“You learn more by working on real cases”

Irina Åström from Fingerprint Cards, one of the participants in the Executive MBA class of 2018, shares her top takeaways so far, the greatest challenges for Fingerprint Cards and the benefits of working on real-life cases as opposed to theoretical exercises from a textbook.

Senior Manager & Head of PMO, R&D Fingerprint Cards

Last fall, a delighted Irina Åström started out as the year’s scholarship winner in the EFL Executive MBA program. Then she was happy, expectant and a little nervous about starting the program. Now, eight months later, Irina and her classmates have the routine down and share new insights in how to manage and develop their businesses.
“I have a much better overall view of how the market and companies work. Puzzle pieces have been falling into place throughout the course,” says Irina. “I also hope to become a better leader and manager.”

The program, which EFL provides in collaboration with the Lund University School of Economics and Management, hones in on strategic management, business development and innovation. The strategic challenges facing the organizations of the participants are made a core part of the learning process.
“The program is well thought out. The group’s composition is critical,” says Irina. “A major part of the program is learning from the experiences of others through group discussion and work on real-life cases from the companies we represent. You learn more by working on real cases than by doing theoretical exercises taken from a textbook. For example, in the recent Strategic Management module, we studied the implementation of strategy at Fingerprint. My company got valuable advice from twenty experienced “consultants” from a range of industries, companies and the public sector. That’s a privilege not many companies get.”

Irina has worked the last three years in research and development (R&D) at Fingerprint Cards, a biometrics company that is growing exponentially. Its top challenge now is to build an organization that can achieve both long-term and short-term goals.
“Fingerprint is growing, both by expanding its range of products and moving into new market segments,” says Irina. “Our growth rate is incredibly fast. We are building the organization while developing our amazing high-tech, innovative products. The major challenge at the moment is to weigh the long-term strategic goals against the short-term business goals and create an organization that allows both to be reached. Being part of this intensive phase is really fostering my development as an individual and as a leader.”

Executive MBA Class of 2018

The Executive MBA program devotes one of its modules to individual business projects, where each participant works on their own case. Irina’s project is to define the role of her department in her company’s new organization.
“I recently changed the topic of my individual project. The need for my previous topic disappeared when the company reorganized at the end of last year. My current project will address defining the role of my department, the Project Management Office (PMO), in the new Fingerprint organization. New exciting challenges are in line for R&D and PMO, working in three different business lines with varied products and business models. I feel this project will provide direct benefits to the company, and I will gain the expertise and theoretical background I need to excel in my job.”

September 19 marks the start of the next Executive MBA program. For anyone who is considering it, Irina points out how well it is adapted to provide immediate impact and that it is tailored for people who work full time in demanding positions.
“First off, it is possible to both do a demanding job and study,” says Irina. “The program is made for people who work full time, many of them in executive positions. You need to set aside time for studying, which in my case is about an hour a day for reading before and after assignments and on my individual project. And it is so worth the time spent! You gain a broad knowledge base and a fantastic network.”