Irene Fischbach

Irene Fischbach

“‘I wanted to move ahead and MScom gave me the tools’”

In combination with an impressive CV that includes communications posts with Zurich Financial Services and Holcim Ltd., MScom helped propel Irene Fischbach to an executive communications post as Head of Public Relations for Swiss Life, one of Europe’s leading providers of pension and life insurance products.

“One of the direct benefits of MScom is that it helped me move into my current job, because I believe my company considered my MScom credential when hiring me,” said MScom4 member Fischbach, who also holds a law degree from the University of Zurich. “I've never had a strict career plan, but I’ve always known that I wanted to do work that's team-oriented, diverse and engaging. That’s my work environment now.”

Prior to joining Swiss Life in October 2004, Fischbach was with Zurich Financial Services for six years, working in the communications departments of both the company's Swiss unit and at the Head Office. In addition, she has worked as assistant to the Head of Corporate Communications of Holcim Ltd.

“I wanted to move ahead in my career, so I was looking for the academic and theoretical background for the work I already was doing on a daily basis,” she said. “I also wanted to enlarge my professional network and gain a broader view of communications. So my expectations have really been met: I wanted to move ahead and MScom gave me the tools. The program also gave me a great professional network. I feel the benefits of the MScom community even more strongly now than I did two years ago when I was a student.”

Fischbach said that while the time away from work and the travel to and from Lugano naturally present challenges for MScom participants, she gained energy and momentum from the opportunity to immerse herself in MScom studies and activities for a week out of each month.

“I've always had a lot of energy, but I gained even more energy from my professional peers in MScom,” she said. “Also, I'm generally very demanding of myself and work very well under pressure, so these qualities helped me during the time I was attending MScom and working full-time.”

In addition to providing an academic background in communications and a wide professional network, MScom gave Fischbach some practical skills as part of the required team research project. “The teamwork of the research project was a very good experience, and I enjoyed working with the four (including me, we were five) people on our team to develop a corporate identity to help the Swiss Federal Office of Communications prepare for its future challenges,” she explained. “I learned how to do professional research, which I hadn't done before, including an online survey, so we were able to give our client recommendations that were really useful.”

Fischbach believes she benefited from each MScom course, though she sometimes felt that faculty members from the US didn't understand the Western European world well enough.

“That was one of the challenges we had, but overall I'd judge the faculty positively. I learned something from every faculty member,” she said. Beyond the lectures, class work and team project, Fischbach said there’s a special bond that developed among members of MScom4.

“I really feel the members of our class came of age together professionally. We have a group that meets regularly in Zurich. We're friends, but we’re also professional colleagues, and I know that if I’m ever looking for insight or help, I can turn to my classmates as resource,” Fischbach said.

Text based on interview carried out in July 2005.