Antonella Mei-Pochtler MBA’83D, senior partner and managing director at the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), describes how INSEAD gave her the ‘gravitas factor’ she needed in her career.
Q. What prompted you to pursue a degree at INSEAD?
My brother (Alessandro Mei MBA’82) had been at INSEAD right after his studies in Chemical Engineering, and he had a fantastic experience. As I were studying Business Administration, for me the question was, “Do I really need an MBA?” But he was so positive about the perspective it gives you—the way you bring all your knowledge together to solve problems—that I was convinced. It also helped me solve another issue: my young age. I had finished school and university very early, and back then if you were very young, you had no chance to get the really attractive senior jobs. So I thought that an extra round to get an MBA would help me not being considered a puppy.
Q. What challenges have you faced in your career, and how did you overcome them?
In the beginning, the challenge was to be taken seriously—to have a certain gravitas in business situations. In general, the challenge women often face is to be viewed as professional and assertive, particularly given the female way of communicating—which aims at more interpersonal connectivity. I think the fact that I went to INSEAD gave me the right education and connections, and the much-needed credentials of a top business school and therefore added gravitas.
Q. Has your career or life path evolved as you expected?
I didn’t have specific expectations in the beginning. I didn’t have a goal in mind; the only goal I had was to do the very best and to advance in whatever direction I could advance. Continuous learning and improvement were key elements for me. And yes, my career turned out well in that I had the chance to advance and to continuously reinvent myself.
Q. How have you made an impact in the world?
My main area of engagement is education. I was involved early on in founding a school network of bilingual schools in Germany. I’m also actively involved in the TeachForAll community. I strongly believe that teachers are leaders—and that as leaders, they need to master the capability to bring people to their full potential.
I also dedicate time to other causes I feel are important—high-growth companies, entrepreneurial Europe and the German Bone Marrow Donor Association, which is an international organisation that helps save lives. Most recently, I’ve been getting more involved in fostering the European idea by supporting a European short film project aimed at visualising what Europe stands for as perceived by young Europeans, and the United Europe initiative.
Q. How do you use business as a force for good in your company?
At BCG, we strongly believe total societal impact is equal in importance to total shareholder return. Companies need to actively manage total societal impact. We live in a connected world and we should not fall prey to “the tragedy of the commons”—that is, avoiding that common resources are unduly exploited because of the lack of a responsible owner. That is a big risk.
Q. What advice would you have for women at INSEAD who want to reach your level of success?
Believe in yourself, invest in yourself and work on yourself! Look at your strengths and not always just at your weaknesses. And find the right environment to grow. Don’t let it happen; choose actively the right environment. And have fun on the way!