Significant Global Responsibility
With headquarters in Stockholm, Sweden, Ericsson is one of the foremost worldwide providers of telecommunications systems and related services. With global sales in 2008 totaling more than $27 billion, the firm has more than 1000 networks in more than 175 nations. Leading the marketing effort for a firm that large is clearly no small task.
As part of the transition, Tunberg took advantage of the opportunity to head back to school for executive education focused on marketing strategy. Free to choose any program worldwide, she selected the Executive Scholars Program at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.
“When I took this new position my manager encouraged me to find a program that would take place over the course of about a year and which would take me away from the workplace on several different occasions,” said Tunberg.
Identifying an Executive Education Program
“I went to the internet,” she said, “and found that there are, of course, many options. But after looking into the programs I would say that for my purposes, Kellogg has the fullest variety of classes and the broadest variety of times when you can take them. So it fit my agenda very well. And then, of course, there was a bit of word-of-mouth which led me to realize that Kellogg is one of the really top schools in marketing.”
The Executive Scholars Program is an option that is rapidly gaining in popularity among executives who are mid-level and above and have a strong sense of direction in their career. Tunberg, for example, wanted to expand her skills in marketing strategy after a number of years in the more narrow discipline of sales. She did not feel she was in a position to leave the job for a multi-week program but sensed that a single topic taught over just two or three days would not be adequate either.
The Kellogg Executive Scholars Program
The Kellogg Executive Scholars Program is a certificate program that offers a participant the opportunity to take four Kellogg open enrollment executive education programs selected to build expertise in a single functional area. Options are offered in Marketing and Sales Management; Financial Management; Operations, Supply Chain, and Technology Management; and General Management. One course is required, and the participant is free to choose three additional courses from a set of electives offered for each track. (There is also an Executive Scholars Program for executives of nonprofit organizations which has a five-course requirement.)
Those who complete the Executive Scholars Program earn a Certificate of Professional Achievement and become a member of the Kellogg School Executive Education alumni community.
“The program lets you custom-design your own, longer, professional development program,” said Professor Stephen Burnett, Associate Dean for Executive Education at the Kellogg School. “It is ideal for people who simply cannot be away from their job for longer periods of time. Given the state of the economy, that is one of the chief concerns we are hearing from prospective participants.”
Tunberg chose the Marketing and Sales Management option, with "Business Marketing Strategy" as her required course. Over the course of 13 months, she also took “Kellogg on Branding,” “Managing New Products and Services for Strategic Competitive Advantage,” and “The Market-Focused Organization: Creating and Delivering the Customer Experience.”
A Creative Strategy for Increasing Impact
Executive education is one of the best possible ways to make an immediate impact on the practice of management. However, a persistent challenge for executives is how to put what they learn into action when they return to the workplace. Tunberg addressed that issue in a creative way.
“I did not take these courses by myself,” she said. “I took them with a colleague. We did that deliberately so that we would have the opportunity to interact during the program and also so that when we got back to the office, to the day-to-day work, we could have a fuller discussion with the marketing management team for Ericsson.” The electives the two took varied somewhat, but the focus on marketing was the same for both.
“This is exactly what we hope to see happen,” said Burnett. “What Ms. Tunberg and her colleague have done is unusual but not unheard of. We are spending more and more time working with participants on the question of how to put what they learn in the classroom to work in their organizations. The opportunity to apply so quickly what you have learned is one of the most important benefits of executive education to the sponsoring company.”
Tunberg pointed out some specific ways in which the Executive Scholars Program helped speed her transition from a focus on sales to much broader responsibility for global marketing strategy at Ericsson.
“One of the benefits of being at Kellogg,” Tunberg said, “is that you realize that many of the challenges your firm is facing are shared by other firms in other industries….The situation is global, with differences based on where you are in the world. What I liked about being here at Kellogg is that there are so many different industries and so many different cultures represented in the programs.”
A Focus on Strategic Issues
“As a sales person you are very focused on delivering your figures,” she said. “Now I am working on the development of marketing functions around the world….Ericsson is a company with very distributed leadership. I help our Market Unit Heads and the Marketing function with building a competent marketing organization, addressing questions such as: ‘How can marketing strengthen our sales?’ and ‘How can I use marketing in my work?’” She said that a significant aspect of her work is the alignment of Ericsson strategy with marketing messages appropriate to the market unit involved and measuring ROI.
She drew a connection between her work at Ericsson and a classroom conversation about the alignment of brand and company that emerged from the discussion of an insurance company in post-Katrina New Orleans. “From my understanding it was supposed to be an insurance company that cared about its customers,” she said. “And then Katrina came along, and that relationship with the customer was not something to think about anymore. You could get the feeling that they had a strategy, but that it was not really in the blood of the company or they would have acted differently in that situation. If the brand and the way that you act are not working together, then you are not seen as trustworthy.”
A Logical Step in a Turbulent Economy
“When you are in this type of business environment,” she said, “the first thing you might think about is how to reduce costs. You feel the stress of the economy. What this kind of education will help with is in taking a long-term view, to realize that this situation will just last for a short period and that what we are trying to do as a company is long-term.”
“I think that is the benefit of having taken these programs during these times. They help you focus on the things that are really important and the value of the bigger picture.”