As CEO of BILD Group, Claudius Senst is steering one of Germany’s largest and most popular and influential media brands. We had the opportunity to talk to him about his experience in the Part-Time MBA Program at WHU and the importance of gaining new perspectives.
At age 36, Claudius is shaping the future of media in a digitalized world. Starting his career as a consultant with Boston Consulting Group (BCG), he joined Axel Springer in 2013, shortly after completing WHU’s Part-Time MBA program. Just a few years later, he had the opportunity to move to New York with Axel Springer where he was quickly promoted into several leadership roles. Prior to returning to Germany to become Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of BILD Group in 2021, he served as Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Insider Inc. Aside from his executive role at BILD, he currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors at Insider Inc. and Morning Brew, both American subsidiaries of Axel Springer SE.
In 2011, Claudius decided to pursue a part-time MBA while continuing to work at BCG. “After gaining a few years of work experience, I sought to round up my academic profile, thinking that it would not only be appropriate or necessary, but also helpful to add the curriculum of an MBA to my experience. However, I didn’t want to leave BCG to study full-time because I really enjoyed working there. WHU’s Part-Time MBA Program was a perfect fit in terms of the curriculum but also the structure, providing the chance to work remotely for certain parts of the program. WHU has an outstanding reputation, and having a strong brand like WHU associated with your CV certainly is an additional benefit.”
A demanding yet rewarding experience
Adding an academic education to his busy work schedule proved to be a demanding yet rewarding experience. “It’s compelling to combine working and studying in many ways. However, it’s also challenging because you’re doing two things that are important for your development at the same time. It definitely was a demanding period of my life, but in a good way.”
His advice to young professionals who consider pursuing an MBA while continuing to work is to fully embrace the decision and to go all in. “It’s important to find a key agreement with your employer on how to set priorities during your time as an MBA student. You will get the most out of the MBA if you have the capacity to truly commit to it.”
To Claudius, the international modules were some of the highlights of the program, providing the opportunity to engage with three very different cultures, industries, and academic settings. “The trips to Shanghai, India, and New York really stood out to me because these experiences provide you with completely new perspectives.”
A long-lasting network
Through the intense experience of completing the Part-Time MBA and especially the joint trips as part of the international modules, Claudius formed strong bonds and made lasting connections. “I’m still connected to the WHU network in many ways. One of my classmates was my best man at my wedding, shortly after graduating from the program.
With some of my former fellow students, we financially supported a school in India for over ten years, which we visited during the international module. Only at the end of last year did we hand over the remaining donation pot to “Ein Herz für Kinder,” the charitable organization of BILD. I’m also an angel investor in a company founded by two former classmates.”
A change in perspective
When the opportunity arose to work for Axel Springer in New York City, Claudius took it in a heartbeat. Spending nearly five years in the United States allowed him to gain additional points of view: “Just the other day, we discussed return-to-work structures and processes. It reminded me of a situation in New York City, where even before COVID, it was more common to have a somewhat flexible office policy. That’s a very on-point example of how being in a different (work) culture adds new perspectives. Overall, I'm tremendously grateful for the time I got to spend in the US, both on a professional and a personal level. Three of my five children were born there—we now have three Americans in our family!”
A reflection on responsible leadership
To Claudius, taking on responsibility should be the main task of a leader. “When you take on a leadership role in the year 2023, you have to act in a responsible way. When I started in my current position, we had a lot of discussions about cultural change. An MBA provides a space to reflect on things like organizational culture and responsibility. In my opinion, responsible leadership starts at any interaction: you’d rather be on time, you’d rather greet individuals, you’d rather show them that you value their presence. It also means that you not only accept the diversity of individuals you are working with, but you actively promote diversity in your organization. I believe that’s a defining element of leadership these days.”