From specialized tracks to innovation challenges: Build your own MBA at ESMT Berlin

The ESMT Berlin MBA is a 15-month, full-time program, split into five modules. Rebecca Loades, Director of Career Accelerator Programs at ESMT Berlin, walks us through the new curriculum design of the program and how it maximizes flexibility and customization, enabling students to make the most of their MBA experience.

In short

The ESMT Berlin MBA: An overview

The ESMT Berlin MBA is a 15-month, full-time program, starting in January and finishing in March of the following year. The program is split into five modules, which we will explore in this article.

Leadership and career development run throughout the program, focusing on topics like responsible and ethical leadership, leadership under pressure, personal branding, storytelling, and case interview preparation.

Rebecca sums it up: “The ESMT Berlin MBA is a 15-month intensive program, where we have tried to introduce as much flexibility and choice as possible so that you can tailor the program to do exactly what you’d like it to do. All of our students have to study, first of all, for the core and that’s an integrated, holistic view on business and management – and after that, the choice is yours.” (00:00)

Let’s zoom into each module of the program and how students can uniquely customize their MBA studies at ESMT Berlin.

January to May: Starting with the core

The Full-time MBA at ESMT Berlin kicks off with what Rebecca calls a “core program.” Every student completes the same courses in this first module to build a basic understanding of fundamental business subjects.

This module includes courses on key business topics like inclusive leadership, building high-performance teams, data analytics, and financial accounting. It also includes an optional German language class in the evening.

June to July: Specialized tracks

The core program at the beginning of the ESMT Berlin MBA is followed by one of three specialization tracks, “a four-week deep dive into a specific field that you choose,” Rebecca explains. (00:36)

Students can choose one of three specialized tracks, which are: Managerial Analytics, Strategic Leadership, and Innovation & Entrepreneurship.

In the Managerial Analytics track, students build a deeper understanding of topics like customer analytics and machine learning. In the Strategic Leadership track, students gain insights into some of the most important themes that define leadership practice today. This includes themes like corporate strategy and agile leadership. Finally, in the Innovation & Entrepreneurship track, students learn about the human factor of innovation, how to create and capture value, and entrepreneurial finance & valuation.

July to September: Summer options

The intensity of the program doesn’t dwindle during the summertime. During the summer, ESMT Berlin MBA students have three options:

  1. Summer language school. “Outside of Berlin, [the] German language is actually really important,” Rebecca tells us. “Therefore, take part in a really intensive six-week German summer school and that will really springboard your linguistic skills off.” (01:45)


  2. Open Innovation Challenge. This is a 6-8-week project in which students team up to solve a corporate or social change. Rebecca explains, “If you’re our next CEO, if you’re the next unicorn creator and you want to really embed [yourself] in the Berlin startup scene, then do our Open Innovation Challenge. This is an opportunity to respond to a corporate or social challenge and really practice your reverse entrepreneurship skills.” (02:06)


  3. Summer internship. In a 6-12-week internship, students can put the skills and knowledge they’ve learned into practice. “Let’s say you’re all about career career career – [you] really want to max out [your] employability – then you can take part in an internship,” Rebecca suggests. “This gives you a chance to not only see how far you’ve come, to try out a different industry [or] a different function in quite a low-risk environment, but also to apply what you’ve learned already.” (02:30)

Who said summer was for relaxing?

September to December: Electives

At the end of the summer, all students return to ESMT Berlin to complete elective courses of their choice. “Again, this is where you choose a new tailor,” Rebecca adds. “In that elective period, this is your opportunity to say, ‘Actually I want to do a deeper dive into quantitative methods in marketing’ [or] ‘I want to do more around geopolitics and understand the global economy’ [or] ‘I’d like to dig into the circular economy and sustainable supply chain.’ We’ve got lots and lots of different electives that will tailor the program to what you want to do.” (02:44)

Electives in the ESMT Berlin MBA cover themes from sustainability to entrepreneurship to leadership and personal mastery.

Instead of choosing elective courses in this module, students can also opt to complete an international exchange term at one of ESMT Berlin’s many partner schools.

As Rebecca puts it, “This is your chance to build and create your own MBA.” (03:13)

January to March: Capstone project

The ESMT Berlin MBA program concludes with a final capstone project, in which “you’re working with an existing organization in a team to solve an actual business challenge,” Rebecca explains. “So, this is something which they are going to benefit from [and] you will benefit from, so you’re building your skills portfolio. You’re also getting experience of their specific industry or the function that you’re working on and potentially who knows where that could lead?” (03:23)

Here’s a taste of what capstone consulting projects have looked like in the past:

  • Designing a development plan to internationalize a successful Berlin real estate startup.
  • Developing strategic recommendations for launching a new technological innovation for a design and manufacturing firm in New Zealand.
  • Devising a business plan for a social enterprise in the solar power industry in rural India.
  • Writing a market entry strategy for a European-based renewable energy smart grid system moving into the US market.

Entrepreneurial students can also use this module to work on their own business with support from faculty at ESMT Berlin.

April: Graduation and beyond

While the month of March marks the end of the ESMT Berlin MBA program for some graduates, the leading business school also offers exciting post-program options for those who want to continue their journeys.

One of these options is the Vali Summer Entrepreneurship Program, which takes place from April to June. “The journey doesn’t stop when you graduate,” Rebecca says. “What’s really, really exciting about our program is for those people who are creating the unicorns, [they can] join the Vali Summer Entrepreneurship Program [to] start really getting embedded into the Berlin ecosystem, meet other founders [and] other VCs – those that are active in the local scene.” (03:56)

The other option is to apply to the Responsible Leaders Fellowship (RLF) and complete a social impact project. Rebecca explains, “This is a phenomenal opportunity supported by the ESMT circle of friends, for you to spend up to six months working on a social impact project in a developing country. This is something that we give you a stipend for, we cover your travel for, and this is how you can make your MBA make a difference.” (04:09)

In conclusion, the ESMT Berlin MBA offers a plethora of options and opportunities for students to personalize their learning journeys. Whether it’s improving their German language skills, diving deep into a specialized field of their choice, or gaining real-world experience through internships, students in the ESMT Berlin MBA program can undoubtedly make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Rebecca concludes, “I am so excited with the MBA program that we have designed and developed so that you get maximum value from it and so that it leaves a lasting impact.” (04:27)

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