through the programme and encouraging me all the way. They understood that I was studying because this was important to me. They understood I would not be at home each second weekend of the month, and I would not be spending enough time with them, but still, they were super supportive and understanding of the sacrifices that I was making. I am eternally grateful for their unconditional support and will never take it for granted.