“The MBA gave me an opportunity to reflect on my values”

Catherine Merlo, Sustainability Strategy Consultant Dissing+Weitling shares how the CBS MBA was the springboard she needed to excel.

Having just graduated from CBS, Catherine is now implementing the strategy she masterminded during her MBA internship.

Before CBS

“I consider myself an impact professional and before moving with my family to Copenhagen, I spent almost eight years in social impact philanthropy at Seattle Opera, where I achieved my CFRE credential.”

Adapting to cultural models

“As an American, I’m aware that Denmark and the US have a lot of cultural differences. One of them is state-funded Arts & Culture institutions and the other is the social welfare culture. There are fewer non-profits with primarily private, individual philanthropically funded business models, so I knew moving here meant I’d need to transition my career.”

“I was aware of my non-traditional career background entering the Danish labour market. I knew I wanted to take an internship that could help me strengthen my career narrative.”

Danish work culture

“I saw the internship program as an opportunity to experience a really intense Danish work culture. Danish is the corporate language at Dissing+Weitling and so I spent a lot of my first few weeks translating internal financial statements – which was good practice – for finance, accounting, and Danish!

“At the time I did not see the possibility of converting my internship into a job partly because of the cultural differences but also because of how I entered the relationship. I saw my role as external consulting and as an opportunity for me to bridge non-profit arts and culture experience with architecture as an applied arts for-profit business, which I had planned to turn into an in-house sustainability role elsewhere.

“My supervisor and I created a relationship that allowed for this. While I had my own desk and was embedded into the company socially, I wasn’t working on additional projects. I was an external consultant, and focused on the big picture, listening to stakeholders and effective problem solving. Within that I was still able to cultivate relationships that helped me to discover my place within the firm, and now I am an internal consultant tasked with implementing the strategy that I created. But of course it’s more than that.

Today I’m driving a change process and will soon focus on sustainability as business development so I think, even though I went in with a very fixed idea of what the internship would be, it still allowed for conversations to happen and relationships to be built that could springboard into opportunities.”


“When I was hired there was an expectation that within 18 months, I would be speaking Danish at least semi-professionally in the office. Today I’m not close to fluent! I would say that you need to have a level of patience, humility, and awareness that integration is a really strong value here – and in a small firm that is reflected in the importance of Danish language.

“And while speaking Danish would be advantageous, there’s nothing about me not speaking fluent Danish that impedes my ability to do my job, be welcomed or be included in the office culture. However, the longer you choose to stay in Denmark, the more of an imperative that it is that you can communicate in the Danish language.”

The internship

“It’s really hard to choose your internship. The CBS MBA is an 11-month program so it’s incredibly intense and you only get to take so many classes. I do think that the internship is a fantastic opportunity to be able to expand a little bit. If you are on the fence between two domains, then being able to make sure you still have the robustness of exposure to those themes and contexts is great. For me, I knew that I wanted to go all-in on impact, and the internship gave me the opportunity to combine social and environmental impact in a way that fit nicely with the Governance and Sustainability concentration, rounding out the letters in my practical understanding of the E, S, and G.”

Taking advantage

“It’s a real gift to be able to go into an internship interview as an MBA student because you are able to reflect exactly who you are and where you are in your journey. It’s the time to stay true to what you want and showcase what your career goals are.

“To anyone considering an MBA I would also say to be as open as possible. Every single person within your internship company presents an opportunity to have a coffee chat or to have lunch, so be sure to nurture that extreme curiosity – that’s how you really can establish a network in a new country and ultimately accelerate your career.”

When is the intake for the next MBA cohort?

The next MBA intake will be October 2023. Final deadline is June 2023 for non-EU students and July 2023 for EU students.

If you’re interested in pursuing and MBA and internship programme with us, head over to our information page for more detail.

You can get in touch with Andrew Mellor, Admissions Manager [here] if you have further questions.