Executive MBA | Testimonials

The following success stories portray different ways of advancement of alumni. They illustrate people with different backgrounds and ambitions. Please note that the profiles are not continuously updated.

Bruno Stieger

CEO of the von Ballmoos AG

Bruno Stieger

CEO of the von Ballmoos AG | Class 1996/97 

From mechanical engineer to entrepreneur. 

Bruno Stieger studied mechanical engineering but never actually worked in that field. Instead he decided to dive into the world of software engineering. With a partner he founded an enterprise which gradually grew to a staff force of 70. From 1986 to 1993, Bruno was among others managing international projects in Japan and elaborated a feasibility study plus the pilot run to outsource the firm’s software development to Russia.


In the subsequent years, Bruno first acted as management consultant within the ETH science of management foundation, and then took on the partner position at a management consultancy firm. During that period, Bruno felt the urge to refine his analytical skills with a generalist approach and acquire strategic perspectives for high-level management decision making. He therefore enrolled at the Rochester-Bern Executive MBA Program which did not only open doors to other industries, but also brought together friends for life as Bruno says.


During the Rochester-Bern Executive MBA studies, Bruno joined a global leader in providing IT-enabled business solutions and services as management consultant. One year later he was appointed as operations manager of the branch’s industry and trade department. In 1999, Bruno took on a 17 million budget project at Europay before undertaking the position as chief operation officer at 3C-Systems AG - the leader in systems and software for cashless payments.


In July 2001, 3C-Systems AG took over the business activities of von Ballmoos AG, a reputable Swiss supplier of parking management systems. The core competencies of the two firms – parking systems and cashless payments – are an ideal combination for expansion. Over the years, Bruno became majority shareholder and general manager of von Ballmoos AG, and helped the company turning around from a restructuring case into an economic healthy firm. He has always been fascinated by turning something into functionality.


«For me it is important to project one’s thought into the counterpart, and trying to understand his/her motivation and aims – and that is something I learned during the organizational theory and control course in Rochester.» He concludes that the Rochester-Bern Executive MBA Program imparted indispensable knowledge for his success throughout the years. In 2008, Bruno decided to merge von Ballmoos AG with two other companies in the parking industry but held his function while adding the management position of the Taxomex AG to his portfolio.


Interview was held in 2008. In the meantime Bruno Stieger has become the owner of mareco experts GmbH.

Dr. med. Gabriela Kieser

Kieser Training

Dr. med. Gabriela Kieser

Co-Owner & Chairwoman of the board | Class 1997/98

Experience in setting up a doctor’s practice but lack of general economic knowledge and team work opportunities.

Gabriela Kieser grew up in a family of business owners and therefore soon got a first taste of the corporate world. During her medical career however, general economic knowledge was missing. She therefore decided to register for the Rochester-Bern Executive MBA Program in 1997.


Gabriela studied medicine at the University of Zurich and worked for four years as an assistant doctor at several clinics. From 1983 to 1988 she wrote on her thesis about postoperative strength training as a rehabilitation method. Two years later, in 1990, she opened her first medical practice for muscular strengthening therapy in Zurich and introduced new rehabilitation machines for muscular skeletal rehabilitation especially for the low back and neck muscles to Europe.


While practicing, Gabriela came to two important conclusions which were crucial for the development of Kieser Training, the company which Gabriela is co-owning today. First, the concept of muscular strengthening therapy proved to work for patients with chronic back pain, and second, synergies between the medical practice and Kieser Training could be affirmed, when located within the same building. Gabriela states: “There is only a short period in our life during our adolescence when we build up our strength. This is followed by a long period of a decline in strength. Between the age of 25 and the day we die, our body loses 30 - 40 % of its muscle mass.” and adds “This muscle weakening is connected with chronic back pain, pain in other parts of the muscular skeletal system and osteoporosis”. She explains further that what some regard as an ageing process is often just the result of passivity and a lack of exercise. However, movement on its own is not enough to keep the body working properly. The quality of the exercise depends upon the resistance it overcomes“. Kieser Training focuses exactly on this problem solution und specializes on preventive and therapeutic strength training.


