Giedrė Kvedaravičienė, an alumna of the BMI International Executive MBA, is a truly dynamic member of the business community and the BMI family. Currently Fulbright grantee at John Hopkins university Carey Business school in the USA before just recently leading healthcare and technology policy initiatives at the EU level for a Brussels-based industry association. She has years of experience in top management and government relations in health, travel, trade and fast-moving consumer goods. Giedrė spoke with us about her experiences.
Giedrė, to start, could you briefly introduce yourself and the organization you work for?
I have many intertwining interests, but to put it very briefly, recently I was awarded prestigious Fulbright grant to spend my last year of PhD in economics at John Hopkins University Carey business school in Baltimore doing economic research on healthcare innovations. Before leaving to the United States I was Digital Health Director at COCIR, one of the oldest and most respected industry associations in Brussels. COCIR is the European Trade Association representing the medical imaging, radiotherapy, health ICT and electromedical industries.
How did you end up in this quite specific area?
My father once told me: follow your dreams, make sure you do what you like for a job and wealth will follow. Healthcare and empowering it with new technologies fascinates me a lot for many years. And while I’ve worked in several other industries, my career path ultimately led me to the healthcare sector, where I’ve been for about 8 years now. Initially I joined a private clinic in Lithuania, later becoming a co-owner and general manager of it. This has led to very interesting projects with scientists and clinicians. It also provided high exposure to Lithuanian government institutions and international advocacy bodies. The focus was how to create a fair, equal and safe environment for all the stakeholders in healthcare while promoting patients’ access to the most innovative treatments. Moving to COCIR and taking those efforts to a European level was a natural step since Lithuania is an EU member.
Currently the EU and its member states are going through a huge transformation period where digital technologies are changing so many aspects of our life: how we do business, receive services, interact with each other. And this is a time when crucial legislation is being created. For me, it is extremely interesting to be at the centre of all this and participate. Rather than take the backseat and go along for the ride, I prefer to be one of the drivers and contribute my knowledge and passion to what I truly believe is important for so many people.
You mentioned holding a variety of positions in the past. Is that important for where you are now?
Indeed. My current position involves leading innovation in health care, which is a highly regulated sector. One needs a broad set of competencies: general management, change management, people management, leadership skills, good understanding of economics to know that what you want to do is really worth it and that you’ll get a return on the investment.
You also need a reasonably good understanding of the technologies and the related legal aspects. You need what is called a “helicopter view”, to know where to dive deep into very specific details to get it right and achieve your goals.
What kind of team are you working with?
COCIR structure is extremely lean. The nature of our activities dictates the importance of our external network rather than the need for many internal resources. In the past I’ve managed very small teams and extremely large teams. There are evident differences, but it’s always about people and communication.
Let’s talk about the BMI International Executive MBA. Why did you choose to join the programme? What was it that you lacked and wanted to improve?
At the time of joining BMI, I was a c-level executive at a company that I liked yet started to lack personal growth. As the c-level executive, you are all the time giving your best knowledge and competencies away, teaching and sharing it with other people, but not getting enough back to grow yourself. I had a need for intellectual challenge and personal growth and decided that the EMBA studies would be a good way of getting that.
I was also a single mom, which limited my ability to go somewhere abroad for studies. At the same time, I must admit, I was picky. I wanted quality and was ready to pay for it. BMI was probably the only institution in Lithuania capable of offering a truly international quality: high-quality professors and excellent study setting. I’d previously attended a short training at BMI, so I had a taste of what this institute for executives can offer.
Do you see any direct impact of the studies at BIM on your current position?
Absolutely. My high expectations for the EMBA programme were fully satisfied. The professors were excellent, the fellow participants as well. It’s also a question of how much you can proactively take away from the studies. I took everything that I wanted.
Some lessons really stick with you. For me, the modules that I keep appreciating even now were the module on negotiations and the one on public speaking and executive presence. I still often recall the lecturer, Amy Carrol, explaining how to stand and use intonation as well as eye contact during the public speaking to make maximum impact on your audience. Amy has shared many very practical techniques. Negotiation lectures, professionally delivered by Keld Jensen, have also enhanced my skills which I have to practise every day, no matter the sector and every position. Competencies in conflict management and negotiations are key to success.
What was the most memorable thing about the EMBA studies?
Oh, I would like to repeat it all. To have the opportunity to make great friends through the professional environment. That was one of the many valuable things. And the international study trip with the group. The whole experience was extremely rewarding.
How involved are you nowadays in the BMI community?
Not as actively as I’d like to be, though I still have that close sense of connection. Through BMI itself, you can reach out to people and contribute to events or activities. That’s something I always do with pleasure. And then there’s the BMI alumni community, which is huge.
It’s much more than just business. BMI is not just an EMBA, another diploma you can get. It’s so much more. It’s a community, a great source of inspiration while you are studying, and a great network after you finish. It becomes a family you want to return to and are proud of. I appreciate a lot the people I have met at BMI.
What thoughts or advice do you have for those who are just thinking about entering BMI or who recently started their studies?
I’d say you must be hungry when you decide to join BMI. Hungry not only for knowledge but especially for growth. Be ready to take responsibility for your decisions and be proactive. What I always liked a lot about BMI was that even though the majority of lessons were in Vilnius, the studies were truly international with all the top-level lecturers coming from all over the world and the opportunities we had to go abroad. With its global set-up, BMI is able to help you feel and act as a global citizen and international leader no matter to which part of the world life takes you.