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From Swiss Physiotherapist to Global Manager

Interview with Alex Geiger, Senior Specialist, Connected Health EMEA, and Satschin Bansal, Senior Director and Head of Services &  New Technologies at Zimmer Biomet and Senior Lecturer at the School of Management and Law

Alex Geiger stands in front of an audience of around 270 orthopedic surgeons from all over Europe and lectures on the use of new healthcare technologies. Just two years ago, he worked as a physiotherapist in a Swiss hospital. However, his professional ambitions were greater, which is why, from 2014 to 2016, he completed a Master of Advanced Studies (MAS) program in Business Administration. Shortly before graduating, Alex Geiger accepted a job offer to become Senior Specialist, Connected Health EMEA, at Zimmer Biomet, a leading global medical device company with European Headquarters in Winterthur. Together with the supervisor of his Master's thesis and current employer, Satschin Bansal, Alex Geiger looks back on his continuing education studies and his start into a new career.

Alex Geiger, what made you decide to enroll in a continuing education program?
Alex Geiger:
After years in physiotherapy and various other positions, I did not see any further development opportunities for me. So, after careful consideration, I decided to continue my studies at the ZHAW School of Management and Law because I had the clear goal of switching to the medical device industry and getting the basic business education that I needed. The MAS in Business Administration, together with my previous medical experience, represented an ideal combination, something that is rarely found in the professional world. I hoped to have an advantage when looking for a job and to be able to differentiate myself from competitors in this way.

How did you choose your supervisor and the topic of your Master's thesis?
Alex Geiger:
The choice of my supervisor was clear very quickly. Satschin Bansal of Zimmer Biomet was one of our guest lecturers and thus the perfect choice as the main supervisor of my Master's thesis. He works in exactly the area I was interested in, and so I approached him directly after a lecture - which paid off. Choosing a topic was anything but easy because I wanted to find something that would qualify me for a job in medical devices. Together with Satschin Bansal, we finally found an area that fascinated me and that also has great potential for the future - digital technologies in healthcare or, as it is sometimes called, "Healthcare 4.0." This is the area in which I work today.

Satschin Bansal, how did you recognize Alex Geiger’s potential?
Satschin Bansal:
As a guest lecturer, I supervise at least two or three Master's theses a year. This is especially welcome whenever the topic is a research interest of our company. . When Alex told me of his interest in the medtech industry in 2015, I found his educational background (the combination of his being a physiotherapist and a business administration student), very interesting - but it was his drive and his passion for new technologies that made me take him on. We jointly defined the research questions, which were about the potential of connected health products: “Are these new technologies just a hype, or do they offer true value to patients in the Swiss health care system?” While supervising his Master's thesis, I was able to assess Alex's skills in the context of a potential position at Zimmer Biomet very well. Based on his hard-working, passionate personality and quick perception, I really believed in his potential to make the challenging transition from a physiotherapist to a business manager. After Alex had successfully completed our HR assessment, he was offered a role in my team. Today, more than a year later, I can definitely confirm that it was a great decision!

What skills are required for Alex Geiger's position?
Satschin Bansal:
First and foremost, you need the right attitude, a go-getter mentality, and the constant readiness to go the famous extra mile. You have to be highly committed, full of energy, and ready to learn new things. This also includes always working on oneself in order to improve constantly. Alex is a very good role model in this respect. In addition, I am firmly convinced that soft skills are just as important as a business degree. However, there are definitely some skills that are crucial for this job: strategic and commercial thinking, strong project management, and intercultural communication skills - to name just a few.

Alex Geiger, to what extent did you benefit from our program in your professional and personal development?
Alex Geiger:
The decision to enroll in the MAS in Business Administration program was a milestone in my career to date. Without it, I would have probably never been able to switch to the medtech industry. The program opened various doors to me and, in the end, even enabled me to find an employer. This is no longer a matter of course today. In addition to all the specialist subjects we were taught, I still benefit from the experience of dealing with enormous pressure and from a network that extends far beyond our industry. In summary, I can say that completing the program has enriched me professionally and personally and I am happy to think back to this time.

Satschin Bansal, how do you rate the contribution of this program from the perspective of an employer and guest lecturer?
Satschin Bansal:
It provides the foundation for a successful career because the program covers many business areas and all important aspects of management competence. The highly qualified faculty follows a practically oriented learning concept with excellent case studies and great guest speakers from leading companies. More importantly, the students learn to work under time pressure and as members of a team. In doing so, they often have to assume a proactive leadership role - which is essential for future professional success.

What is the importance of business management training in business, and what would you advise people who want to develop their careers?
Satschin Bansal:
Being able to acquire a solid foundation in business management knowledge is of course helpful and also provides the necessary tools for a successful start in an international company such as Zimmer Biomet. I would recommend everyone to set clear career goals in advance, so that they know where they want to be 2, 5, and 10 years after they graduate.

Alex Geiger, how can you use what you have learned in your work?
Alex Geiger:
As a product manager, I deal on a daily basis with numerous specialists at international congresses, during customer visits, or internally, in exchanges with the various departments and stakeholders. The MAS in Business Administration has given me the necessary tools to work with all professional groups through the breadth of the topics covered. My current job role is very versatile and requires flexibility, overview, expertise, and the necessary degree of self-confidence to be able to speak in a foreign language to a large professional audience, or to senior management.

In the light of your experience, what would you recommend to others who are looking for a career change?
Alex Geiger:
My advice is to stand by oneself and have the courage to take unconventional decisions in order to consistently pursue one's personal goal. I also consider it to be important to keep going, even if the wind blows directly into your face. This is what makes you authentic and, ultimately, successful. I love what I do today, even if it challenges me every day - I don't want to go back and I’m proud of what I have achieved so far.