Zoom In: Rahel Leugger
Rahel Leugger is the Managing Director of Stadtoase Zurich and graduated with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the School of Management and Law in spring 2022.
Rahel Leugger grew up in Basel and first studied human medicine at the University of Basel, later switching to biology. She moved to Zurich for her master's degree in biology and has remained there until today. She has been working as a managing director at Stadtoase Zurich since June 2020.
How does your professional career look like?
My childhood dream of finally studying medicine unfortunately turned into disillusionment after just a few semesters. The courses were too narrow with a lack of freedom and opportunities to ask critical questions in order to get to the bottom of problems. So I switched to biology, which turned out to be a degree program that fulfilled all my wishes. For the specialization on diploma level (today Master) I chose Zurich, because of the very interesting research that is being done at the University of Zurich.
At the age of 30, I had my biology degree in my pocket - but I knew very well that the job market had not been waiting for me. There are only a few job opportunities for biologists, and most graduates either complete several years of internships or end up somewhere completely else. This was also the case for me. In various branches I have been able to apply my analytical and solution-oriented skills in leading positions.
Do you have a preference for a particular industry when choosing a job?
The choice of industry is less important to me compared to the values that the respective companies stand for: Social, ecological, but also economic sustainability, coupled with open transparent communication and involvement of the various stakeholders. I have a special talent for building or reorganizing things and seek out the multifaceted challenges of transformation projects.
In order to continue to have the opportunity for exciting challenges at management level professionally, I had been flirting with the MBA for some time and could tackle this continuing education between 2019 and 2022. When the position of managing director of Stadtoase was advertised in spring 2020 with the assignment of change management, I hesitated no longer. I had found my dream job!
Oases generally have an island character. What do we have to imagine under "Stadtoase"?
The Stadtoase is actually a kind of green island, where everything revolves around the topic of "health promotion". For this purpose, we use our 30,000m2 premises on the Zürichberg. The offers range from family gardens, sauna, massage rooms, gastronomy, sweat lodge, aikido, medicinal herb garden, natural playground, Kneipp bath to training and seminar rooms, but also living space in our properties built according to Minergie standard.
The Stadtoase was founded 130 years ago as the "Naturheilverein Zürich" and has its roots in the so-called "Lebensreformbewegung" (life reform movement), to which we owe many achievements in the area of health in our everyday lives today. Until the 1950s, the association was very popular and flourished. Due to the expansion of leisure activities, increased mobility and later the inclusion of alternative therapies in the benefits catalog of health insurance companies, the association had lost not only sources of income but also its raison d'être - today one would say "purpose". After a few years of stagnation, Stadtoase, as this place has been called since 2017, has set out to redefine its role in health promotion for Zurich. We are currently in the middle of this exciting process.
Given your background in medicine and biology, is it particularly exciting for you to work in a company where everything revolves around health and nature?
Health and (neo-) ecology are two of twelve megatrends that will have a lasting impact on and change our society. The fact that I dealt with these topics in depth at a young age helps in part to understand the complex interrelationships, but these topics - like the other megatrends - flow into all industries and business areas. They are of existential importance, especially for decision-makers. In my eyes, this makes it particularly exciting to be able to position a company that deals with these topics at its core for the future.
"I have a special talent for building or reorganizing things and seek the multifaceted challenges of transformation projects."
Rahel Leugger, Managing Director Stadtoase, MBA Alumna
What do you think are the most important success factors in making the Stadtoase more attractive again?
As a service company, our employees are the most important success factor in achieving our goals. The whole Stadtoase's focus on health promotion means that more is invested in employee well-being here - relative to turnover - than at other places where I have worked. The very motivated staff, great leadership team, and highly professional board of directors allow me to plan my work well to accommodate my own needs for balance. However, I'm more the work-life-blend type who likes to tinker with various plans, projects and problems from early in the morning until late at night.
Why did you choose the MBA at the ZHAW School of Management and Law and what were you able to take away from this further education?
I'm basically a very curious person and I love to expand my knowledge. But for me, continuing education must always be directly related to my current job, otherwise I lack the contact points. Through my work in various management positions, I knew that I wanted to acquire even more technical know-how in this area. The knowledge should not be sector-specific, but very versatile, so that I can also take on management positions in the future, regardless of the sector. The broad-based knowledge that I have been able to acquire is very beneficial for my job as a manager at Stadtoase, not least for the transformation processes that I can plan and implement here.
One of the reasons I chose the ZHAW is that I spend 3 years with the same fellow students. This stimulates communication and active participation during classes and gives me the opportunity to build a network that I can count on in the long term.
What are your future plans?
After more than two years of change management at Stadtoase, we have been able to build a solid foundation, improved processes, a highly motivated team and already a certain level of recognition in Zurich. The next phase will involve various renovation and construction projects, which are important for the preservation of historic building fabric, but also necessary from a business point of view. We will also develop a new concept in the area of health promotion, the implementation of which will begin as early as 2023. So for me there are still very many exciting challenges and projects in the Stadtoase and I would like to continue to be part of the (re)construction of this unique place in Zurich.
Personally, I would like to further improve and deepen a new skill learned in the MBA program - crisis communication. In the past two years, we have all experienced how important it is to experience support and security in turbulent times. I think that I can give something to others in this respect, in my professional as well as private environment.