Executive MBA – demanding and incredibly rewarding

16 May 2024

Matti Ahlqvist secured his current position as Site Executive Director at AstraZeneca in Gothenburg shortly before graduating from the Gothenburg Executive MBA programme in 2017. The knowledge gained from the programme strengthened his responses to interview questions during his recruitment process, and he still appreciates and frequently utilizes models and theories from the programme. However, what has most influenced and strengthened him is the security that comes from having coped with the challenges integral to the programme.

At AstraZeneca in Gothenburg, researchers and many other professional groups work on the entire lifecycle of pharmaceuticals – from discovery and development to commercialization and product maintenance. The facility hosts almost 4,000 people, including consultants and external companies. Of the 3,100 employed at AstraZeneca, over a third have relocated to Gothenburg from another country, and an equal number hold a doctoral degree.

“We channel over 24 billion SEK annually into research and development that takes place here or is directed from here. The sum corresponds to approximately 40 percent of the Swedish government’s entire research grant,” says Matti Ahlqvist, Site Executive Director at AstraZeneca in Gothenburg and an alumnus of the Executive MBA programme at the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg.

Strengthened leadership and more opportunities
With an educational background in chemistry, he has been working in pharmaceutical research and development for almost 25 years, in various roles throughout the development value chain. So, what led him to the Executive MBA programme?

“I realized early on that I enjoy leading people and that I could make a significantly greater difference as an individual if I could get more people to raise the level of what they believe is possible to achieve. I wanted to pursue the Executive MBA programme, both to take my leadership to a higher level and to open up more opportunities in my continued career.”

Matti Ahlqvist attended the Executive MBA programme in 2015 -2017 and secured his current position shortly before graduation in 2017. He believes that the education may have helped making him more attractive, but above all, he believes it helped him in job interviews.

“I was asked, ‘What do you want to do in this job if you get it?’. I used a lot from the programme to answer that and describe what I believed AstraZeneca in Gothenburg needed. It made a big difference to be able to draw from the models and theorize around them.”

High quality
Matti Ahlqvist keeps the knowledge from the programme alive and uses a lot of it in his current role. The answer to the question of whether any of the programme modules played a particular role is lengthy:

“Corporate Finance, understanding the links between strategy and finance in a company, was very useful. And the different strategy parts, which included both classic strategy models and emergent strategy and the balance between them. It is related to the module on innovation and the insights into what type of innovation is enabled by what type of leadership. We also had a couple of modules that focused on organizational culture and leadership of culture and the interpersonal aspects, which complemented each other very well and provided a lot. In general, the quality level of the content and lecturers was very high. I acquired a framework for leading people and companies that I use constantly.”

Transformative experience that provides security
He also emphasizes that the self-awareness is strengthened by the programme and how important it is.

“We had certain parts, like the module in India, which were very profound and focused on self-awareness and reflection on the individual, which provided a lot. But afterwards, I realized that I was most affected by having overcome the challenge that the programme itself represents. During the two years, I had both a demanding work and EMBA studies part-time. Working as hard as the programme actually requires does something for one’s own security. It showed me what I am capable of achieving and accomplishing when required. That experience is transformative, I believe that applies to everyone who takes part in the programme.”

At AstraZeneca in Gothenburg, there are several employees who have completed the Executive MBA programme, and Matti Ahlqvist has been a mentor during the training for some of those who have taken part after him. Sometimes he is asked about what it’s like to participate in the programme.

“I am always clear about that it requires a lot of work, and that the significant effort is a big part of the experience in itself, an important part of the learning. At the same time, it is incredibly rewarding. The quality is very high, and the programme truly makes a lasting difference to one’s self-awareness, learning, and professional development.”

Matti Ahlqvist

For more information on GU Executive Education’s leadership programmes, see www.guexed.com or contact:

Peter Salomonsson, Sales & Business Development Manager
peter.salomonsson@handels.gu.se, +46 708 62 48 60

Håkan Ericson, CEO
hakan.ericson@handels.gu.se, +46 709 50 63 35