Today, the company operates more than 150 strength training facilities in 9 different countries with more than 310’000 subscribed customers. Gabriela is a member of the Executive Board of Kieser Training AG since 1994. Since 2008, she is responsible for strategic projects. “The Rochester-Bern Executive MBA Program helped me filling the gap between my medical experience and managing a firm.” Gabriela and her studies mates are still in regular contact, besides social events they also meet to discuss their investor group project.

Dr. Conrad Müller

Uni. Children's Hospital, Basel

Dr. Conrad Müller

CEO of the University Children's Hospital of Basel, 
The second biggest hospital for children in Switzerland
Class 1998/99


Economic skills are absolutely essential for doctors in leading positions.

In 2008 Conrad Müller took over the role of CEO of the University Children’s Hospital Basel (UKBB). Thereby he returned to his previous place of activity, working for the benefit of children, which is a big desire of his.


Already 10 years before Conrad took on the CEO position, he realized that an extension of economic knowledge is unavoidable for doctor’s everyday work: «The complexity of today’s health care is demanding more and more economic skills from doctors. These skills I acquired in the challenging and demanding Rochester-Bern Executive MBA Program. This education now supports my daily administrative decision making to the best advantage for my patients in a world of increasing constraints. Offered in an executive program format, this top MBA program can be attended by clinical doctors while working.»


The UKBB is an independent center providing medical care for all pediatric age groups, as well as teaching and research within the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Basel. It accomplishes an indispensable contribution in medical care for children and young person in the North-Western region of Switzerland.


Today the main focus of Conrad lies on the «new UKBB», i.e. the modern new building worth 160 million Swiss francs which will advance the UKBB to one of the most modern clinics of children and youth medicine in Europe.  The construction next to the University Hospital of Basel (USB) is being built at the moment and early in 2011 all the units of Bruderholz and Basel-City will be transferred there in order to be integrated under the same roof.  Only the Neonatology ward remains located within the Department for Obstetrics, but will be very close to the new hospital.


Conrad knows about the advantages offered by the neighborship between UKBB and USB. In critical moments short transportation routes and an optimal cooperation between healthcare professionals can be crucial for successful therapies. Further short distances and common university infrastructure will also in future facilitate the increase of joint projects in the areas of education as well as research. The targeted economic efficiency by the neighborship liberates resources for the good of children and adult patients.


Blog news: «Rochester-Bern alumnus wins the first AAA-Award of SAMBAplus!», 09.12.2015


Interview was held in 2008. In the meantime Dr. Conrad Müller has become the new director of the Klinik Hirslanden in Zurich.

Martin Schneider, Class 1998/99

CEO Publisuisse AG

Martin Schneider, Class 1998/99

CEO Publisuisse AG | Class 1998/99

I learnt to reduce to the max

Martin Schneider enrolled at the Rochester-Bern Executive MBA Program in 1998. Working 100% besides studying taught him to leverage in- and output.


After having studied business economics in 1993, Martin operated as assistant brand manager of Kraft Jacobs Suchard. In 1996, he started as assistant CFO at SRG Swiss Broadcasting Corporation. A year and a half later, he took on the responsibilities of the commerce department at SRG.  During his studies within the Rochester-Bern Executive MBA Program, Martin changed from SRG Swiss Broadcasting Corporation to its affiliated firm Publisuisse. «The program broadened my horizon and I was able to apply course contents directly to my work life.» He found great value in studying with international faculty and class mates, especially since his new position involved leading international activities and project coordination of the advertising acquisition firm.


Just one year later he was promoted again and took on the sales division. Additionally he became member of the executive board. Since September 2003, Martin is acting as director of Publisuisse. He points out the importance of flexibility starting with the attitude right up to structures and procedures. Juggling with huge volumes of data and taking sustainable decisions, he still benefits from his Rochester-Bern experience. «The knowledge of EMBA courses like statistics and corporate strategy are active constituent of my daily routine.»


