Female Leadership

Vancouver to Düsseldorf: WHU Exchange Semester to MBA Success Story

How young executive Harinder Brar was inspired by her WHU experience to return and complete an MBA.

Captivated by the country and the people she met during her Bachelor exchange semester at WHU, Harinder Brar seized the opportunity to return to Germany and study an MBA at the same school. Currently a Senior Transformation Manager with Danone in Munich, we talked to her to find out why she fell in love with Germany, what were her decisions for studying an MBA, and her plans for the future.

I am originally from Vancouver, Canada, where I grew up and completed a Bachelor’s degree in commerce. I went backpacking after my first year of university and started in France then moved onto Germany. I was fascinated by the culture and explored mostly smaller towns and villages rather than cities, and I experienced a more local way of thinking and gained a better sense of what drove people’s daily lives. I instinctively felt that Germany was a country I wanted to immerse myself in at a later stage in my life.

“An exchange semester in another country was already an attractive option, but WHU has a great reputation.”

I took advantage of the opportunity to participate in an exchange semester with WHU during my Bachelor's degree as I had already met many people from the surrounding area. During an internship that followed the exchange, a full-time position in Germany was offered to me but I had to return and complete my degree in Canada. I began a career in operations, but I always wondered what my future could have been if I had stayed in Germany.

Five years later, I was exploring which career possibilities were available to me within the company - I decided to hand in my resignation and take the leap to complete an MBA in Germany. It was a positive decision, as I was not moving to work for a competitor in the same city, but to extend my education in a completely different country.

“The WHU MBA program helped me find clarity and confidence in my decisions, to move my career in the direction I wanted.”

Choosing to study an MBA at WHU was a relatively easy one. I already knew the high caliber of the professors from during my exchange semester. However, I was also fortunate enough to have many close friends still in Germany from that time, with whom I had maintained firm friendships. Many of them work in business-related fields so their opinions on which school to choose in Germany were important to me. WHU has such a great reputation in Germany; I wanted a school that not only has international rankings but is also well-known within Germany and is expanding its network. I wanted to be one of those people growing with it.

As an international student, I found studying in Düsseldorf was a pleasant surprise. I had never been there before so I made an effort to not only become acquainted with my university community but to also meet new people in the city. The convenience of the city is very attractive – many of my classmates chose to stay in Düsseldorf after their studies. Whether it is the regular and affordable public transport or the convenience of the airport, the industry and start-ups there - everything about the city is easy and accessible. I’m not surprised that it’s regularly rated as one of the best cities to live in.

“I stayed in Germany and started working for transport company FlixMobility directly after my final MBA class.”

The MBA truly helped me find the confidence and drive to decide which path to take in terms of my career. I knew I had at least another 25 years or more of work left, so I wanted to be sure that I spent that time doing something I loved. I didn’t want to wait until I was 40 years old or be 15 years into a career when it would be much more difficult to adjust my career trajectory. It really was the right decision at the perfect time for me.