“Having such a diverse cohort made me the perfect match for Microsoft’s culture and vision.” Mannheim Business School alumnus Niklas Preiß talks about his MBA experience and subsequent career at the tech giant
Niklas Preiß is currently a solution sales specialist at Microsoft. Prior to joining the multinational tech giant, Preiß graduated with an MBA from Mannheim Business School, Germany, in 2018. Here, he shares how his experience on the business education programme has shaped his career path.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your career to date?
I’m a technology, sales and strategy enthusiast that gets most energised when working directly with partners and customers, solving complex problems, and communicating ways forward to diverse audiences.
Before joining Microsoft, I worked for Senvion SE as a project consultant for the MBA thesis, served Nexol Photovolthermic AG as CSO, and led international technology and expansion projects in wind industry for Liebherr in the position of sales and project engineer.
Inclusive leadership and diversity are very close to my heart. Extensive traveling (39 countries) and studying and working abroad have shaped my mindset, communication skills and intercultural competencies. I studied in China, later worked in Brazil and Mexico, moved to Mannheim and then Munich, but ended up in Ulm, where my family and heart are.
Tell us more about your current role(s)
My current role is solution sales specialist for modern workplace and employee experience in the banking and insurance industry. In this role, I support and drive the planning, coordination and execution of Microsoft’s mission to empower partners and customers to reach full potential and grow through its Modern Workplace. I’m serving Germany’s biggest financial and insurance enterprises on their individual modern work and cloud journey.
My team and I are developing the most modern and employee-centric work environment, enabling work-life-harmony at our customers’ organisations. As a leader, I have a strong focus on employee experience, employee wellbeing and mental health, but also on increasing productivity.
I am also a guest lecturer on digitalisation and the digital transformation of business processes at Baden-Württemberg Cooperative State University (DHBW).
Where and when did you achieve your MBA?
In 2018 at Mannheim Business School.
Why did you want to study for an MBA? And why did you choose to do an MBA at Mannheim Business School?
I love to see myself learning and growing to become better each day. I decided to go for an MBA to broaden my scope, enrich my experience, and work as a strategic interface for every business, team and challenge, serving as part of the solution. I also wanted to increase my chances of an industry switch.
Mannheim was my first choice from the beginning and it was the right decision. Moreover, its strong corporate network was important to me. And since I’m Swabian and know what a ROI (return on investment) is, I had all my arguments to make the right decision – I got the best out of my MBA, by far.
What is the most interesting thing you learnt from your MBA?
For me, my classmates were essential. Studying with so many inspiring, intelligent and motivated people pushed me to my next level. Without my MBA experience in Mannheim, I would not be as happy, satisfied and proud about my journey and about what I achieved as I am now. And I would not have been able to help so many people take the next steps on their individual career journeys.
Without that one evening in Mannheim, when the then Microsoft Germany COO Joao Couto visited the business school, pitching Microsoft to us soon-to-be graduates with all his passion, experience and motivation, I do not know which way I would have gone. But that one night, that one huge chance and that one conversation with Joao changed my life. From this I learnt to make the most out of every moment in life – it could be the one.
What were some of the challenges you faced when studying for an MBA?
Honestly, I think the hardest part was the GMAT. I think it was hard to get back into a learning routine. After working more than six years full- and part-time (dual studies) it is crucial to know how to motivate yourself to, for example, study for a test, write a paper or present a thesis.
It was very interesting to see myself moving out of my comfort zone, pushing myself to the next level and work on my ‘keep-on-going’ mentality because nobody else will do the work for you or give you the direction or goal – it’s your choice and it’s your goal. Being an economical engineer who must do the deep dive into finance as part of an MBA programme also was a challenge.
How has the MBA made a difference to your career path and leadership journey?
I learned many skills for becoming a better person and leader. I now have a better understanding of what makes a business – and more importantly, the people behind it – successful. And every day I learn to become even better at it. I gained more seniority within the MBA, built up trust in myself and gained the trust of people around me. I won many sponsors and mentors on my way and learned what I do not want to do or work for in the future.
At Microsoft, I am pleased to learn from magnificent coaches and leaders working within the Microsoft management. Driven by an amazing culture which can be felt every day – in the office or at home – Microsoft is really pushing our main principles – create clarity, generate energy, deliver success. I couldn’t be part of that without my MBA in Mannheim.
Becoming the general manager of my own company last year would also not have been possible without the MBA skillset – especially in respect to finance and taxation.
In what interesting ways have you taken what you have learnt from your MBA into the organisation for which you work?
I would say mainly three things: networking, respect and curiosity. It’s the diversity in a team, project or class that makes it interesting, creative and energising. Having such a diverse cohort made me the perfect match for Microsoft’s culture and vision of empowering everybody on the globe to achieve more. Fostering diversity and inclusion as a basis for every interaction motivates me.
Not only is fostering my network within Microsoft important to me, but I also support my network at Mannheim Business School by sponsoring business master’s projects or helping alumni to join Microsoft. I love building bridges between people and organisations.
In today’s world, you need to stay curious and open minded. The MBA showed me how fast things can change and how fast you have to adapt. Not only did I learn methods and tools to adapt but also the best way to see a new chance in every messy situation.
Apart from Microsoft, my students at DHBW Friedrichshafen also benefit from the learnings and mistakes I made along my way. I always try to give people the chance to learn from my mistakes and not to make them as well.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about studying for an MBA?
Do it – it changed my life for good. In Germany, there are thousands of students and it’s very tough to stand out. An MBA is still very special.
And only companies that really value the benefits of an MBA will pay for it, support you and help you grow and develop. That’s the huge chance I did not see five years ago, but have experienced since then. If you want to know how many chances and options there are out there, do an MBA to become a general expert.
What are the next steps for you on your career journey?
Right now, I am very happy with my set-up. I am living the modern way of working with work-life-harmony. It is amazing to see companies starting their journey to become employee-centric and to empower every employee to achieve more by creating their vision of modern work. That matters to them and to me. I love to coach people to do what they love most and support them on their ways, which drives me to become an even better leader and manager. I seek to create some kind of impact every day – for my peers, company or students.