When choosing an EMBA program, Martin put emphasis on reputation, accreditation, applicability and internationality. He was looking for a program cooperating with a top university offering English as education language. Today he points out the academic side of the program: «The courses were well structured and coordinated. The program taught me hands-on tools as well as soft skills.» Further he adds: «Besides the high quality faculty and the diversified student’s team, I consider the study period at the University of Rochester as one of the highlights.»


After successful completion of the 18-months study period, he was awarded with a Master’s degree of Business Administration together with thirty-seven fellow students. After more than ten years, Martin is still in touch with his class mates. «The program bound us together and we gained lifelong friendships.»

Martin Schwab

CFO of the Axpo Holding AG

Martin Schwab

CFO of the Axpo Holding AG | Class 2000/01

A prerequisite for an interesting position abroad.

Back in the days, the CFO of Selecta Group Martin Schwab took on the Finance Director position at Selecta Switzerland shortly after successfully completing the exam as «Swiss certified expert in accounting and controlling.» At the time, Martin was coordinating four departments with 45 employees and was responsible for Finance/Controlling, IT and General Administration.


In the beginning of 2000, Martin entered the Rochester-Bern Executive MBA Program in order to equip himself with the right tools for an international career. «With the Swiss certification as expert in accounting and controlling, I added a more specific qualification to the more universal education acquired at the general business administration school. In order to widen my range internationally, I aimed to add an MBA on top.» He knew that an international degree would help him in finding an interesting position abroad.


Just a few months after graduation of the Rochester-Bern Executive MBA Program, Martin moved to London where he joined Compass Group PLC which had taken over Selecta Group in spring 2001. In London he was responsible for the development of group controlling and was leading various projects among them the introduction of a group-wide financial consolidation software; he also acted as interim Finance Director for North and Central Europe. «The MBA helped me assembling single bits and pieces to a whole. My manner of thinking definitely changed and the three-legged stool out of our Organizational Architecture Course became a faithful companion.»


Martin moved back to Switzerland in 2004 and acted as Finance Director and Deputy Managing Director accountable for 2,500 employees and a turnover of Euro 175 million at the Swiss division of Compass Group. In the end of 2005, Martin moved to Zug as CFO of Selecta Group, the European market leader in vending with Euro 750 million of sales. Since joining, Martin has managed the financial aspects of the sale of Selecta Group from Compass to a Private Equity investor and is managing a syndicated loan of Euro 950 million as part of the new financial structure.


After five years as CFO of Selecta Group, Martin decided to take on a new challenge. The Board of Directors of Axpo Holding AG has appointed Martin as the new Chief Financial Officer as of 2011.

Dr. Stefan Bodenstab

Nestlé Product Technology Centre

Dr. Stefan Bodenstab

Director of research & development at the Nestlé Product Technology Centre | Class 2001/02

… has changed the way I think.

Stefan Bodenstab has spent 18 years with Nestlé, where his group is responsible for creating innovative products and technologies that will keep the company competitive and sustain its worldwide growth. Before taking on the position as Head of R&D Infant Formula & Infant Cereals at Nestlé Nutrition Global Headquarters in Vevey, Stefan was director of research and development at the Nestlé Product Technology Centre (PTC) in Konolfingen, Switzerland.


Although most of us equate Nestlé with chocolate, the PTC develops manufacturing processes, packaging and engineering enhancements for shelf-stable products such as powdered milks, dietetic specialties and infant and clinical nutrition products.


Stefan began his career at the Nestlé Research Centre in 1991, where he completed the practical part of his Ph.D. before finishing his doctorate at the Technical University in Munich, Germany.


Attracted by the finance and managerial expertise offered at the Rochester-Bern Executive MBA Program, Stefan seized the opportunity to complete his MBA which was sponsored by Nestlé. Halfway through the program, Nestlé assigned Stefan to a competitive market study initiative «60/40+» 2001, a consumer research program with the aim to improve products so that 60 out of 100 consumers prefer Nestlé products in a blind test when hiding the brand.


In subsequent assignments as a factory manager and logistics manager in Egypt, Stefan acknowledges that project valuation (CAPEX) and organizational theory as the two skills that he most leveraged from the Simon MBA.


