Generalist vs. Specialist

Dear All,

Before I started to write my new post this morning I was reading news from all around the world (the fall of Eike Batista’s empire in Brazil, the postponement of the US-Russia bilateral summit, GSK switching to electric medicine, growing gambling business in Macau, ESADE’s Hult competition regional winners adventures in Mumbai whom I wish best of luck for the final presentation in Boston!) and catching up with e-mails. Without the need of any advertisement or word of mouth to support Financial Times I can tell you that it’s a useful exercise to have a look at the news section and familiarise myself with happenings related to global politics and business.

For some of you this might already sound a rule of thumb or an outdated comment, but for a person with my background – coming from the CEE region and focusing on the activities of our retail business – this was something that I had to gradually learn. Even if I followed the news of our industry, maintained partnership with different international companies and took part in strategic discussions with vendors, trading partners, banks etc. the scope has simply changed and I became thirsty for different kind of quality information on top of the everyday news coming from our local market. Some of your Professors will invite or even urge you to make the reading of top finance, business papers a daily practice, so it’s up to you to decide when and to what extent you’ll take this advice. However, one thing is sure, namely that the MBA will open up new domains and the information need of most of you will change dramatically.

Another useful revelation was before one of our Strategy classes held by Prof. Luis Vives when we had a discussion on the airline industry. He invited Mr. Alex Cruz, CEO of Vueling (hope he can repeat the lecture with the Class of 2015 as well!), and our task was to prepare suggestions for Vueling, which the best teams could present to the CEO himself. Then I realized that there were different ways of a proper case discussion “preparation” and getting to know a given industry. You practically have to know inside out (not meaning to learn by heart, but to have all relevant information available) the major players with key metrics such as passenger numbers, financial data, up-to-date happenings in the industry etc.. Even if we all thought to have prepared the case and got ready for the challenge, most of us just scratched the surface, so we needed to make the shift from a role of generalist into a specialist one.

At that point our Professor told us that we should also start collecting information on the industry of our interest and be ready well ahead once an interview situation might arise. Pretty soon after I started to keep a more closer and thorough eye on luxury retail, which I believe was more than useful even in the present days of my internship. Before coming to DFS I read a lot about the company and in the mean time I have also prepared a small summary on major travel retailers. I always follow the company news both on the Intranet and on the Moodie Report, which shares information on Travel Retail and Duty Free Business Intelligence.

Even if I’ve always been curios enough to ask questions, my approach to looking at things and putting data systematically together has improved a lot (though there is still room for improvement), something which changed since I started the MBA journey.

Regardless of your area of interest finding the golden mean to what extent is it worth being a generalist or a specialist could pay off in the long run by getting to know the specialties of your business and understanding general trends that have an effect on the surrounding environment.

With all that enjoy the rest of the summer and wish you all the best from Hong Kong, the city of finance/business generalists and tunnel & bridge constructing specialists.

Kind regards,


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