Johanna Brühl was awarded a degree in Business Administration by Frankfurt School of Finance & Management in 2000, after completing a part-time degree course alongside her professional training. During and after her studies, she worked at Bayerische Hypotheken- und Wechselbank (which later became HypoVereinsbank). In 2002, she started work as a Client Training specialist with financial data provider Reuters (which became Thomson Reuters in 2008). Since January 2012, Johanna Brühl has been Head of Client Specialists for Europe East and is responsible for teams in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic, Romania, Hungary, Greece and Turkey, comprising roughly 90 staff, team leaders and managers. She currently is the director and Head of Busines Planning & Operations at Refinitiv.
You studied Business Administration part-time at Frankfurt School. How did you organise your course work?
During the foundation phase of the course, periods of study and work were structured in alternating blocks – while the other trainees went to vocational college, I attended lectures at Frankfurt School, which included additional material to prepare me for the ICC exam. Once I had finished my professional training and started working, it was more like doing a “full-time job plus” than studying in the conventional sense. During term time, I spent Wednesday to Friday working in the bank, and on Mondays, Tuesdays, Saturdays – and often, Friday evenings – I attended lectures and seminars. During vacations, I normally worked full-time at the bank, either building up the overtime I would need later for my exam periods, or earning more money to finance my studies. But I never felt I was missing out on “student life”; in fact, I enjoyed experiencing both sides right from the start – being given a theoretical grounding at Frankfurt School on the one hand, and being able to put what I had just learned straight into practice on the other.
To what extent did your studies at Frankfurt School prepare you for the challenges of your current job? What did you find especially useful?
I became used to hard work, and to keeping myself well-organised. What’s more, I was given a solid grounding in business administration, economics and marketing, focusing on and specialising in areas of particular relevance to financial markets. During and immediately after my degree course, my decision to specialise in financial derivatives and portfolio management turned out to be extremely useful for my work in Treasury Sales, as I was able to use this knowledge on a daily basis in my discussions with clients. Subsequently, my career at Thomson Reuters in particular has benefited enormously from the solid understanding of HR issues, team leadership, team development and communication I acquired at an early stage in my Corporate Culture & Human Resources Management classes at Frankfurt School. I’ve always considered myself immensely privileged to have been able to work in small study groups in very close contact with our lecturers, who all had practical backgrounds and gave us much more than just a theoretical grounding.
Looking back, how important was your time as a student at Frankfurt School in the greater scheme of things?
Although my time at Frankfurt School wasn’t a typical “student experience”, we had a lot of fun in my study group and gave each other a lot of mutual support – some valuable friendships grew out of it. In professional terms, my studies at Frankfurt School provided the definitive basis for my future career – without the course, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I have very fond memories of my time at Frankfurt School. The specific combination of professional training with a Business Administration course was the perfect mix for me – I don’t think I’d have settled for doing just one or the other.
What is your best memory of your studies at Frankfurt School?
FS parties – especially in the Sternstrasse basement – when we’d boogie into the early hours: the floor would end up swimming in beer and other beverages; condensation would be dripping from the ceiling! And I love thinking back on my semester abroad in London, as well as the teambuilding events that were organised as part of our Corporate Culture & HR Management module. I also remember our fantastic team spirit, which reached positively transcendental heights in the final hours just before the deadline for submitting our dissertations, when we were helping each other print off the last few pages and sprinting to the copy shop in time to get them properly bound.
How important are alumni for a business school? What do you think alumni can do for their alma mater?
Even after graduating, alumni can continue to embody a business school’s values as they build their careers in the world of business and finance. They can develop networks; they can support and encourage today’s students. Last year, I started working as a voluntary student mentor on Frankfurt School’s “For FOUR eyes only” mentoring program. I think alumni can also give business school students valuable insights into the modern world of work and the latest market developments. Personally, I feel a strong connection to Frankfurt School and try to stay in regular contact – although not as often as I would like!
What’s your favourite motto?
To be grateful for what I have, and to make the very best of it. I’m the mistress of my own fate and I always have the option to make different choices.