Learning About the “Why”

Alumni of the CAS SME-Management
Many people slip into management positions even though they have a completely different education, that has nothing to do with business or leadership. This is exactly what happened to Dr. Vijoya Sa, who works as COO at Rheonics – a successful company that won the Swiss Excellence Innovation Award in 2021. In this article, she shares how the Rochester-Bern continuing education program helped her better master management tasks.

Dr. Vijoya Sa is a truly international woman – born in India, educated in the United States, and she lived and worked for several years in Germany before she became Chief Operating Officer at Rheonics in Switzerland. Rheonics is sensor manufacturing company that won the Swiss Excellence Product Award in 2021. For Dr. Sa, who originally is a material scientist, the prize is a validation of the product: “It’s like peer review. The award is independent confirmation of the high quality of our sensors. It increases customer trust in the excellence of the product”, she says.

As winning the Swiss Excellence Product Award may already indicate, Rheonics is a very successful and fast-growing company. Dr. Vijoya Sa had no formal management education when she took over the position as Chief Operating Officer, having grown into that role through on-the-job training. “As long as the company was small, it worked well to develop systems from scratch as needed. For customers, I simply remembered all the important information in my head. However, as the company grew, this became harder, and we had to start automating things and the need to have a structured and formal approach to managing operations became critical”, says Dr. Sa. She therefore decided to complete the “CAS Effective SME Management” Program from Rochester-Bern, to equip herself on how to manage processes more effectively, lead people successfully, and understand effective and efficient operational management.

The Rochester-Bern Program – Eye-opening

According to Dr. Vijoya Sa, the Rochester-Bern courses were helpful not only because she was able to learn new things, but also because the modules showed her why they do the things the way they do them. As an example, she mentions a CRM tool, that was presented during the class as an example and that her company uses: “Before the Rochester-Bern marketing module, I never understood why we had to use this CRM tool. I thought that it would be much easier if we just used outlook for communicating with customers. Now I understand all the advantages of the tool. I see that it provides a much higher level of tracking of leads and customers throughout the product sales and support lifecycle. It was a big eye-opener for me. I see the importance of using this tool from a new perspective, and therefore I am able to support my team in using it much more effectively”, says Dr. Sa.

In addition to excellent course content, Rochester-Bern is always committed to a diverse class composition. “All classmates had very different backgrounds, and we could see how to apply what we learned in different sectors”, says Dr. Sa. The network that is created through Rochester-Bern Programs often lasts a lifetime and is cultivated by the alumni organizations. “Of course, the Program does not cover all the subjects in detail in those 13 days of class, but I now know who I could ask and where I could search to get certain information”, adds Dr. Sa.

“What I also like about the program is its flexibility. You can always choose when you want to take which module”, says Dr. Sa. Something that is certainly beneficial for someone who works in a growing company, has a family with children, and still wants to pursue further education. The CAS training takes a total of 13 days. It includes two impulse days, five modules as well as company visits amounting to two half days. The lessons are interactive and include group discussions as well as group work. If the students have other important appointments that interfere with the courses, the modules can always be taken with the following class.

Advice from manager to manager

As a successful businesswoman, the first advice Dr. Vijoya Sa gives to other start-up entrepreneurs, is to look at the market. “What is your market? Where do you have a demand? Do you really have a demand? Is that market already set? Or do you need to build it? Is it saturated? Who are your competitors? Knowing the market is very important, before you even start a business. But also, while you already do business, to see, if you should keep on going or pivot”, she says.

Her second advice is to start lean. “Don’t hire 10 people in sales at the very beginning. First, make sure you have a working product and stretch your runway – survive till you make it”, says Dr. Sa. On the other hand, you should also be planning for when the company starts to grow. “Introduce tools and automatization early. The later you introduce a tool, the harder it gets, because you have more data and less time to learn how to use it”, she adds. In terms of any growth processes and introduction of new tools, it makes sense to evaluate your needs internally with all stakeholders and then get external help. Either in the form of consultants or through continuing education such as the “CAS Effective SME Management” from Rochester-Bern.