We spoke to Gunnar Droescher (EMBA 2020), Vice-President Bombardier Programmes at Rolls-Royce in Berlin, about his experience during the EMBA at Cambridge Judge Business School and post-pandemic supply-chain issues.
Gunnar Droescher started his Executive MBA at Cambridge Judge at the height of the pandemic with the world in lockdown and when travelling to Cambridge was a near impossibility. He describes the contrast between virtual learning and actually being in Cambridge as the “difference between day and night”. When studying remotely, Gunnar still benefited from the outstanding faculty and the sharing of knowledge amongst his cohort but seeing and experiencing Cambridge in the flesh was “phenomenal”.
The EMBA challenges you to re-evaluate what you thought you knew
For Gunnar, a key aspect of the EMBA was the people he met. The exceptional faculty “are highly accomplished academics who are still very humble. They were themselves very keen to learn from the cohort, which I found amazing.” He continues, “I think that’s part of what makes Cambridge so special; it’s really a place where a good debate is always encouraged to arrive at the best idea, the best outcome.”
Gunnar describes the most immediate impact of the EMBA as being “the way it opens up the thinking and interest in a lot of different subjects. I became much more open about different aspects of business, different industries, different people, and I also learned not to judge too quickly. The EMBA taught me to be more reflective.” Having joined the EMBA after several successful years at senior executive level, a prerequisite for participating in the programme, he quickly realised that there was “so much to learn about, so much knowledge and experiences to tap into. I was really curious and open to new experiences”. With classmates from a wide variety of industry sectors and from all around the world, he also learned a huge amount from his cohort.
Don’t take the familiar path: try something new
Gunnar’s curiosity and desire to expand his horizons are reflected in his choice of Team Consulting Project (TCP), which was with Helios Investment Partners, a London-based private equity firm that invests exclusively in Africa. Prior to the TCP, Gunnar didn’t have experience of private equity or of doing business in Africa, but his main selection criterion was to learn something new. He told himself, “Don’t do anything in the same industry you are working in, don’t do anything in project management or in supply chain management, all the things you’ve been doing day in, day out. Do something new.” He describes the TCP as “a fantastic learning experience”, which encouraged him to take his “eyes off the main subject” and explore what was, for him, unchartered territory.
With the EMBA under his belt, Gunnar was keen to support other EMBA students, and Rolls-Royce has recently hosted an EMBA cohort with a TCP focussing on the supply-chain strategy for one of its business units. The aim wasn’t to recruit people to the TCP with prior knowledge of the industry, rather to bring together professionals from other fields who could identify the areas where there was room for improvement. It was hoped that they would look at the supply chain with ‘new eyes’ to provide a new perspective and hopefully provide some innovative solutions.
According to Gunnar, the challenge lay in the fact that “aerospace, and maybe jet engines in particular, is very niche, with a unique technical product”. The TCP team was able to challenge the thinking in different areas and provide improvement suggestions. “Given the time constraint of the TCP and the amount of information the team had to absorb, they did a good job of making sense of it all and translating the input into tangible improvement ideas.”
The supply chain post-pandemic
When the pandemic hit Europe, Rolls-Royce was developing a new business jet engine and had to quickly adapt to the rapidly changing, global COVID regulations whilst maintaining the safety of its employees and suppliers. The company had to contend not only with the issues relating to the availability of raw materials and lockdowns in the supply chain but also the fact that, due to the unique nature of Rolls-Royce components, for some parts, only a limited number of suppliers have the capability to meet the strict design requirements. This required Rolls-Royce to work closely with its complete supply base to ensure successful programme execution. It was also compelled to evaluate a different supply chain strategy to incorporate greater resilience and agility for the future. There was an immense amount of pressure to keep the new jet engine development programme on track throughout the pandemic, but “this is also something that makes you very proud when you come out of it successfully.”
Obviously, managing a complex supply chain successfully remains a key activity in view of all the disruptions that are currently taking place throughout the world for different reasons. For Gunnar, this remains an area of interest that he continues to engage in, regardless of his day job.
Publication in an academic journal
After completing the EMBA at Cambridge Judge, Gunnar is delighted to be collaborating with Feryal Erhun, Professor of Operations & Technology Management at the Business School, on publishing a supply-chain case study in early 2023. “Before, I would never have dreamed of working with world-class faculty and hopefully contributing to the future learning of other people.” Gunnar is also able to publish a revised version of his Individual Project (IP), which is equivalent to a masters thesis, in an academic journal later this year. “My point is that carrying out your own research as part of the programme and having it published in a peer-reviewed journal is something I would never have imagined before.” Gunnar’s advice to other EMBA students following in his footsteps is to “be conscious and curious about all the things that Cambridge has to offer and really maximise the learning opportunity, whether it’s content or learning about people and other industries – everything.”