‘I didn’t expect such depth’: the Swiss EMBA that boosts your personal life

When Tom Borec enrolled at the University of St Gallen, he didn't think that one day he'd be learning from hostage negotiators.

'I didn't expect such depth': the Swiss EMBA that boosts your personal life
Photo: Tom Borec

During a storied, high-flying career with some of the world’s most respected names in consulting, business and tourism, Borec was used to working alongside – and thereby learning from – some of the world’s most talented corporate professionals. Unfazed and unflappable, it takes a lot to surprise the laidback Slovenian-born executive. 

Yet as his studies progressed, the former tax director at eBay was surprised to find himself learning from some of the world’s most experienced figures when it comes to negotiating with criminals and terrorists. Furthermore, he found that the lessons he learned were both invaluable and applicable in his daily dealings not only in business, but with friends and family. 

As Borec tells us: “We got a chance to learn from the world’s most renowned hostage negotiators turned business advisors, like Gary Noesner, Kirk Kinell, and Scott Tillema. It was an unforgettable experience, and I would love to repeat it and focus more on negotiations in the future.”

Being confronted with the unexpected, and re-evaluating one’s potential is a theme running throughout Borec’s journey to study the IEMBA at the University of St Gallen – one of Europe’s great business universities. 

After years working for business giants such as Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, eBay and MTS Globe Group, he decided that to progress his career, he needed a challenge – and one that would fit in with his active lifestyle. 

Discover the Swiss university pushing career executives to reach unexpected summits. Cohorts begin each August.

Finding the right fit

Says Borec of his choice to attend the University of St Gallen to complete his Executive MBA: “The idea first started boiling away when I was at eBay and led the tax component of multiple high-priority projects. I regularly saw leadership first hand and started to recognise the traits of good leaders and tried to learn from them as much I could.

“So, I started researching what programs I could attend. First, I looked at various leadership courses, but I figured out they provided only a brief overview of leadership – which is great and needed, but I finished a few of them in the past and wanted something more substantial this time.

“I narrowed my search to three top universities and ultimately chose St Gallen, and I’m very pleased with my decision. I didn’t want to attend weekend-only courses, as I love spending my weekends outdoors, hiking the Alps, and prefer modules going on for a whole week or even two consecutive weeks.

St Gallen offers this module-focused learning approach, and I believe I gained more out of it this way as we truly lived and breathed the course content during those weeks.”

Scaling new heights

From the start of his time studying at St Gallen, Borec was surprised at the breadth of subjects taught, and how different elements of knowledge fit together. 

Borec says of his studies: “I like the variety. We study various topics, and some of the modules couldn’t be more opposite to the other. Surprisingly, however, they all somehow connect as studies progress, and the acquired knowledge assembles like a puzzle.

“There is an Entrepreneurship module which I loved. It was about stepping into the mindset of an entrepreneur, and getting a taste of the resilience and grit that it takes to build and drive a company. We learned a lot about the specifics of the startup world, about pitches, and got to hear some great behind-the-scenes investors’ stories.”

Borec is equally enthusiastic about the quality of teaching at the university, telling us: “The professors are very progressive, business-oriented, and eager to challenge us all the time. They are an excellent selection of educators, and I feel bad for not having the time and space to mention each and every one of them.

“I would highlight Professor Karolin Frankenberger, our Academic Director. She leads a fantastic team of lecturers. All our teaching staff are competent, friendly and easy for students to approach.”

Explore the university that connects students with some of the world’s most talented business professionals, the University of St Gallen 

Photo: Tom Borec

Growth, both professional and personal

Tom Borec’s ongoing time at St Gallen is one that he believes has not only benefited him on his professional journey, but also personally. “The influence on my personal life surprises me as I hadn’t expected it would have such depth,” he says. “It improved my relationship with my wife and made our marriage better. It helps with my friends and family and in everyday interactions.

“The lessons I’ve learned about active listening, big picture thinking, and negotiations are put to good use! I never expected any of this when enrolling in the IEMBA. I knew I’d get the knowledge and practical tools that would enhance my career and help me do my job better, but the shift of mindset in my personal life surprised me.

“Through my studies at the University of St Gallen, I became more open toward new views; I became curious, eager to learn new skills. I am very keen to learn about topics that are out of my immediate knowledge base. I have learned to listen actively and to gain as much as possible out of each interaction.

