“You Are Not Just Bringing Home a Certificate”

 

Certain skills you simply cannot get on the job.

“Sometimes people are so insulated in their own companies and in their own way of thinking. It is important to have a different perspective,” said Sabine Rossi, marketing development manager for packaging and specialty plastics at Dow Chemical in Brazil.

Rossi has been with the corporation for 10 years, since she completed her undergraduate education in chemical engineering. She has filled roles in manufacturing, research and development, sales and marketing, but all within the same corporate culture. She and her leadership agreed that if she wanted to position herself for an eventual general management position at Dow, an international powerhouse, she would need to boost her financial acumen and build her network, in addition to enhancing her resume.

Through the University of Pittsburgh executive MBA (EMBA) program, an 18-month intensive degree program, she did all of that—and more.

“For me and my personality, it was a huge learning process,” Rossi said. “I transformed myself. I am a different person.”

In addition to gaining business skills and international insights into business, she also developed vital “soft” skills. Before her EMBA, she said, she was the quintessential type A personality—always pushing forward, always taking control of every assignment. During her studies with other Brazilian and American executives, she developed empathy, improved her ability to delegate and trust others, and came to value different people’s skills and talents. “Now I can recognize when someone else can do better, then allow them to do that. It is important as a leader to delegate and then believe that others will do their best and achieve the goals.”

Furthermore, she and her classmates pushed themselves to achieve more than they believed possible, proving to their companies how capable they really are to lead in their respective fields.

“You are doing the program, and handling everything, and maintaining your performance at work,” she said. “Besides the knowledge that you are acquiring, besides the network that you are creating, you are also showing your leadership team that you are ready for the next move—maybe even more quickly than you expected.”

Change happened quicker than Rossi expected; she was promoted to her current position about halfway through her studies.

But advancing as a woman in business is not always easy, particularly in manufacturing and particularly in certain regions of the world. In the beginning of her career, Rossi was the only woman on site at the manufacturing plant where she worked as an improvement engineer. But she hopes that the woman-versus-man issue will not be as relevant moving forward, that decisions will be based on the best person for the job. “It is a complicated but relevant topic. Companies of the future must act for diversity and inclusion,” Rossi said. “There are differences worldwide, especially in Latin America, so it is important to create situations that will give you confidence and skill sets and a performance track that will give you the background to succeed.”

Among the new skills Rossi has developed to succeed is a broader perspective, gained from studying with a heterogeneous group of professionals from the United States and multiple states in Brazil, with different backgrounds and degrees, and from various industries. “The leaders of the future will not be able to look to the past because the business environment is changing too dramatically and quickly” Rossi said. “As many different inputs and perspectives that you are able to have, you have more options and ways to solve issues and inspire people.” In fact, Rossi has already frequently sought help from her new network about specific work issues and her own career trajectory.

The EMBA program was extraordinarily challenging, so she looks back with a particular sense of satisfaction. “It’s more than just a career plan. It will help you evaluate what kind of professional you want to be, what kind of skills you want to develop,” she said. “You are not just bringing home a certificate, but you are a better professional and a better person.”