Nicholas Reppas is an Alumnus of the Global MBA in BBS, academic year 2020-2021, track Green Energy and Sustainable Businesses. He is now a Global Product Manager for Hitachi Energy and leads an internal startup for renewable energy generators.
What is your career objective?
I am deeply concerned about the existential problems of climate change, yet at the same time, this challenge gives me tremendous energy. Many people don’t realize how serious the situation is because they don’t feel personally impacted. In the developed world, we are proud of recycling and then fly to Dubai for the weekend [laughs]. Comprehending the implications of greenhouse gas emissions is complicated because the problems are initially invisible and worsen gradually. People are more immediately and emotionally touched by pandemics and wars whose devastation pale in comparison to the potential consequences of climate change.
It has always been my desire to work in a field where I can contribute to solving the world’s biggest problems. I am passionate about science, green energy and innovative business. The GMBA in Green Energy and Sustainable Business enabled me to pursue my passion.
What is your career path?
After graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering and operations management, I worked as a project manager at ABB Ltd, a multinational Swiss-Swedish electrical engineering company headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland. After several years of industry experience, I decided to broaden my horizon in management and sustainability and was thrilled to be accepted by BBS.
At the end of my study year, I returned to the same company division, which in the meantime had been rebranded to Hitachi Energy. I now manage an “intrapreneurial” incubator within this big company. We are developing a device that produces clean energy using green hydrogen. It is a bit complicated to explain in detail here, but we aim to directly replace incumbent technologies which are based on fossil fuels with a green alternative.
Why did you decide to continue your education and how did you choose BBS?
My intention has always been to work in the clean energy sector, but not necessarily in a purely technical role: I wanted to acquire soft and hard skills that would help me become a more effective professional and drive a cause I believe in. Visualizing the utilitarian purpose of your work is a tremendous source of energy. A good leader will create a collaborative and fearless environment where the entire team marshals this purpose.
I found BBS after an extensive online search. I had no preconceived notion about where I would go, except that I was specifically looking for a “green” MBA. BBS immediately struck me as an ideal fit due to the professional and appealing website, which provided detailed information on the various MBA tracks and clearly illustrated the school’s deep-routed philosophy. I appreciated the clear focus on Ethics and Social Responsibility and the familial approach. This school was more than a factory pumping out MBAs.
During the application process, I was convinced that BBS was the right place because of the school’s excellent level of communication and the professionalism of the people I encountered.
What skills did the Master’s give you and how did you apply them to your work?
In terms of hard skills, I learned most from our accounting and finance courses. It is often challenging for engineers to convert amazing ideas into viable business success. Coming from a technical background, enhancing my business acumen was a great professional leap forward. I have acquired a “language” that allows me to manage teams and communicate with stakeholders on all levels, write business plans and swiftly extract the essentials from financial reports.
For soft skills, being exposed to around 20 different cultures opened my mind. I learned to solve problems by dialoguing from different viewpoints and considering cultural aspects. I live in Switzerland, and we can be a bit stubborn and inflexible when it comes to following a process. I appreciated the flexibility that Italians commonly demonstrated when problem solving. If they want to, Italians can manage through any challenge by finding clever workarounds, communicating openly, and going for a few Aperol Spritz after work [laughs]. This is especially valuable during the early stages of pioneering work. Taking the right approach at the right time can mean the difference between success and failure. My experience at BBS was fundamental in allowing me to become more open-minded and flexible.
What role has the post-MBA internship played in your professional development?
In my case, I did not pursue an internship because I was immediately employed in a new position within my old company. However, the BBS network of students, professors and alumni is very useful for brainstorming ideas and staying on top of current affairs in specific business areas. I have already benefited from this network in the immediate months after completing the MBA program and will continue to do so. Companies need passionate pioneers who are brave enough to try new things and secure future business. In this sense, a strong network is essential to stay connected, seek and provide guidance and drive open innovation.
What are your next professional goals?
Firstly, I would like to contribute to the growth of a new business that is still in its fledgling stages. At Hitachi Energy we are still a small team and there are many challenges to solve, but we have a grand and shared vision to drive a sustainable energy future.
I believe it is time for all companies to become environmentally conscious and active. Going green is inevitable and I wish to do my part in accelerating this challenging transition. Even companies that do not look to the future and are currently “Greenwashing” will soon be forced, through independent audits, regulators and most importantly – the general public, to switch to a more sustainable business model. We are starting to understand that going green is economically viable, especially if you consider the present cost of NOT acting.
What is the added value of being part of the BBS Community?
The experience at BBS and in Bologna was intense, but at the same time truly wonderful. I carry in my heart the year I spent riding my Vespa all over the city … and oops, getting fined for unintentionally driving in the bus lane 15 times in a row [laughs]. I will never forget exercising with my classmates in Giardini Margherita, the weekly runs up the hill to Santuario di Madonna di San Luca and the beautiful Villa Guastavillani. The BBS Community platform is useful, just as staying in contact with fellow alumni via our WhatsApp, LinkedIn and Facebook groups. Meeting physically remains essential, so I look forward to future reunions at BBS.
What would you advise a BBS student to do?
Always be proactive in what you do. If you attend a BBS Master’s program, as in all other business schools, you are privileged. And with privilege comes responsibility. But acting on that privilege is up to you. Professors are often glad to share their knowledge beyond regular hours if you ask. But the initiative needs to come from you. It’s up to you to fully leverage all that BBS has to offer – the vast experience of professors and lecturers, the opportunities provided by Career Service and the exceptional, networked community.
Do your research, prepare yourself and ask BBS to connect you with those in the market who might be interested in your profile. Consider your time at BBS much more than just a year of studying. Be proactive, never be afraid of asking questions and challenging the status quo. Knowledge is power, so stay thirsty for knowledge not only at school, but also in your professional life.