St Gallen has helped me gain knowledge and confidence in topics that are way out of my primary working area. My time in the IEMBA has taught me to look at the big picture in all interactions and think about the fundamental objective in each. 

“Currently, I am writing my thesis on ‘What Startups can learn from Navy SEALs’. This actually illustrates the mind shift and growth that IEMBA has provided me with.

“Initially, I was 100 percent sure I would write about taxes in my thesis. It is what I do; this is where I excel. However, as I encountered the many exciting topics that comprise the IEMBA, I decided to ditch my safe and perfectly fine tax-related thesis outline, and started researching startups and Navy SEALs instead.”

More than the average business school, the University of St Gallen encourages Borec in his learning every day, and looking forward, he sees a bright future where he can pursue a career that truly challenges him. 

He smiles as he tells us: “I look forward to what the future holds. Before the University of St Gallen, my work world was purely tax-related; now the world is my oyster.”

Ready to begin your journey? You can download a brochure here, and schedule a virtual appointment with university advisors to plan your journey. 

Learn more about the executive MBA program inspiring exciting new ventures that mid-career professionals never expected, with the University of St Gallen.

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Three scenarios: How Switzerland plans to fight a Covid resurgence

Swiss government has devised three contingency plans that could be implemented to fight a new outbreak. What are they?

Three scenarios: How Switzerland plans to fight a Covid resurgence
Authorities want to prevent overcrowded hospitals if new wave comes. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

Although Switzerland relaxed a number of coronavirus rules from June 26th and 28th, “the pandemic is not over”, as Health Minister Alain Berset said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Berset said Switzerland should not become complacent, with last summer a warning against feeling that the battle is won. 

He added, however, that the new wave is unlikely to be as large as the previous ones due to the country’s vaccination campaign.

This situation leaves a degree of uncertainty for which the government wants to be prepared as well as possible, Berset noted.

The Federal Council established a “just-in-case” procedure on Wednesday for three possible scenarios that could take place in the autumn and winter. 

These plans focus mainly on the rapid detection of variants and the continuation of vaccination, testing, and tracing.

The best-case scenario: status quo

In this scenario, the number of cases remains at a low level, though small outbreaks are still possible.

The number of infections may increase slightly due to seasonal factors — the virus is known to spread slower in summer and faster in autumn and winter—  but does not place a significant burden on the health system.

If this happens, no measures beyond those already in place would be necessary.

READ MORE: ANALYSIS: Is Switzerland lifting its Covid-19 restrictions too quickly?

Not so good: more contaminations

In this second scenario, there is an increase in the number of cases in autumn or winter.

There may be several reasons for this, for example the large proportion of unvaccinated people, seasonal effects — people tend to stay indoors together in cold weather, and contaminations are easier — or the appearance of new, more infectious variants.

This situation could overburden the health system and require the reintroduction of certain measures, such as the obligation to wear a mask outdoors.

Booster vaccinations may also be necessary.

The worst: new virus mutations

In scenario three, one or more new variants appear, against which the vaccine or the post-recovery immunity are less effective or no longer effective.

A new wave of pandemic emerges, requiring strong intervention by the public authorities and a new vaccination.

Which of the three scenarios is most likely to happen?

The government hasn’t said, but judging by the comments of health officials, the latter two are the strongest contenders.

Firstly, because the highly contagious Delta mutation, which is spreading quickly through many countries, is expected to be dominant in Switzerland within a few weeks.

It is expected that the virus will spread mostly to those who are not vaccinated and, to a lesser degree, to people who have only had one shot of the vaccine, according to Andreas Cerny, epidemiologist at the University of Bern

READ MORE: How Switzerland plans to contain the Delta variant

Another concern is related to the appearance of the new variants which could be as or possibly even more contagious than Delta and not as responsive to the current vaccines.

The government said the best chance of avoiding the second or third scenarios is to ensure people are vaccinated. 

“Widespread vaccination of the population is crucial to relieve the burden on the healthcare system and to manage the epidemic. A possible increase in the number of coronavirus cases in the autumn will largely depend on the proportion of the population that has been vaccinated,” the government wrote in a press statement.

The government has also indicating it is preparing for booster vaccinations to take place in 2022 and are encouraging cantons to keep their vaccine infrastructures in place.