Introducing the "If Only They'd Taught Me" interview series by International Business School, where we delve into the career journeys, challenges, and lessons of influential executives from IBS's partner organizations.
With faculty perspectives adding depth to each interview, this series promises to offer valuable insights for students, alumni, and business enthusiasts alike. In this first interview, our guest is Gábor Horváth, Emirates Airlines' Country Manager. He shares pivotal moments, insights, and wisdom from his aviation journey, offering a unique perspective on success in the industry.
What were the key turning points or milestones that shaped your career trajectory? What is that you wish you knew at the time?
In the beginning of my career, Lufthansa handpicked only 10 individuals every year from across the globe to join its exclusive, 2-year-long management trainee program—a hallmark of prestige in the aviation industry. Over those intensive 24 months, participants dive headfirst into the world of aviation, delving deep into both theory and hands-on practice. I count myself incredibly fortunate to have been chosen and to have worked in various vibrant locations like Miami, Atlanta, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Cologne, Stockholm, and more. During this time, I received consistently positive feedback about my skills and strong work ethic, instilling a sense of confidence that I had mastered the aviation world.
However, upon completing the program, my expectations were turned upside down. Rather than propelling me into an advanced role, my boss assigned me to a beginner position—cargo reservations. Initially, this decision left me feeling frustrated, as I believed I was capable of much more. In retrospect, I am profoundly grateful for that placement in the starter position and for choosing to stay and excel there.
It's a lesson that has stayed with me: when you genuinely surpass the demands of your current position, you not only outperform but also become a wellspring of innovative ideas and support for your colleagues. Yet, the most valuable lesson learned is that you gain profound insights and understanding when you immerse yourself in various roles, investing enough time to truly grow. Later, when you assume leadership roles, the depth of your experience shines through, earning you trust and respect.
Reflecting on your journey, what is one piece of advice you wish you had received earlier in your career?
When you hear the refrain, "You can be anything you want," it's not entirely accurate. Yet, this reality can be even more inspiring: it compels you to uncover your own capabilities and discover what truly ignites your passion and motivation. Picture this: you'll spend a substantial 8 hours each day on your chosen path. If it's mere work, it might drain you, but if it's your calling, those same 8 hours can be a daily love affair. In everything, there exists an element of goodness. The magic lies in your hands; you're the one who decides if the glass is half-empty or half-full: brimming with possibilities.
Katalin Tardos, professor at International Business School, do you think a school can prepare us for these situations?
Confronting tough situations at one or another career stage is not avoidable for most of us, similarly to the case of being placed in an entry-level position after the completion of an international junior management training program. Could educational institutions prepare their students for such surprises? My answer is ‘to some extent’. At IBS we develop students’ understanding of companies’ human resource management systems, organisational behaviour and leadership roles that could support the assessment of such career decisions. Moreover, through reflective exercises students can gain expertise in reflecting on their experiences from different perspectives. While managing expectations both at the workplace and during studies can be of paramount importance, it is vital to have the capacity to re-evaluate one’s experience not only in the short-, but long-term, too.
What else does IBS offer to help students along their way?
At IBS we value practice-based teaching and provide our students with plenty of opportunities to learn through experience. Experiential learning could happen both in the class-room through experiential exercises as on more formalised occasions like taking a semester to go on Placement or on an Erasmus scholarship. Moreover, we proud ourselves for developing the skills and competencies of students in a tailored way catering for different development needs on the personal level. Oral and written communication skills, analytical and organisational skills, as well as teamwork, IT, and quantitative skills could be developed in our so called UpSkill programme, thus preparing students for real life and enhancing the employability skills employers seek.