«My MBA studies greatly enhanced my skills in finance and organizational architecture. Further, I found great value in the corporate strategy coursework taught by Professor Filip Caeldries,» notes Stefan and adds «We’ll change the way you think - is not just a slogan, the Rochester-Bern Executive MBA definitely has changed the way I think.»


Inspired by the PowerBar business team, he started running in 2008 when he joined Nestlé Nutrition. Friday «happy hour» at Nestlé Nutrition means running at 4pm.


Interview was held in 2008. In the meantime Dr. Stefan Bodenstab has become the new VP for Innovation & Quality at Hero (Institut for Infant Nutrition).

Dieter Pfeifer

Boehringer-Ingelheim Shanghai

Dieter Pfeifer

Vice President Chemicals & Strategic Sourcing at Boehringer-Ingelheim Shanghai Pharmaceuticals Co. Ltd | Class 2001/02

Without an EMBA, I wouldn’t be in Shanghai today.

One year after graduating from the Rochester-Bern Executive MBA Program, Dieter Pfeifer moved from Basel to Shanghai to take over the position as Director Procurement & Supply Chain within Boehringer-Ingelheim.


Dieter was attracted by China as representing one of the strongest growing markets in particular within the pharmaceutical and chemical industry. He adds: «Nowadays, China is for these two branches what Silicon Valley used to be for IT in the 60’s and 70’s. China is the number 1 market for growth in chemical industry as well as the number 1 country for sourcing and supplying within the worldwide manufacturing network of Boehringer-Ingelheim.»


But how is it to live in Shanghai? «Noise, smog and the lack of blue skies are sometimes disturbing. But Shanghai living conditions are improving year by year, especially after the World EXPO the city has changed in many aspects and delivers high compensation in exchange.» Dieter loves to get up early in the mornings to watch the wakening of Shanghai. He adores the cultural choice and the constant transition of Shanghai: 24/7 heartbeat – Shanghai never sleeps. Everything flows and develops. The rapid growth of skyscrapers is only a synonym for the quick change and growth. However to keep pace with the Asian way of business is very demanding he says, there is always someone outstripping you.


Another challenge besides trying to keep abreast with China’s fast speed is to take high impact decisions based on little facts and information. To prepare for decision making under uncertainty he choose to attend an EMBA program. Today, Dieter says that he wouldn’t be in Shanghai without having attended the Rochester-Bern Executive MBA Program. «My choice was based on the very international approach starting with English as program language, including the summer study period in the US right up to the dual degree.» Thinking back of the study time, he remembers interesting, demanding and fun course weekends in Thun, good discussions with professors and fellow students, and the strong clannishness. Even though living abroad, Dieter is still in contact with some of his class mates.


Dieter plans to stay in China for some more years before either expanding to the area of Corporate Head Quarters within Boehringer-Ingelheim or moving to another country with his current employer. However he does not preclude returning to China, in contrary, he actually is ambitious to become CEO in China one day.


Blog news: «Rochester-Bern Alumnus shares his experiences during EMBA seminar in Shanghai», 10.05.2016


Interview was held in 2008. In the meantime Diete Pfeifer has become the new director at Boehringer-Ingelheim.

Mark Rüegg

CEO of Celsisus Pro

Mark Rüegg

CEO of Celsisus Pro | Class 2003/04

My thirst for knowledge resulted in founding my own company.

The innovation price 2009 goes to: CelsiusPro Ltd! The company was founded by Mark Rüegg in 2008 and specializes in the sales of individual weather certificates allowing companies as well as retail clients to hedge themselves against financial losses due to adverse weather.


Mark started his career with an apprenticeship at UBS and then absolved the HWF. In both stages, he received wide-ranging education which was very helpful, but he felt it was time for a more specialized qualification. Mark therefore chose to complete CFI, Level 1. But still, he figured there must be more! «I knew that just can’t be it. It is interesting to understand things, but to do so, you need knowledge.» In order to receive a broad manager view, he applied for the Rochester-Bern Executive MBA Program. «During the program, the missing pieces of the jigsaw were falling into place, I finally received an overall view. All in all, the program helped me realizing what is needed in the business world, which was important for founding my own company.»


