Meet Aloïs Thieffenat, our Class of 2021 MSc in Digital Transformation Management & Leadership (MDT) alumnus.
Aloïs is currently working in Munich as a Consultant for KPMG Germany within their Digital Transformation & Process Excellence division. Just a couple weeks after his graduation from ESCP, he agreed to an interview with us to shed some light on his experience at ESCP and how it helped him land a job he really loves.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I grew up in Germany as part of a French family. I've lived most of my life in Munich with some periods in Copenhagen, Frankfurt, and London. Before the MDT, I completed a dual Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration; this enabled me to study while gaining work experience in Corporate Finance within Deutsche Telekom, a prominent German telecommunications company. Before joining the MDT, I worked with a wide range of companies, primarily in Corporate Finance – which got me in touch with how these departments work – and where I first recognised the massive potential for digitalisation and automation.
Why did you choose ESCP's MSc in Digital Transformation Management & Leadership and what, in your opinion, makes it unique in the masters market?
Joining ESCP had been in the back of my head for a long time. As a 17-year-old, I contacted an ESCP professor to enquire about a "Master", something I didn't understand at that time. After some email ping-pong, the professor found out that I hadn't graduated from school yet and asked me to get in touch in a few years, when the time would be right. Even though I didn't fully realise it back then, the idea of joining ESCP would stay with me for the years to come.
When it came to choosing my Master degree, I had a few personal preferences. First, I knew I didn't want to study generic business classes and quickly excluded MBAs, Masters in Management, and similar studies. Second of all, I wanted my studies to provide insights into fields of interest such as Regulatory Technologies, Automation, and the role of technology in Social Development. Last but not least, I wanted to at least temporarily move away from Germany and experience new countries and cultures.
At first, it wasn't easy to find a matching program, but once I stumbled upon the MDT, I knew I wanted to apply. What I did next is not something I would recommend to everyone: I only applied to the MDT and, once I was accepted, rejected a generous job offer from a Big Four company. That being said, I certainly don’t regret taking this decision.
Can you share with us a memorable experience during your MSc that had a significant and lasting impact on your life, professional or personal?
From all the memories, it isn't easy to single out one moment. If I had to choose, I'd probably pick the group work in Creative Thinking, where we produced a simple stop-motion film in a group with three fellow students. The purpose of the exercise was to visualise the customer journey for consumers in a particular industry, based on a preliminary analysis. In our case we had to come up with a creative way to showcase the typical customer journey for commuters in the London Underground.
While I was quite a creative kid, I had assumed that I had lost my creative mind. During the weeks leading up to our final assessment, I started to realise that given the right framework, I still had that creative mindset. The culminating moment personally was when we showed our film – we heard audible gasps in the class. It had a lasting impact because it showed I still had a mind for curiosity and creativity. Perhaps more importantly, it showed that my self-judgment was flawed by one thing I could influence: confidence. It became clear to me how important it was to try new things and not limit myself because of self-perception.
What were the main takeaways from your experience as a student on the MSc in Digital Transformation Management & Leadership?
When I look back, some learnings directly come to mind: for example, I have a particularly fond memory of our Strategy class with Davide Sola, where we developed a complete strategy for a company of our choice (Netflix, in our case). Another great learning was our Company Consultancy Project. We had a real impact by advising a global telecommunications company on digital technologies, mainly on potential applications for 5G at home, stadiums and concerts.
Our final recommendation prominently featured a suggestion to cooperate closely with a French start-up developing great AR/VR solutions for various sports events. Nowadays, I regularly see posts about their very productive collaboration on LinkedIn and other platforms. While I didn't get to try their new products yet, I'm hoping to test their application in a stadium soon.
Finally, I gained much knowledge from practitioners and experts who taught as professors or external speakers, particularly Mark Esposito (brilliant public speaker, co-author of "The AI Republic"), Danielle Khayat Saikaly (expert on blockchain), and Gabriel Scali (expert on AI).
Next to everything we learned from our MSc specialisation, I've learned most from discussions with peers while at ESCP, especially fellow students of the MDT and those studying the Master in Management and Executive MBA. Living in London also provided be with great networking opportunities. Through mutual friends and my badminton club in London, I met many fascinating people: students from Oxford, Cambridge, and employees at the Financial Times, Goldman Sachs and other large investment banks. There is no doubt that I wouldn't have been able to get to know these people without the ESCP London Campus.
What was your biggest personal transformation after the MDT?
