“My lifelong Blue MBA journey”

A leading light in the shipping industry, Capt. Michael Elwert is the Chief Operating Officer of Global Ship Management within V Group. Here, he explains how the CBS Blue MBA has helped shape his career – and how it continues to influence his working life today.

I have worked in this industry since my first job and it has taken me all around the world. I’ve lived in 11 countries so far and now I’m based in Scotland, overseeing our global ship management operations supported by 45,000 crew and 3,000 shore-based staff in 60 global offices. As you can imagine, it’s a demanding position, but it’s certainly not overwhelming and I put a lot that down to the skills that I learned while studying for my Blue MBA over 15 years ago.

Back then, I was working for Maersk and was quite far along in my career, but I needed that extra dimension to take me to the next level. An MBA seemed the obvious choice, but given that the maritime industry was my passion as well as my career, the Blue MBA was particularly appealing.

A global reputation

I’d also heard about Copenhagen Business School – it was (and remains) certainly very highly regarded in the industry – and I was attracted by the fact that it was a truly global programme with a diversity in the classroom run by a leading well accredited business school.

That diversity was very apparent from my first day on the course. My fellow students were drawn from many different professions and segments within the global maritime cluster industry and we would all sit and discuss the various challenges we were given, offering our unique perspectives. Lawyers, technicians, executives and managers all came together to create solutions, and that’s a great way to learn. The dynamics and widespread competences available in the classroom is simply amazing!

At the same time, you have strong and reputable teachers who are well known and well versed in all the intricacies of the industry and their insight is invaluable.

Top tier endorsement

The CBS Blue MBA is known as the shipping MBA. And if you were to take a cross section of the top tier executives working in the industry today, you’d find that many of them have completed the Blue MBA. It’s an extremely strong qualification that is very highly regarded. Is it challenging? Certainly. Is it sometimes difficult to manage? Yes, but that’s actually part of the beauty of it.

As an executive in this industry, you need to be able to learn how to prioritise and the demands of this course force you to do just that. It’s the testing ground for managing your load and you need the support of your company and your family to achieve it. I didn’t have a weekend off for two years and I made a huge sacrifice to complete the course whilst in parallel running a full demanding day job – all of us did – but you need to really want it if you are to succeed. And you need to invest in yourself.

Personally, the ‘investment’ was repaid almost immediately as, after the course, I moved immediately into a new executive position with the International Shipowners’ Association. It was a role that I would have never been considered for beforehand and I have to say that I don’t think I would have had the toolbox and the knowledge to succeed. But I did, and I moved on again to higher and more demanding assignments and my Blue MBA has stayed with me every step of the way.

A longstanding relationship

Today, I’m a proud ambassador for the programme. I keep in touch with CBS, and the alumni, and I like to keep close to what’s happening across the industry. To succeed and to continue to contribute to the global community, you need to keep abreast of all the latest developments; it really is a case of lifelong learning.

And ultimately, it’s important to remember that what you get out of the Blue MBA is what you put into it. Give it your full attention and energy, and it will reward you for life.