Weather risk management is becoming crucial to weather dependent companies, given the increased climate variability. Weather productions help to reduce weather related earnings volatility and increases the value of the company. Mark explains: «In a world of increasing weather extremes, the question is no longer if climate change is happening, but rather how will you protect your business from it. More than two thirds of the European economy is directly or indirectly dependent on atmospheric conditions. We offer companies the option to protect themselves against the financial consequences of unfavorable weather conditions by purchasing weather risk transfer products based on parametric triggers.»


Professional protection against uncooperative weather and the resulting loss in revenue - how is that possible? CelsisusPro Ltd. can offer their service thanks to the collaboration with Swiss Re being CelsiusPro’s strategic partner for weather risk management and risk transfer. And where did Mark get the idea and tools from? He has spent many years with a leading Investment bank and has in-depth experience in the area of FX Cash and Collateral Trading. Further the Rochester-Bern Executive MBA Program provided him with tools and knowledge to start a company. In his last role as Director at UBS Investment Bank London, he was responsible for FX Prime Brokerage Sales, where he advised hedge funds and broker/dealer firms in risk management, processes and trading platforms. Mark first looked into weather derivatives after becoming aware of the climate change problem «One side of my business was hedge funds, the other was broker dealers – FX retail aggregators where you can open an account for £20’000 and trade FX at low margins,» he says. «I thought that was pretty good business model. I then decided to build an online platform where people can trade weather derivatives and hedge against the effects of adverse weather, as this is what is needed with climate change. That’s how it all began.»

Nadine Müller

Zuercher Kantonalbank

Nadine Müller

Head of Corporate Development Management / Portfolio Manager Zuercher Kantonalbank | Class 2008/09

Family before or after MBA?

Before starting the Rochester-Bern Executive MBA Program in 2008, it took Nadine Müller many thoughts and discussions with her partner, her employer and the Rochester-Bern Executive MBA program organization whether to start a family before or after a further education. She decided to first complete the studies – perfect point in time: Her job required financial as well as managerial skills, and her partner searched for a similar further education.  Therefore, they decided to do the EMBA program together.


After having studied architecture in 2000, Nadine worked as project manager for Schneider & Schneider architects in Aarau, designing and constructing different residential houses, dental surgeries and bank branches. In 2004, she was hired by the Zuercher Kantonalbank as project manager respectively client representative. Just ten months later, she took on the responsibility of a portfolio of about 50 buildings (bank branches). In order to complete the technical studies by financial topics, Nadine started the Rochester-Bern Executive MBA Program in 2008. «Beside the English challenge, the program really broadened my technical knowledge.» Working and discussing together with students with different backgrounds gave her broad inside into other companies and operation methods. Organizing her business, private and studying work efficiently was another big challenge. During the MBA studies, she was involved in revising the strategies of the Business Unit Logistic and its Functional Department Corporate Real Estate Management of Zürcher Kantonalbank. «I was able to directly adopt the acquired and necessary skills from the MBA program within this special challenge and my managerial position.» After graduation in June 2009, she was jointly responsible for the reorganization of the Corporate Real Estate Management Division and became Head of Corporate Development Management and Deputy Director in addition.


When coming to know the great news to be pregnant in October 2009, she decided together with her employer to take over a new role as portfolio manager. This gives her the possibility to more deepened adopt the knowledge of EMBA courses, working on strategic consolidated bank projects. «After all a good education supports you the whole life. It was absolutely the right decision to first focus on a further education which gives you new perspectives. I am not sure I would have done these tough studies after having started a family.»


Interview was held in 2008. In the meantime Nadine Müller has become the new project manager at Immobilien Aargau.

Christian Rähle

Thommen Medical AG

Christian Rähle

Head of Product Management at Thommen Medical AG
An international dental implant development company
Class 2007/08

Filling the gap between engineering and management.

