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21 December 2020
Portraits

Christoph NETTESHEIM (TBS 1992) - Great career, wise advice

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Alumni 1992, I went through a roller coaster ride of roles, locations, projects – I am very privileged about the breadth of experiences I was allowed to live through. 

Can you tell us a little about yourself?
At 20, I left my region and moved to Toulouse.. 

Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Born in Stuttgart as part of a family of lawyers, I grew up and started studying in Berlin. Learning and gaining new experiences always were close to my heart: I must have spent thousands of hours reading, discussing with friends, and travelling. After a humanistic school education (among others learning ancient Greek and Latin) and a 2-year apprenticeship in a bank, I settled with engineering studies at the Technical University of Berlin.

Why did you choose TBS for your studies? 
Toulouse was a dream location for a young Berliner: expectations of sun, food and Southern French life style. A double diploma program between the two universities made it easy for a TU Berlin student to come to TBS. I honestly didn’t plan much ahead, tried to improve my limited French – I read Victor Hugo and Voltaire which did not help at all – and then took my car and headed south. The first weeks were tough – with a very different, case-oriented methodology and early exams - , but then I enjoyed the time enormously. The many team efforts to solve concrete company problems were fun and felt real. The professors were approachable and the classes rather small. Highlights of the curriculum for me were the strategy courses: they opened my eyes for what really matters in business. And I loved the weekends – hiking in the Pyrenees, swimming in the Atlantic, and trips to all kinds of places nearby. Overall, it was a fantastic time of both good learning and good living.

Have you any stories about your year to share with us? 
There are many fond memories – many have to do with the openness and willingness of the local students to integrate, work with and have fun with us non-locals. No specific one to share here as most are very personal.

What are you doing today and how did you get to this point in your professional career?
The time in Toulouse is a long time ago, so only a few things about my later development here. I spent 26 years with only one company, The Boston Consulting Group, but regularly reinvented my role by taking on new responsibilities and moving to new locations. Among other roles, I had the privilege to lead the global business with technology companies for BCG, to lead BCG in Greater China, to kickstart a new business with oil and gas companies in South East Asia, and to be CEO of a daughter company, BCG Platinion. And it was simply fantastic to work with executives in leading companies in places from Helsinki to Borneo – always challenging, but hugely rewarding in terms of experiences and learning opportunities. My family (I have a wife and 4 kids, all already studying or working) gave me balance and grounding. Despite that perceived balance, I burnt-out and collapsed a couple of years ago: a horrible experience, but in hindsight one which I don’t want to miss as it allowed me to view life in a very different light. I decided to focus all my work on things which both have a deeper meaning and which I really enjoy. I quit BCG, and am now spending my time with a bouquet of fun activities: I am coaching a few CEOs and chairmen of large companies, I am advising a couple of NGOs, I am lecturing and teaching young people, and am growing olives in Tuscany.

 

What advice would you give to TBS students and/or Alumni, who are looking to follow your career path?
Over the course of my working life, I learned a few things for myself which might be valuable thoughts as well for students at the beginning of their careers. Firstly, follow your passions: working in a profession which you truly love is just so rewarding – work does not feel like work but is fun. Secondly, choose your employer based on the people you will work with as you will spend so much time with them. Thirdly, once you are working, never stop asking questions – about the business you are in, about the ways you personally can create value. This will ensure you are learning and developing. But most importantly, be confident that “you can do it” – everybody, even the most senior executive, is basically just an ordinary person like you and me.

How did the Alumni network support you?
No specific comments – honestly, at the time I left Toulouse, the management of the alumni network was less sophisticated, and I was far away immediately after leaving.

Are you willing for students and Alumni to contact you directly?
Sure, my contact details are up to date. I just apologize that I did not use much French for close to 30 years now – so it is ok for me reading French, but the written French is a bit rusty.

 




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