Rubrik: Campus Life
Equal! lecture by Ruag CEO
“Management textbooks give only moderate help”
Published: 08.02.2007 06:00
Modified: 07.02.2007 21:28
According to Myriam Meyer Stutz, CEO of Ruag Aerospace, the keys to career success are a good record of achievement, structured thinking and being open-minded to innovation. The mechanical engineer, an ETH Zurich graduate, recounted her experiences at the top of the private sector during the Equal! talks series entitled “Interviews with ETH Zurich graduates”.
(sch) How do former ETH Zurich students in retrospect assess their education after a successful career? How did their route to the top progress and once there how are they viewed by those around them? Equal! (1) , the Office for Equality of Opportunities for Men and Women at ETH Zurich, plans to investigate these questions through a series of interviews. The first question and answer forum was with Myriam Meyer Stutz, CEO of Ruag Aerospace and a mechanical engineer who graduated ETH Zurich. Luzia Lehmann and Carla Zingg from Equal! asked the successful manager about her career, life-long learning and work-life balance.Education as broad as possible
As a little girl Meyer Stutz was already enthusiastic about aviation: “I borrowed technical books about flying from the library - which I would probably not fully understand even today – just because of a fascination with aircraft.” After high school, she was clear in her choice of degree courses: “I was absolutely determined to become an engineer, to study at ETH Zurich and to keep my training as broad as possible.” Nowadays she is aware that the decisive factor is how the subjects studied are used,, not the subjects themselves. She says the most important thing she gained from her studies was the ability to think in a structured way. The only woman among 250 fellow students, Meyer Stutz became a mechanical engineer. After graduating, she wrote her doctoral thesis and subsequently worked as project manager at Swissair. At the time she had neither management experience nor any theoretical knowledge of management and staff leadership.
Today she is convinced that management skills can only be acquired “on the job”. She says the countless management textbooks available are only moderately helpful.. The recipe for the success of her rapid rise within Swissair was simply “hard work”. She says this is the only way to establish in-depth evidence of achievement and build up a supportive network. According to Meyer Stutz, one can plan a career only to a certain extent. She illustrated this with an example from her own experience: after initial training, her position in Swissair altered abruptly. “I suddenly realised I had to build up a second means of support in addition to the aviation business.” She resigned, but stresses she did so because she distrusted the new Swiss organisation rather than due to doubts about the industry sector, and finally ended up as Vice-president and Board Member at Roche Consumer Health Ltd. Her explanation for her smooth transition into the pharmaceutical industry is that “Management tasks are 70 percent independent of the sector. The technical knowledge needed in each specific case can be acquired.”
As luck would have it, the Roche business division headed by Meyer Stutz was sold for strategic reasons, and simultaneously the job of CEO at Ruag became vacant. She says the new job as CEO was a logical continuation of her record of achievement, and that personal contacts played only a secondary role. Meyer Stutz has been CEO at Ruag for eighteen months and values the varied nature of her work. It is to note that some customers are surprised that a woman is now CEO of Ruag. However, she says she never experienced any discrimination due to her gender during her entire career. Nonetheless, as a woman one must be aware that one is in an exposed position all the time. “One should not overrate either success or failure,” is Meyer Stutz’s recipe for dealing with her situation in the public eye. When asked about the time pressures of the job, Meyer Stutz said in her opinion this kind of task is manageable only with full support in the private sphere and with perfect physical and mental health.
After the talk there was an opportunity for the audience, mainly engineering sciences students, to ask the manger questions, which they made full use of. Meyer Stutz gave them three pieces of advice: it is important to find out what you want and what you do not want, you must always remain receptive to innovation and you must show a generous amount of common sense in all decisions.Footnotes: