Prof. Wolfgang Güttel has been the new Dean of the Continuing Education Center since September 1, 2020 and Professor of Leadership & Strategy at the Institute of Management Science at TU Wien. He has been active in university research and teaching in the field of management for more than two decades and also has extensive practical experience as a consultant to large companies. This combination of research, teaching and business is to become more visible at the CEC in the future. Prof. Güttel reveals his plans and visions for the CEC Alumni Services in the following interview.
In your opinion, what are the benefits of alumni networks? What is their function in the context of postgraduate programs?
The average age of typical graduates of postgraduate programs is about 35 years. If we assume that we will be working until the age of 70 or 75, it becomes clear that there are still many decades between the completion of postgraduate studies and the end of employment. This is where alumni activities come into play. Especially the continuous refinement of one's own knowledge base through impulses from lectures and discussion groups, site visits in companies or through informal exchange with other alumni during social activities ensures personal competitive strength. Furthermore, trusting relationships between alumni can also be used to solve difficult career issues or leadership challenges. In our leadership courses, we always try to use the methodology of collective case consulting, where participants analyze their own cases in small groups and work out possible solutions. This methodology can be used repeatedly in later career paths. Alumni who have built up a trusting relationship with one another during the programs can therefore use their former fellow students to apply their knowledge to solve difficult professional problems.
Does Austria still have some catching up to do in international comparison?
Here is the short answer: yes! Compared to the networks that are established between alumni in the USA, for example, alumni activities in German-speaking countries are modest. The range of alternative event formats in this country is so large and egalitarian that alumni associations are in competition with other associations. In addition, the marketing activities of universities in the German-speaking world still lag far behind those in the USA. This is why the pride in having completed a continuing education program at a renowned institution, as is the case at TU Wien, is comparatively low. It is therefore air to the top. We are currently developing plans at the CEC to further expand the range of courses on offer and to provide our alumni with a good home port to continuously recharge their own knowledge base.
What are your future core themes concerning the CEC Alumni Services?
We will become a platform for various forms of knowledge enhancement. We are taking numerous measures to achieve this. First, we will continue to focus on talks and discussion events that serve to make the breadth and depth of TU Wien visible and offer a podium for exciting practitioners. In addition to the content dimension, there will always be opportunities for networking and informal exchange.
Secondly, we will use various media to present content. This ranges from social media activities in order to provide small impulses to practical contributions in the Austrian Management Review, which is now also becoming more of a focus for the CEC as a transfer magazine. For about a decade, it has been editing current research projects from the management sector as well as practical insights in an application-oriented manner.
Third, our new MBA concept in particular offers various open short formats – we call them sprints – where we can address current topics. For example, we are currently preparing a 6-day Sprint program dedicated to the topic of New Work. Because Corona in particular has created a need for further training in the area of working methods (home-working or hybrid forms of work), the legal framework for home-working and IT support in order to be able to use the digital possibilities for new work. We will certainly be able to offer this seminar and similar event formats to our alumni at special conditions. Because through short impulses and the exchange in new networks that should also take place there, they keep their knowledge up-to-date. Likewise, we will also open our Learning Journeys, which will also be held in a 6-day mode. We are currently planning Learning Journeys to Berlin and Goteborg to promote the discussion of digital business models in Europe, to Stuttgart – the heart of the German automobile industry – to look for opportunities to further develop mobility or to New York to look into new service concepts on a digital basis.
As a fourth component to upgrade qualifications, we consider small conference formats that promote good networking between science and practice. As TU Wien, we have our finger on the pulse of many technological developments, and at the CEC we know how new technologies can be brought to markets and what skills executives and companies need for this. In a two-day format, these theory-practice conferences can build a crucial bridge to make new knowledge available for practical application. We have a lot planned. At the same time, we would like to listen to our alumni and ask about their needs in order to get impulses for our own further development. We will also provide suitable rooms for this purpose – in terms of content, social and time aspects. With this in mind, we look forward to co-creating the CEC Alumni activities.
What do you think alumni can contribute? What would you wish for?
We would like to see a lively alumni community where graduates are inspired by new knowledge offerings, where they continuously strengthen the trustful network relationships and proactively approach us as CEC with ideas so that we can develop suitable offerings and formats. The Alumni Services of the CEC are not an end in themselves. We only have a right to exist if we actually meet the needs of our alumni and deliver tangible added value. That is why we need continuous feedback to understand how our ideas are received and how they are developed by our alumni in order to create attractive integration opportunities for joint knowledge development. Of course, I would also like our alumni to take the CEC's offerings very actively and proudly out into the world. Because with every new participant who later becomes an alumna or an alumnus, the network grows and with it the chance to gain new and exciting insights and information.
Which individual skills will be crucial in the future? In which areas should alumni continue their education?
No one can predict the future. Nevertheless, an increasing mechanization and digitalization of everyday management and professional life can be observed. Therefore, the first address for further qualification must also be TU Wien. Managers will need increasing technological competence to understand the working world of the lower levels and to be able to take advantage of the variety of digital business opportunities. This leads to the need for further training in technical and methodological skills. On a social level, new technologies are changing the communication and interaction behavior between managers and employees or managers and teams. The spectrum ranges from the use of Big Data and Artificial Intelligence to support decision-making by the entire team to the close monitoring of sales activities and the travel routes of employees. The technologies will not always have a positive impact on the leader-staff relationship. Therefore, leaders would do well to use a structured space for reflection and social skills development, as we offer in our 9-day Leadership Retreats. Because the wrong use of new technologies can cause great damage in a team.
Ultimately, in times like these, managers need particularly well-developed strategic and conceptual skills. They have to continuously look beyond their own operational horizons, sort often-contradictory information from different sources in a fast-moving and diffuse time, make decisions about the resulting opportunities or threats for their own company or division, and very consistently follow an implementation plan they have developed. With these strategic-conceptual skills, they must be able to further develop companies or organizations in their areas of responsibility. Only through constant innovative impulses can competitive advantages be developed and working conditions be optimized internally. The use of new technological possibilities therefore depends fundamentally on the abilities of managers to quickly recognize their diverse potential, then make decisions for their deployment and consistently manage the necessary change processes. Alumni are therefore well advised to keep their finger on the pulse of technology and to continuously develop their management and leadership skills. We support them to the best of our ability!