Katerina Giannini
Programme:
Executive MBA 2015-16
Nationality:
British
Undergraduate education:

University of Exeter, BA (Hons) History

Employment prior to studying at the Business School:

Communications Manager, Boeing

Employment after studying at the Business School and what is your current position:

Senior Communications Manager (Europe), Boeing

Katerina Giannini is an Executive MBA, class of 2015-16 student. After graduating from Imperial College Business School, Katerina accepted a role as Senior Communications Manager for Boeing.

Your time at Imperial College Business School

Why did you choose to study your programme and why specifically at Imperial College Business School?

I was looking for an Executive MBA that I could complete in-person, to benefit from the whole campus, faculty and cultural experience. I was attracted by the atypical elements of the Imperial Executive MBA (such as the collaboration with the Royal College of Art, the opportunity to do a study abroad exchange, the emphasis on entrepreneurial business skills) combined with the heavy-weight reputation of Imperial College as a leading scientific global educational powerhouse. I also wanted to study alongside a diverse group of leaders from different sector backgrounds and parts of the world. The Imperial Executive MBA ticked all the boxes.

What was the most useful/important takeaway you gained during your time at the business school?

In developing strategies to differentiate ourselves from our main competitors when it comes to building our reputation and occupying a certain position on topics and messaging, I frequently think back to the Harvard Business Review article on Blue Ocean Strategy. It helps me to frame my thinking around our value chain versus the competition, and then identifying uncontested market space to play in. This translates well into communications, whereby there’s no point trying to cut through the noise with a slightly different take on similar issues to the same audience. Switching the focus entirely means that Boeing increasingly becomes associated with specifically identifiable positions on certain topics that are unique to our business mission and vision.

What was the most surprising thing about the programme?

During the programme, I became fascinated by subjects that would never have piqued my interest beforehand, such as pricing strategy, change management, macroeconomics, mergers and acquisitions and leadership styles. I surprised myself at which areas I wanted to dig deeper into for my electives, and what I chose to focus on for my thesis, which was the integration of sustainability strategy into business strategy.

Were you involved in any clubs/societies during your time at the Business School? What did you gain from these and how did they enrich your experience?

I completed a learning exchange with the University of St. Gallen (HSG) in Switzerland during my second year, which was a deeply enriching experience. I studied an additional international relations elective called Managing Across Borders, and it actually helped me better understand the Swiss economy and its industrial strengths. It was an honour to integrate into their MBA class and work with inspiring leaders from across Europe.

What advice would you give to a prospective student considering studying the same programme as you?

To take the most out of every opportunity presented to you. It sounds like a cliché, but you do get out what you put in. Juggling a demanding full-time job alongside the Executive MBA is of course challenging, but I promised myself at the beginning that I would push myself to fully embrace every subject and experience, which led me to take foreign language classes, study an additional elective module in Switzerland, and organise my cohort graduation celebration. Two years flies by!

Tell us about your current job

How has your programme contributed to your career success? / How was your career transformed following your programme?

Having the core foundation of solid business knowledge has given me increased confidence to speak up, challenge and lead by example in my organisation. With an Executive MBA I’m now speaking the same language as the C-Suite leaders I work closely with, and that has helped me empathise and strategise in collaboration with them, almost as an equal. Simply put, I am a better leader because I can act instinctively and make firm decisions for the good of the company and the team I lead.

How do you plan to use the skills and knowledge you gained during the programme within your career going forward?

An invaluable aspect of the Executive MBA is that it takes one out of one’s specific industry and opens up your understanding of many different business sectors, both private, public and third sector. After working in industry for 10 years and feeling my experience had become increasingly specialised to aerospace and FMCG, it was very useful to widen out my thinking and draw on best practice from outside of aerospace. I vow to continue doing that in the future; to never get too narrow-minded and look to other sectors and companies for inspiration and ideas, because we can always do better.

What do you enjoy most about your current work and what are the main challenges that you face?

I have the privilege to directly shape the story of Boeing in Europe – in particular, the narrative of long-term customer partnerships, leading innovation and investment. I work closely with our senior leadership to identify opportunities to proactively push out our messaging with media and stakeholders. I see my words in print, messages I’ve crafted being spoken by leaders, helping to build the reputation of my company and ensure people associate Boeing with certain values and qualities. As the lead for sustainability communications for the region, I get a real boost knowing I am at the heart of Boeing’s public position on such an important topic, helping to advance our goals and reinforce our authority on sustainable aviation. As the world’s largest aerospace company, you can imagine there’s no shortage of potentially interesting news topics, so one of the hardest parts is prioritising the right story for the right audience, at the appropriate time.

What is your proudest achievement in the job so far?

I lead the corporate responsibility strategy for Boeing in the UK and Ireland so there are a number of initiatives I’ve helped launch together with formidable local charities that directly make a difference to so many lives, which I’m very proud of. But one of my proudest moments was when I advocated for my function to start hiring interns back in 2015. I’ve hired communications interns each summer since and I feel strongly about the responsibility of corporations and leaders to provide business experience for students and young people early in their careers. I’ve continued to mentor some former interns, all of whom have gone onto fulfilling career paths, and I’m proud that each intern has embraced the opportunity.

Alumni community

In what way is remaining connected to your alumni network important to you?

My cohort has remained close, and we have strong social and professional connections. We all finished the Executive MBA conscious that graduation is not the end, it’s the beginning of one’s growth journey, and we continue to support and encourage each other through our individual paths. Our lives have evolved of course, but hunger for learning and our intellectual curiosity is something that never leaves an Executive MBA student. These relationships founded on an intense shared experience will remain important for me long into the future.

Other

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

This was something that I learnt very early in my career, in my first role, from a senior executive I highly respected. It was in his actions and the way he stood up for his principles, and that is; know what your parts of you are not erodible. This means, no matter where your professional life takes you, stay true to the core of your humanity, your ethics and what is a non-negotiable (non-erodible) part of you as a person. Essentially, our careers can easily take over every element of our lives, especially rising through levels of seniority, so this is about knowing which lines you don’t allow to be crossed and which principles you will always stand up for.

Which book or website would you recommend to others interested in your programme or industry?

Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed.

Programme:
Executive MBA 2015-16
Nationality:
British
Undergraduate education:

University of Exeter, BA (Hons) History

Employment prior to studying at the Business School:

Communications Manager, Boeing

Employment after studying at the Business School and what is your current position:

Senior Communications Manager (Europe), Boeing