After returning from a trip around the world, Christian Rähle realized the need of broadening his horizon in terms of his professional career. Having studied mechanical engineering, he was engaged as project manager at Synthes before taking on the responsibilities as group manager leading international development projects and global product introductions. He learned a lot on the job, but he felt like there was something missing.


«Technology has fascinated me since my childhood», says Christian, today Head of Product Management at Thommen Medical AG, an international dental implant development company. On his current job he still applies the knowledge from his ETH studies with passion. But the more he rose in rank, the more he lacked the principles of business administration as foundation for his leading position. «Since entrepreneurial thinking is as important as technical feasibility, I decided to invest in an MBA». After having studied at the ETH which is known for its high standing quality, Christian was looking for a program which keeps pace with ETH’s excellent international reputation and level of expertise. Further he was looking for a bi-weekly format allowing him to keep projects on the job going.


Christian decided to apply for the Rochester-Bern Executive MBA which was recommended to him by a friend. During the program, Christian was able to match theory with experience. «It was a great setting to learn how to work efficiently in a group under pressure», he states, «and there was an excellent exchange of how to deal with similar problems even if in different industries active». Further he adopted the Pareto principle – acquired during the Managerial Economic course - which implies that for many events roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes and was brought into operation especially during the stage in Rochester where students have to focus and put priorities due to a high reading volume. Last but not least he recommends future students: «Never forget how to party, even if the workload is huge. Leaving hold of job and school is important for your work-life-balance».


Christian got promoted during his EMBA studies and took over his current position as Head of Product Management. Looking back on his MBA education, Christian today still benefits from the various courses and the expanded network. He regularly meets with the core of his class memorizing discussions with professors, joint sport activities and meaty dinners in Rochester.


Interview was held in 2008. In the meantime Christian Rähle has become the new director of Product Management, Development and Regulatory Affairs at Camlog Biotechnologies AG.

Erich Steiner

CEO Pavag Folien AG

Erich Steiner

CEO Pavag Folien AG
Originally a paper producing company, since 1975 production and conversion of Flexible Films
Class 2007/08

Paying my MBA education out of my pockets definitely paid out.

Erich Steiner planned to do an MBA since he got a degree as Eidg. Dipl. Einkäufer back in 1998. After thorough evaluation, he started his MBA education in January 2007. At the same time he took over the position as COO of Pavag Folien AG.


Tying a new position with an MBA education was a tough challenge, but Erich is glad that he combined the two: «It gave me the chance to apply into practice what I learned in the class room.» Pavag Folien AG supported him with time, however Erich choose to pay the course expenses out of his pockets in order to be free of future obligations. Investing a big amount of money made him choose his future program very carefully. The bi-weekly program of the Rochester-Bern Executive MBA Program appealed to him but also the course structure. Important topics for Erich were Organization Theory and Control, Financing and Corporate Strategy. «Thanks to my MBA education we now have a clear strategy. The program helped me to enhance strategic and operational thinking.» Today Pavag Folien AG has a strong market position and not even the financial crisis can stop their growth. They currently have a turnover of about 40 Mio Swiss francs and can log profits of about 20%.


«My dream is to create a paradise at the workplace to attract employees who want to work with us.» He relates to the «Leadership» course that helped him to partly fulfill his dream: «Already today we receive many blind applications since Pavag Folien AG is a stable and valued company that offers a pleasant working atmosphere and great team spirit.» Further Erich puts emphasis on communication and transparency towards his employees, because he knows that «only together we can make it happen».


Being now MBA alum, he points out the importance of a high quality alumni association. It offers a platform for the future, a platform for networking. He regularly meets his class mates during program Guest Lectures and arranges reunion dinners and city trips. With a smile on his face he remembers the debates with his class mates. «It was a good mix of industries and as non-academic I came up with different approaches than others.» Working within several different teams during the MBA studies, was for him one of the key learning factors of the program.


Interview was held in 2008. In the meantime Erich Steiner has become the new CEO at DUO PLAST AG.


Natasha Peters & Christine Kreis
Recruiting Manager / Recruiting Director
+41 31 631 53 27


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