The father of two small children and director of O’Connor Partners, a boutique advisory firm based in New Zealand, there is no doubt that Dace Caldwell has his hands full. With a busy working life and a young family, it is surprising to think that he would have any spare time, let alone time to join an MBA program. And yet, that is precisely what he is doing. Living in Dusseldorf since the end of 2017, New Zealand-born Dace decided to fulfill a long-term goal of completing an MBA at a prestigious international business school by joining the WHU Global Online MBA program.
“Living in another country was something we (my wife and I) always wanted to do, but life somehow always got in the way. My wife is German, and we had been considering the move for some time, so eventually, we decided to try it. Dusseldorf is an excellent location – we’ve made some great friends and I love that you can drive for one to two hours in several directions and end up in other countries. Something quite difficult in New Zealand!”
Why an MBA?
“I originally considered joining a specialized master’s degree as I enjoy technical topics. After discussing with friends and family, I saw that an MBA was more fitting for that point in my career. It would give me the management knowledge I felt I was missing. I have often felt pigeonholed in my career because of my academic and professional background (largely corporate finance and risk consulting). An MBA would help me to broaden my skills.”
When he moved to Germany, Dace was a Senior Manager in Risk Consulting with PwC. “I had some connections to the team in Germany, and I reached out to see if they could help me with the location change. “I also worked in the PwC European Deals Origination team and had an in-house role with the Arla Foods Corporate Strategy team before I began with O’Connor Partners. Then I heard about WHU through a friend in Dusseldorf who is also from New Zealand. I did my due diligence and researched many schools, but WHU was quickly on the shortlist. It was important for me to have a high-quality program that was as flexible as possible to study around family and work commitments.”
Why an online format?
With many online MBAs and short courses now available on the market, it can sometimes be difficult for candidates to differentiate between them. “What stood out for me about the WHU Global Online MBA was the level of flexibility and the strong emphasis that this was the genuine WHU MBA program, simply delivered off-campus. Then it was the reputation of WHU, the rankings of the MBA program, and of course, the option to join modules abroad. Gaining an MBA from a recognized and reputable program was important because I want it to be acknowledged as a sign of quality wherever I go. And if I do go somewhere else, I like that the program does not tie you to a location, so I can take my studies with me if we move.”
How do you build a network online?
“The online MBA requires a high level of commitment from you, which is a positive sign; I didn’t want it to feel “cheap”! We have group projects that can be intense but working with a mix of people from different backgrounds is so interesting. I’ve made new friends that I’m regularly in touch with outside of the classes. A few weeks ago a group of us met up for an evening out in Dusseldorf, and I’m looking forward to meeting the rest of my cohort in person at the on-campus residential week. Our live sessions are much more interactive than you would expect, and there are lots of great tools for learning and communicating. So, it often feels less “online” than you would think.”
“The original plan was to come over for two years and then go home again. But that was nearly five years ago! The latest version of the plan is to finish up the MBA and head back to New Zealand, but I’m very aware at this point that sometimes life happens, and things change. When I joined the online MBA, I was asked about my goal for the program. I have been very influenced by a book called “Range” by David Epstein. The relevant idea here is that it’s a fallacy to stay in one career and expect it to develop by becoming ever more specialized, staying on one ‘linear’ career path. The most exciting careers come from taking advantage of opportunities that emerge rather than carefully planning them years in advance. You need to be open to those opportunities when they come; it’s something that drives me in the online MBA. I am excited to see what opportunities arise and what comes next – it might not be what I would expect.”