Like many other young people in 2020, COVID-19 impacted my time as an MDT student. At the time of the outbreak, we were finishing our term in London and were preparing to move to Paris. At that moment, we were all hoping for the pandemic to pass and were indeed not expecting to cut off all social contacts and cancel our term in Paris (classes took place remotely). Instead of going to London pubs and meeting friends daily, I wound up with a lot of time to fill and limitations imposed by the spreading virus. The free time enabled me to complete projects that had been on my mind: create an e-commerce website, complete a course on agile project development, learn to bake French baguettes, and get back in shape physically.
The start of my career felt like another seismic shift in my life and created an entirely new range of things to consider. During that time, I benefited from an access to a careers advisor at the Paris campus; he gave me an outsider’s perspective on open job opportunities and helped me gain clarity on my career plans.
Can you tell us about your current role and responsibilities?
I am currently working as a consultant within KPMG Germany for Digital Transformation & Process Excellence. Since starting, I have worked on a range of projects; currently I'm advising a DAX company on implementing reporting processes to disclose the share of green activities in the context of the European Green Deal. Before that, I consulted a start-up from Berlin to prepare an IPO, more explicitly helping them disclose their financial statements in compliance with the International Financial Reporting Standards.
Next to my daily work as a consultant, I am part of a small team within KPMG developing Robotic Process Automation (RPA) capabilities with the ambition to drive automation with new and existing clients. Why did I choose RPA? When looking for new technologies to develop, I always look for current trends and market potential. Currently, in Germany, I see tremendous potential for simple automation (RPA), upcoming ERP systems (mostly S/4 HANA), or systems to apply new regulations. I am eager to see artificial intelligence becoming more mainstream and developing real-world applications, but the market penetration and acceptance have been slower than I was hoping for.
How did the MSc in Digital Transformation Management & Leadership help to improve your professional success? What features of the specialisation do you think you apply the most in your current career?
The MDT helped me to steer my career in the direction I was aiming. When I applied, I felt that I was slowly but surely specialising in narrow-minded accounting topics, which I was trying to get away from. The MDT was a blessing because it helped me stay true to what I knew – Corporate Finance – while increasing my competencies in digital technologies. In particular, the Financial Services specialisation track provided new insights into financial and regulatory technologies as well as access to valuable market data.
The MDT helped me in more pragmatic ways, too. For instance, the Industry Research Report (our final MDT report) gave me the chance to explore a topic of interest while providing freedom in picking the topic and general layout. After consultations with senior managers at KPMG, I set out to produce a complete framework for companies to expand digital competencies. During my research, I lead in-depth interviews with leaders from some of the largest companies in France and Germany, and had in-depth discussions with top consultants in strategy, digital technologies, value chain transformation and Learning & Development. After submission, I was invited to present my research to more than 50 colleagues from KPMG and received great feedback from my 10+ interview partners. Looking back, I realise that my research helped me connect with my current superior and get in touch with many fascinating professionals.
Even after my classes finished, I have benefited from being associated with ESCP Business School. For instance, a COO from a large French company approached me as part of an effort from ESCP alumni to emotionally support young people during COVID-related lockdowns. During our discussions, we got to talk about new digital technologies and their potential benefits for large corporations. What was supposed to be a quick call led us to connect regularly and resulted in serious discussions to drive Robotic Process Automation within my contact's company (our discussions are ongoing).
Could you tell us a little bit about where you see yourself in the future, career-wise
This is a tough one. For now, I am focusing on sharpening my skills as a consultant and continuing to learn as much as I can. I started my role right after my mandatory internship in February 2021 and still have plenty to learn. Later I see myself working in more countries, helping clients in Asia, for example. Theoretically speaking, I'd probably like to join a start-up at some point; I believe in taking risks, appreciate the willingness to disrupt and the cooperative spirit of small enterprises.
What types of candidates do you think should apply to MSc in Digital Transformation Management & Leadership, and what would be your advice to these future applicants?
The MDT is open to a range of applicants and is not bound to particular types of people. At the risk of stating the obvious, particular interest in digital technologies is a must. I'd also say that this MSc is made for people looking to work at the frontier between business and technology.
One perhaps relevant piece of advice: applicants should not expect to become experts in programming; the MSc is aimed at understanding megatrends, gaining a holistic view of technologies, and learning essential business skills.
What are three words that best describe the ESCP MSc in Digital Transformation Management & Leadership?
Transformative, Ambitious and European
Feeling excited by Aloïs’s story? Find out more about ESCP’s MSc in Digital Transformation Management & Leadership here.