Susanne Juhl

Programme: Executive MBA

Nationality: Danish

Education: Master’s in Political Science at Aarhus University, Master’s in Public Policy at London School of Economics

Job prior to Imperial: CEO at HMN Naturgas

I’ve been a civil servant for almost 15 years – I’ve worked in Government in finance, infrastructure and energy.

Professional background

I’ve been a civil servant for almost 15 years – I’ve worked in Government in finance, infrastructure and energy. My previous two positions were Deputy Permanent Secretary for Climate and Energy, as well as a spell as Director General for the National Survey and Cadastre in Denmark. For the past seven years, I’ve worked as the CEO for Denmark’s largest natural gas supplier and distributor. Recently, we have gone through a major change in our corporate group structure and are also implementing a new ownership strategy. At the moment we are selling-off and divesting the company; if we are successful we will end up closing the company.

Why an Executive MBA?

I’m eager to redirect my career and transform myself out of the public sector. Although I have spent many years working in the public sector, I have competencies that could also be used in the private sector. However, when you have more than 20 years of training in one sector, it’s not so easy to make that transition. The MBA for me is part of that transformation. It’s a way of acquiring skills and it will help me utilise my competencies in a private context. I hope the MBA will also make my profile more interesting to private companies.

Choosing Imperial College Business School

The reason I was interested in Imperial is that 10 years ago, I was at the university doing a one-week course on climate change. It was the best executive education course I’ve ever been through and I was very impressed with the university. When I was doing my research, I wanted a university that is international but not too far away, and a programme that doesn’t include a lot of travel. I have a family and kids and I needed something that was practical for me in those terms. I also looked at the costs vs. the ranking to see the value of money. When I put this all together, I ended up at Imperial. I have also worked within energy and infrastructure my whole career and I’m on the board of Governance for the Danish Technical University; so it’s also interesting for me to go to a university that has a strong profile in climate, energy and engineering.

Learnings so far

For me, the reason I chose the MBA is two-fold. There’s a skills element to it, which I get from accounting, economics and corporate finance. They are high-level subjects but also skills-oriented which is one thing I look for. And then there’s strategy, which makes you think about the business you are in yourself, how can you create and capture value. That’s something that got my mind working about what it is I’m doing in the company I work in and how can I improve that.

It’s great that the faculty all have real-world practical experience from high-level jobs. That really adds to the quality of the teaching because they are able to put in examples of how the theory works in practice, as well as being good at facilitating discussions in class.

Future Vision series

I’ve really enjoyed the Future Vision Series. They make your mind work on how the concepts can be applied in the business you’re in. It’s very inspiring to think about new business ideas that can evolve from the talks. We’ve heard people speak on computerised design, Blockchain, robotics and more. The talks have been very useful and inspiring.

Working on The Hub

I love working on The Hub. If I just got a pile of text that I had to read between on-campus sessions, I think it would have been really difficult for me to get through them and there would always be a job that would dominate my schedule. This way I can follow my own progress and I’m helped through the activities with small videos, quizzes and tests. It’s optimal for me. The Executive MBA is tough, but the mixture of on-campus and online sessions fits in well with my busy life.

The challenges of returning to study

It’s been more than 20 years since I left university. Having the rigorous academic training that I’ve had has helped, but it’s been a long time since I’ve sat down to study. Having to go through exams, you sometimes say to yourself: why am I doing this, why did I sign up for this? All of my nightmares have been about having to sit exams! But they went well and it’s not too bad.

It’s also challenging to have to commute and it’s one of the areas that I miss out because there’s a lot of community around Imperial that is more difficult for me to take part in. I would love to have more availability to see my cohort in London and hang out with them, but that’s how it is. It’s still so rewarding for me to be with this international group.

My diverse cohort

My classmates are diverse and come from a lot of backgrounds. The cohort is active and people chip-in during class and socially. There are not so many females in my class, but we are still a strong part of the cohort. I enjoy talking to people from these different nationalities, industry backgrounds and educations.

Working in groups

Group work is one of the challenging parts of the programme with the distance and different time zones. On a practical level, you have to find time to work with other people, but you also have to align your expectations with other people. When you are in a group, it’s much more demanding because you feel a responsibility towards the other members; you can’t just do the essay in the last moment. But it’s been working well and we have a very nice syndicate group. We have made a habit of meeting on the Thursday evening before our on-campus session in London. That’s where we discuss strategy cases and finalise our group work. We also meet every week on Skype and discuss what’s going on, especially when we have the group work but also just to keep up the good relationships in the group.

The London factor

London is less than a two-hour flight from Copenhagen. I also looked at other business schools in the UK, but I wanted one that is close to one of the London airports. I fly to Heathrow usually and take the Piccadilly line straight to South Kensington which is really convenient for me. I haven’t seen as much of London as I had imaged because I’m usually in and out to school, but I enjoy Hyde Park and I usually stay in a hotel around there and go for a run in the mornings before class. I take advantage of the hotel deals that Imperial has as they are good deals and close to the university.

Parenting and the Executive MBA

Being a parent and studying for the Executive MBA is a lot of work. There’s no way of disguising that or sugaring coating it . Obviously, there are times you could have spent with your family that you spent on studying for your MBA instead. I have the benefit of being one hour ahead of London in Demark, so when we have evening meetings the kids have usually gone to bed. My kids are proud of me, they know what I’m doing and that it’s a great university.  One thing that adds extra pressure is that they expect me to get good grades because they get good grades at school – so that’s the challenge!

Advice to prospective students

Do your research on the programme. For me, what I’ve gotten has very much been in line with what I expected from reading the brochures and the information I received. You can’t imagine how much work there is but there is very useful information about the programme and I haven’t been negatively surprised by anything.

I highly recommend Imperial College Business School, it’s a very well-structured programme and I love the combination of online and on-campus learning. The strength of the Executive MBA at Imperial is that it has something to offer even if you are in a high-level job and have many years of experience; there are definitely more areas to gain insight into. One of the uncertainties I had was will it be sufficiently interesting to me – and I can say that is has been.

Programme: Executive MBA

Nationality: Danish

Education: Master’s in Political Science at Aarhus University, Master’s in Public Policy at London School of Economics

Job prior to Imperial: CEO at HMN Naturgas