“Getting that helicopter view on your business is the most valuable thing. Although we’re all from different industries, a lot of the challenges we face are actually the same.”

 

Mariana Brinkerink 

Senior Territory Sales Manager Media, Entertainment and Gaming, Google Cloud at Google

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With an international education in management and strategy under her belt, Mariana was headhunted early in her career by tech giant Google. She has now been with the company for nearly 10 years. Working in the cloud side of the business, she found the combination of strategy and innovation on the Developing Strategy for Value Creation Programme just right to give her an eagle-eye view to understand how Google’s challenges and solutions can help her clients work around their business issues.

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Diverse study for a global mindset

Ever since I was a little child, I’ve had a curiosity about the world and different cultures. An exploration mindset. Nowadays, we have the luxury to live at times where, if we want to, we can experience moving abroad, which I believe broadens one's horizons. I was born in Bulgaria and always knew I wanted to study abroad, experience living in different countries and meeting people from a variety of backgrounds. I began my studies in international business at the American University in Madrid. Then I moved to the Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University in the Netherlands.

I studied strategic management, thinking I’d become a consultant working on different companies’ strategies, focusing on change management. Destiny had different plans for me, and I started working in health technology at Philips, then the advertising side of Google. After three years I moved into the cloud side of the Google business, which was a new division of the company. I’ve been at the company for nearly 10 years now.

“London Business School was a great experience for me because there were people from all over the world, at different career progressions, and with diverse backgrounds on the programme.”

Diversity works

“The fact that there were people from all over the world with different backgrounds and perspectives on the programme contributed to the overall experience.”

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Being in the same room with so many like-minded leaders, getting different views of their businesses and industries was very valuable. Even though at first it was hard to imagine how it might work out, with one person working in manufacturing and another in tech, we quickly realised a lot of the challenges we faced were similar. Our industries might be different but the business struggles our companies go through – digital transformation, new market entry, agility etc. - are similar. At the end of the programme, there were multiple connections made with people using each other’s services or planning to use them, which was great.

“To get the best out of the programme, you need to have a clear business challenge in mind and focus on it throughout.”

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Intense learning and connection

What drew me to the programme was the interception between innovation and strategy. For my business objectives, it was important to explore and gain a new perspective on the bridge that connects innovation and strategic planning. To see how our company and key customers could do better, defining where we want to go and how we are going to get there. I needed a course that would develop my leadership skills, challenge me, and tease me a bit from the status quo of what I knew from my role, and being in the company for so many years. I wanted the international environment that London Business School has to offer, with people from all over the world coming together to collaborate.

The most useful element of the DSVC programme was to be able to step outside my everyday job and get a helicopter view of our business. Thinking about, where do we want to go? Which directions can we guide our customers in their strategic roadmap for the future of the company? Where do we want our competitive advantage to be? I was also inspired by the fact that, alongside traditional strategy, the programme had a focus on the latest key innovations in the world of finance and tech for example, and how they can be applied. Strategy can be quite theoretical at times, and I wanted to go beyond that.

Ahead of the programme you identify and set out your current business challenge, then work through it during the course. By using newly learnt frameworks and tools, I was able to create and strategise a competitive advantage, while identifying how to create value to our customers versus our competitors.

I was impressed by how organised everything was from the moment I started. From the user experience on the portal, the latest technology we used, to the fact that the facilitators proactively nurtured networking and knowledge sharing. A WhatsApp group was created for our cohort and there was a session organised three months later to see how we’d applied our knowledge – it all felt very tailored. We left the programme with big smiles, as we felt it was time well spent away from the day-to-day business, and we had made the most of the course in terms of putting theory into practice.

“I can really see a difference now in how I view the challenges we face, and the approach I take on how I advise customers.”

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Real return on investment

I came back to my organisation very excited about the course, mainly due to the practical aspect of getting advice on the business challenges I face. I presented the knowledge I’d gained within our team to ensure that the key learnings and frameworks could be applied. A lot of my colleagues also now want to take part in the programme.

Post programme, I find I’m applying more strategic thinking when looking at the business value added and the competitive advantage we have in different cloud technology workloads. I am able to successfully take a step back when viewing the challenges we face as an organisation. I don’t focus so much on the day to day, but now take an eagle eye view on how our innovations and solutions can help our customers on their business journey, identifying what their challenges and business objectives are for the next year. What strategic transformation we as a company need to deliver first and then how Google’s innovation technology can help their challenges. This leads to my conversations with customers being much more strategic and focused on their transformational journey as a company.

To anyone wanting to take the Developing Strategy for Value Creation Programme, I’d say have a clear business challenge in mind – not two or three, just one – and focus on it throughout. Come with patience and critical thinking. Try to summarise and grasp each key idea and see what’s relevant for you, as an individual or for your company. Every day, when you’re discussing different business cases, various companies and frameworks with the professors, bring it back to your business case, and think how you can apply it all.

Developing Strategy for Value Creation

In a competitive and unpredictable world, discover how to become a master strategist who creates and captures value.