EU alumna Sophia Rüscher has been working at Mediaplanet since 2016. In just two years, she rose from Senior Project Manager to her current position as Managing Director, Austria.
Sophia is originally from the small, east-Austrian city of Bregenz. Having studied her Bachelor at EU Business School some years earlier, Sophia decided to take an MBA in Communication and Public Relations at EU’s Barcelona campus in 2014. Her career has also led her to live in London, Stockholm and Vienna, where she is currently based.
Sophia gave us an insight into what it is like to be a young woman in business and shared her advice for aspiring leaders.
What does your typical day at Mediaplanet look like?
It’s the media industry so there is never a typical day, especially in my position! As Mediaplanet is very much like a startup, my responsibilities reach from taking top-level decisions, down to ordering office supplies.
Three things that I would count as everyday business are lots of personal meetings with my staff and clients, observing what’s happening in the world, and staying flexible so we are able to quickly react to the latest trends.
What does your creative process look like?
I like to examine a problem or project from as many angles as possible. First, I collect as much information from as many people involved as possible. Then I create different scenarios and play them through to find the best solution. I must admit, my best ideas have not come up during big meetings but rather in the shower or at night. That’s why I always have a little notebook lying beside my bed.
You went from Senior Project Manager to Managing Director in just two years:
How did you rise so fast in the company?
Let’s say “good” was, and is, never enough for me. I was always a very ambitious, hands-on person and I am most certainly my biggest critic. I rarely take things as they are. I always strive to optimize and I am willing to go the extra mile, even if it’s uncomfortable or could lead to sacrifice.
Additionally, I had amazing people who guided, supported and taught me along the way which made it possible for me to get that far.
Do you ever have difficulties being so young and in such a high position?
Of course, being young and a woman in this position has brought me a few difficulties. I remember one situation when I first took over as Managing Director and a lady asked me: “Aren’t you a little young to be a managing director?” and I answered: “Yes, I might be young, but I am damn good at what I do.” After almost three years in the position, I can say that I successfully convinced her.
The advice I would give others is that being underestimated is never a disadvantage but can actually work in your favor, as it provides you with many opportunities to prove yourself.
What does being a woman in business mean to you?
Above all, I learned that you will always have to work a little harder. And for me, being a woman in business also means that I can help other woman grow and become the best versions of themselves. I am a big believer in female solidarity, which is still difficult to find in many businesses. So, what I am striving for is, if one day the young women in my office decide to leave Mediaplanet, they’ve learned to support each other rather than tear each other down.
Has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I strongly believe in mentorship and apply it in my office too. I highly recommend that EU graduates seek a mentor who is willing to support and guide them through their career. Learning from someone else’s experience and mistakes can be incredibly valuable in reaching a goal.
What failure have you experienced at work that led to some important and useful lessons?
My biggest failure was with a company I previously worked for. I put a lot of energy, ambition and extra hours into getting ahead, and even took pay cuts, to get onto their management program. Afterwards, I was told that I would be too high a risk as I was of a certain age (mid-twenties) when the likelihood of my getting pregnant was far too high. Instead, they said I was welcome to continue in the low-paid trainee position.
It was that day I decided to leave that employer behind and find a company that was not only willing to invest in me, but was also modern and inclusive. And look where I am now!
Sometimes it might be painful to close doors, especially if the investment has been high. Nevertheless, choosing new directions when facing one-way streets can be rewarding and liberating.
What do you think makes a great leader and what leadership principles do you follow?
I believe a great leader is someone that puts their people and business before their own self-interest. Someone who is not only able to communicate thoughtfully, truthfully, consistently and with foresight, but knows every part of their business. A great leader is never above their employees but with them doing whatever task is needed to enable their team to reach success.
Some principles I follow are:
- Always trust your gut feeling.
- Know your numbers.
- Take a night to sleep on big decisions.
- Surround yourself with positive people.
- Be a realistic optimist.
- Communicate and be transparent.
- Always remember that you are only as strong as your weakest link.
- Never be afraid to get your hands dirty, even if you are the boss.
- Trust in karma.
How has your MBA paid off in your current career?
The practical, international and broad approach at EU has been key. Comparing the education I received from other institutions, at EU you not only learn theoretical scenarios but learn to implement what you have learned right away in real business cases, which you have to solve either in a team or by yourself. It is the perfect preparation for real life.
Another essential part is that the professors are practitioners of the fields they are teaching. I often think back to the lessons they taught when I am facing certain problems or challenges to find solutions or approaches to solve the task.
What advice would you give to someone who’s reconsidering getting a postgraduate degree due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
Well, it always depends on the individual’s situation, but if you are currently without a job, sitting at home with nothing to do and no chance of going to another country to get your degree, then get in contact with your university and ask them about possibilities they might have to study online. That way you can use the time and be one step ahead when this pandemic is under control again.
If you’re looking for the perfect MBA to boost your career, explore our extensive list of programs. With 11 specializations to choose from, including international marketing, entrepreneurship, digital business and more, EU Business School can equip you with the skills you need to take the next step towards success.