Living in the bustling metropolis of London for seven years, Cornelius Steele was happily working in policy for the global bank Credit Suisse before moving to Zurich to work as an assistant to the group chairman of said bank. While he was experienced and talented and enjoyed his job, he found he was ready to take the next step and develop into general management. Seeing that he was missing the skills he needed to transition, he looked to join an MBA program.
“As I grew up in Germany, I decided to return for my MBA. The Full-Time MBA at WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management stood out because it was a very international program. I had been working for an international bank abroad and didn’t want to lose that diverse environment. The modules abroad were also a selling point to me for gaining additional experience. The reputation of WHU was inspiring, and after engaging with people from the admissions team, I felt immediately welcome. I knew it was the right place for me.”
Cornelius describes how he saw the impact of what he learned during the MBA almost immediately after graduation. “We were encouraged to lead a lot of presentations throughout the program, which was helpful because, in my current role, I do that a lot! It helps grow your confidence. In financial management, we participated in a course on mergers and acquisitions, where I spent much of my time in my current role. So those skills and knowledge I acquired were of immediate use.”
Following graduation, Cornelius joined the global cable management systems corporation Niedax Group in September 2019. By January 2023, he was promoted to the Executive Board, responsible for North and Central America and Africa regions as well as the commercial departments of Niedax GmbH & Co. KG. “In my role at Niedax, I essentially act as an entrepreneur. I’m responsible for certain regions where we have businesses; my job is to develop those businesses in the right direction. What I like about entrepreneurship is that anyone can be an entrepreneur. You don’t have to set up a business to be one; it’s about what you can do with a simple idea and a lot of determination.”
Cornelius remains very connected to WHU, and this association is important to him. He is a member of the advisory board for the MBA student initiative, the WHU Entrepreneurship Roundtable, a platform for discussing ideas, learning skills, and connecting students to start-ups. He also assists in speaking with prospective MBA students and participates in admissions interviews for prospective undergraduate students. “The network at WHU is not talked about enough; I met many wonderful people during my MBA. I’ve met people from different backgrounds and industries, including experts who were happy to share their knowledge. It’s a community I’m thrilled to still be a part of.”
Leadership is an essential facet of his personal growth that Cornelius took with him following the MBA, including mentoring others. “It’s crucial to me as several people helped me professionally and personally throughout my journey. I feel responsible for taking on that role as my career progresses to help others. This is why I am part of ADAN (Afro-German Academics Network). This voluntary organization offers mentoring for people of color who often don’t have anyone to talk to regarding studies or the job market, especially in Germany. Mentoring has become part of my DNA, and I always ask that anyone I mentor does the same for someone else.”
Reflecting on his time during the MBA, what advice can he offer to someone considering joining one? “Take a leap of faith and do it. Doing it full-time is best as it is your sole focus for that year, and ultimately, you get out of the MBA what you put into it. You need the time to fully devote yourself to case studies or even just ensure you have the flexibility to join company presentations. It allows you to consider what you want to do in life, your leadership values, and make that career change you’ve been dreaming of.”