Claudia Pfenniger worked for over 15 years as a management consultant in the financial sector before she became a mother and took a career break. Today she has her own company and supports directors and managers in acquiring new corporate clients.
Claudia Pfenniger, you completed the “Women Back to Business” (WBB) management training programme last year. Why did you choose this course?
I have to go back a bit to answer that question, because it is a longer story. I studied in the USA and worked as a consultant in the financial industry for many years. After the birth of my son, I took a career break because our child had health problems and needed my full attention. After six years, I was ready to return to work and started applying for various positions. I was looking for a part-time job with as much flexibility and exciting work content as possible. I received rejections without exception and quickly realized that I was overqualified for many part-time positions. On the other hand, my self-esteem melted with every rejection. In the end, I decided to continue my education at the University of St. Gallen because I was convinced by the various components of the programme and I was eager to learn the latest theories, for example in the areas of marketing and project management. Looking back, I have to say that the “Women Back to Business” programme was the best investment I have made in my life so far.
They are enthusiastic about the WBB programme. Which parts of the course were helpful for you personally?
Apart from the academic input, through which I was able to update my expertise, what convinced me most of all was the internship I did at Swisscom. During my internship I implemented two strategically important projects. From the first day I realized that I could still do it and could continue exactly where I left off about six years ago. This feeling was incredibly inspiring and also motivating! I also received a lot of confirmation and encouragement during my internship, which really boosted my self-esteem.
Meanwhile you have launched your own company “Leads4Business” and have two employees. What led you to become an entrepreneur?
This is also very much related to the WBB programme. The business idea for my company came to me at the beginning of the training, more precisely during the second module. I shared the idea with my programme colleagues and gathered feedback on whether it could work. The feedback was all positive, so I soon started to work out a business plan. I received the first two assignments before I had even finished creating the website for my business.
What does your daily work life look like today?
My company is active in the field of business-to-business cold calling. This means that we win new customers for our clients, while working with a performance-based business model. This allows our clients to grow sustainably without hiring additional personnel. In concrete terms, we support companies and organizations in their growth strategy by helping them to establish new customer and business relationships through efficient acquisition processes. Sounds complicated, but in practice it is an exciting challenge that requires a lot of research and preparation work in addition to a large network. Add to this the fact that it is precisely these tasks in the day-to-day work of managing directors and managers that they like to leave behind, and we jump into this gap with our offer. At the moment we are full of energy and drive to build up and expand our start-up. In fact, things are going so well that I have already been able to hire two employees. By the way, one of them is a former WBB graduate. Her professional background fits perfectly with the needs of my company, so that a win-win situation has arisen and she is now doing an internship with me.
This all sounds great and very inspiring. On your way back into working life, were there any difficult situations that you hadn’t expected?
There was definitely one. After all, returning to work does not happen overnight and is a long, sometimes arduous process that requires a great deal of self-reflection. There is one situation in particular that I remember: I had applied for the two re-entry programs of the big banks during my time in the WBB programme, partly because of my background in the financial sector. I had several job interviews in this context, but in the course of these conversations I realized that I no longer fitted into the tight corset of a large company. Even though my skills and experience as a management consultant were a perfect match for the individual job profiles. This realization was painful for me at first, because it meant that, when I returned to work, the option of a company-owned programme was out of the question. On the other hand, this insight further strengthened my resolve to become self-employed, which would allow me to determine my own working hours. Today I am very happy with my work and with my professional situation.
Thank you very much for the fascinating conversation and all the best for the future!