Alumnus Christophe Thiange: Investing in an EMBA brings a long-term return – a big one

Each member of BMI’s international alumni network – spread across 4 continents and more than 30 countries – is unique and impressive. These are valuable contacts for any manager’s personal network, and great colleagues and friends. The amazing diversity of our alumni is something we take pride in, which is why we like to put them in the spotlight one by one. This time we spoke with Christophe Thiange, currently based in Germany, about his fascinating ongoing career journey and how the EMBA programme continues helping him to climb new mountains in global business.

What is your background?

Christophe: I am Belgian, but I’ve also lived in the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and France, and currently my home is in Germany. I work for a US biotech pharmaceutical company called Regeneron, where I am Director of European and Asian Commercialization. For the job, I recently moved to Germany. I am supporting the company’s development by driving the creation of affiliates outside the United States and managing their performance.

Did you specifically target the career path you’ve taken?

Christophe: Working in an international environment, yes. But I did not specifically target the company I wanted to work for or the position I wanted to take. My international path started at the Swiss drug-maker Novartis. I worked there for over eight years as a Brand Director. Then I had the opportunity to join Regeneron and I took the chance. I’ve been learning and growing together with them ever since, and the EMBA program, which I completed in 2011, is helping me on this journey even today.

Did you expect the challenges you encountered along the way?

Christophe: Regeneron was very clear about the challenges I was going to face. At first, we had no history or track record in the countries we were targeting, such as Germany, Canada, the UK, and the Netherlands. We were just a US company with knowledge of that market. Now we have integrated German, Canadian, and Dutch affiliates. We function differently. But it remains a learning process, a consulting firm helps us with detailed strategy. It’s stimulating but also demanding.

Why did you decide to do an EMBA?

Christophe: An EMBA was one of my goals. I chose this programme because it was international and offered study trips. Also, for developing soft skills, like emotional intelligence and empathy. That is becoming more and more vital – we can’t manage teams today the same way we did 25 years ago. Over time, my team and I have expanded the business to the desired countries. That was the most significant achievement so far. Coming from a scientific background, I realized that while science is great, it’s not enough. I needed to add some business to the science to ensure I have both eyes open at every step – to see scientifically and commercially.

Before that, I had worked at Novartis. But to create an affiliate from scratch I needed more knowledge. How to choose a location, recruit people, work with the legal team, understand the IT systems and a different market, and understand how strategy works. The programme gave me solid foundations in all these areas. It was a unique, engaging, and diverse experience that balanced between practical tasks and classes. It included strategy, planning and vision oriented towards future growth.

The EMBA programme was certainly worth the time in terms of the return on the investment. It gave me a lot of valuable insights which I was able to apply in real life.

What challenges did you face during the program?

Christophe: Going back to school and studying again is a big challenge itself. But when I began the programme, I also started a new job and became a father. So, I faced multiple challenges, and I discovered that the EMBA pushes you to grow your capacities, your management and learning skills. I was putting 100% into the programme from the start, but after I got the new job offer, I discovered I could do 120%. Overall, it pushes you beyond what you believe is achievable. Through those challenges, I learned to prioritize, be more organized than ever, and be more strategic. The EMBA allowed me to discover a lot of myself personally, and what I can manage outside of the business working environment.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Christophe: I would say that it is never too late or too early. It is more about being ready. Even if someone tells you that you are not suitable or ready for something, but if you believe it is the right moment for you, and you feel it is the right thing to do – don’t hesitate and go ahead.

What are your next goals?

Christophe: Goals come unexpectedly, especially in a dynamic workplace. But learning is a whole-life process – at work, at school and in our private lives. Along the way, you realize that you need to learn something new to step up or go ahead. That has happened to me. I moved to Germany and currently I’m learning the German language. That is not always necessary. For example, I can speak French, English, and Dutch, which is enough workwise. But life pushes you into a new situation, such as moving to Germany, and you want to feel valued, so you go ahead and learn the language. Thus, my next goal is to evolve in Germany by speaking German.

How would you encourage current EMBA students?

Christophe: I would say that the effort you put into the programme pays off. The EMBA is a long-term investment. You do see that it was worth it in the long term. In my experience, without the EMBA I would have missed significant opportunities and would not have been able to take on the projects I did or become successful. Today, I remain grateful for the EMBA. The return that investment brings is long-term, but it is a big one.

It’s been a pleasure to talk. Thank you for your time and thoughts.

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