Interview with Dr. Garnet Kasperk

We have spoken with Dr. Garnet Kasperk, the academic co-director of our new Full-Time MBA in Digitalization & Industrial Change (on the left in the picture above, together with Prof. Lorz, academic director of the full-time MBA), about management education, the curriculum, and her expectations for the program.

Dr. Kasperk, would you briefly introduce yourself?

Dr. Kasperk: I am Garnet Kasperk and would describe myself as a passionate initiator of projects related to new products, new relationships, and new insights. Although feeling closely bound to Aachen and its surroundings, I spent a lot of time in various Asian countries, mainly as a guest lecturer but also in business projects.

After studying business and economics in Aachen and Maastricht, teaching and research activities at RWTH Aachen University have become my major focus. I concentrate on business strategies, especially in the automotive industry. For many years I also developed the internationalization strategy for the faculty of business and economics.

Regarding my entrepreneurial past, I worked for a German energy company, and together with colleagues from the engineering faculty founded a company for innovative structures in the semiconductor industry. The latter, I headed as a Managing Director for five years.

What is it about economics that keeps you fascinated?

Dr. Kasperk: The hyper-dynamic changes in the world economy constantly challenge established industries to adapt and redefine their business strategies. Which strategies enable companies to survive and which patterns do successful companies have in common? Creating pieces of knowledge linked to these questions fascinates me.

Can one be taught to be a good manager?

Dr. Kasperk: Partly yes. Every good manager needs tools and an understanding of strategy development, financing, and other entrepreneurial functions. This can be taught… But other essential ingredients are skills concerning leadership, communication, negotiation, and empathy. And courage. This is all a matter of experience. That is why we integrated various labs and project work into the curriculum. Gaining experience means practicing in a real-life context.

How does your experience translate into the classroom?

Dr. Kasperk: Of course, the theoretical tools and findings I developed over the years are the basis for my lectures. But all the practical insights I gained in my travels and entrepreneurial activities are helpful cases to demonstrate how theoretical tools can be used in a company context. As manager of the capstone project, my prior experiences have taught me the relevant skills to enable the students to develop strategic options and solutions for a technical company – and to develop the mind-set for managing ongoing transformation in an industry context.

What do you think is the best thing about the full-time MBA at RWTH Business School?

Dr. Kasperk: Many excellent ideas have been incorporated into this curriculum, which makes it an outstanding program in many aspects. However, if I have to choose: the labs and capstone project, where all insights and learnings can be experienced in a problem-solving context, are the best parts of the full-time MBA. The theoretical insight, the soft skills, the team approach; everything comes into action and prepares students to be managers concerning digitalization and transformation.

What are your expectations for the full-time MBA?

Dr. Kasperk: The full-time MBA will offer an especially dynamic and challenging environment for students from multiple different backgrounds. This environment will probably lead to two fundamental outcomes. First, the combination of theoretical tools, the exposure to the real business context, and the variety of cultural backgrounds of students will teach them how to be open-minded and solution-oriented managers that can handle challenges in both business and interpersonal contexts, but especially lead transformation processes and define digitalization strategies. In addition, the MBA shall lead to a supportive network, which will accompany students in their lives – long after they have completed the MBA program.

Please tell us some more about the heart of the program – the capstone project.

Dr. Kasperk: We will solve problems for a real company. Using analytical and strategic tools, creative solutions will be developed by small groups experiencing the importance of communication, negotiation, and presentation. As experts from the industry and the university support the groups, the “tensions” between scientific preciseness and business constraints (e.g. concerning time and money) will be experienced by every group. This challenge will prepare real business leaders for their prospective challenges in the future.

Do you have any advice for future managers?

Dr. Kasperk: Be yourself and express yourself, learn to learn, and learn to listen. Be brave and responsible.

(Photos for the article by Bernd Kalwa)

You want to know more about our brand new Full-Time MBA in Digitalization & Industrial Change? Discover the curriculum and more by following this link.

Round portrait of Dr. Garnet Kasperk, academic co-director Full-Time MBA in Digitalization & Industrial Change

Dr. Garnet Kasperk
Head of Center for
International Automobile Management