Pursuing an MBA program has become a priority in the past few years, as well as an opportunity for those who set out to achieve excellence in a competitive and dynamic business environment. The decision to engage on such a professional trajectory is to a great extent determined by certain traits found in the candidate’s DNA, namely ambition, determination and the capacity to take on new responsibilities on the fly. All these qualities, however, need to be doubled by professional and managerial experience gathered in the business arena.
Andreea Toloaca, the new commercial director at Orkla Foods and a recent Magna cum Laude graduate of the Tiffin Executive MBA, talks in an ample interview about the challenges and satisfactions she experienced during the two years of study.
What exactly determined you to attend an MBA program?
I like challenges, because they help me grow and test my limits, while also boosting my self-confidence. Joining an MBA program was a mental and physical challenge, which stemmed out of my characteristic curiosity. I wanted to learn new things, test my limits, meet people with similar aspirations and broaden my views.
How did you choose your business school?
When choosing a program that suited me, I took into account the school’s reputation in the business environment, its exposure to international experience, my friends’ recommendations, as well as the duration of the program and the place where the classes were held.
What were your expectations before enrollment and to what extent has the MBA program met them?
First of all, I expected to have access to the latest information with respect to marketing, communication, strategy and applying theory into practice, by means of case studies and discussions with colleagues. Second, I wanted to hear opinions other than those from the European business environment, namely from the American one, where the FMCG area is far ahead when it comes to innovations aimed at consumers, e-commerce and e-data management.
My technical expectations were met and even surpassed with regard to active learning, due to my colleagues’ interactive contributions. I was part of a good cohort, selected through a rigorous process, with diverse areas of expertise, which add to the value of the MBA. Our cohort – although, obviously, I am being biased – was an excellent one, with students from different industries (FMCG, pharmaceutical, IT, services, construction, etc.), who possessed different competences (from technical managers to CEOs).
What recommendations do you have for managers who would like to pursue an MBA program? What qualities should it have?
I believe it is a subjective choice, which needs to meet their learning and socializing expectations in relation to all the effort that is put in. For me, the emotional aspect was very relevant: the balance between my personal life and my job, the time I needed to spend on the program to the detriment of my family. I chose to invest two to three weekends a month for two years in active learning and new friends and now I can say that I have a new appreciation for weekends, as well as for the value of energy and the knowledge generated by a good group.
Which were the biggest challenges you faced during the program?
Each of us perceives pressure differently; in my case, I had difficulties letting go of my urge for perfection. By that I mean the urge to read everything, go through absolutely all the materials, turn in every assignment dead on time and in perfect shape. I also felt the pressure of my job, which was following its natural course, more intensely and in time I felt the lack of weekends of sleep and relaxation.
After the third module, I began to relax, keep up the pace and enjoy all the challenges that came. I stopped seeing them as additional stress and started to consider them an opportunity to be enjoyed.
What is the most important skill you acquired or developed during the program?
This MBA program helped me to see the bigger picture at the time, as well as to gain perspective. It consolidated my positive thinking, my endurance, my teamwork and management skills. Equally, I learned to read and interpret financial data more easily.
Did the case studies you approached and the ideas you debated during classes influence the decisions you made in your professional or personal life?
Yes, particularly the discussions during the course in decision making held by Professor Patrick McLeod, who in fact was one of my favorites. I became aware then that, when making certain decisions, we are circumscribed by various biases. I liked the courses in finance very much, but also the leadership, information management and organizational design courses, because I felt those were the areas in which I accumulated the most knowledge.
What was your greatest benefit from pursuing the MBA program?
The experience in itself is unique. The greatest benefit for me is the energy boost I felt more and more strongly toward the end of the MBA, when I was becoming aware that I was privileged to enjoy such a complete experience: theoretical knowledge acquired from very good professors, the opportunity to practice on recent case studies and, more importantly, a cohort of friends for life.
Do you think this moment in your professional life was the most appropriate for taking on such a program?
You can pursue an MBA at any time, with the one condition that you should have some background in business, because that way you can put your hands-on experience to work. For me it was a very good moment, having amassed seven or eight years of managerial experience and made lots of business decisions along the years. I regret nothing; I did it at the right time, in the right place and with the right people.
About Orkla Foods Romania
Orkla Foods Romania is an important player on the Romanian food market, with a turnover of €40 million, active on several market segments (ketchup, mustard, frozen dough, pâté, margarine and baking ingredients), both in the retail and in the B2B area.
It is an international company with its head office in Norway, while its management has the specifics of a local business – all the decisions are made by the local management team and all the company’s brands are local (Tomi, Bunatati de la Bunica, Ardealul, LaMinut, Linco Patisero), developed to fit the culture and needs of Romanian consumers.
About Tiffin University
Tiffin University promotes a tradition of quality based on a history that goes back over 125 de years, during which time it developed a diverse portfolio of academic fields, university and postgraduate studies and extracurricular activities. Its success on the Romanian market is strengthened by its collaboration with the University of Bucharest, which started in 1999. Since 2002, the Tiffin Executive MBA program at the UB has been recognized as one of the most successful programs. Having said that, Tiffin University aims to maintain and improve the quality standard of its managerial education programs, harboring the conviction that this will contribute substantially to increasing the quality of management in Romanian private and public companies.