News Stories · Leadership

Have fun and learn from failure: the secret to a successful career

An interview with Schneider Electric’s Barbara Frei-Spreiter (EMBA 2007) on finding her passion, her approach to the world of work and staying ahead of the green energy curve.
December 2019
 - IMD Business School

For many individuals and companies, the need to transition to a greener, cleaner energy system is a relatively new concept, given fresh urgency by recent climate warnings and dire predictions about the future of our planet.

For Barbara Frei-Spreiter (EMBA 2007), EVP Europe Operations and Chair of the Supervisory Board, Schneider Electric, on the other hand, this shift in mindset happened much earlier.

Speaking in an interview with IMD at our campus in Lausanne, the alumna said: “Energy management and automation is my passion. I was convinced already in the late 90’s that we really have to save energy, we have to reduce our CO2 footprint. At that time not many people were listening to that.”

The fact that this is now a movement that is driven by young people is not lost on Frei-Spreiter.

“Teenagers are impacting how parents are living their lives. They’re not going on vacation by airplane, but by train. They have an electric car at home. All these kinds of things that in the ‘90s, 2000s, were not big at all … There is a much higher consciousness about the whole topic. Even insurance companies nowadays, and the big pension funds before they invest want to know, what is your sustainability plan?”

Turning to her approach to the world of work, Frei-Spreiter stressed the importance of treating failure and times of stress as learning opportunities.

“I really learned the most by failing,” she said. “So when you have great success, when the figures are going up, the market is gentle to you, you don’t learn as much as if the market is going down, competitors are getting fierce, and that’s the area where I really learn.”

And her advice for anyone about to embark on an EMBA? Try to enjoy yourself.

“Don’t think too much about the career, think about what’s making you have fun,” she said. “You really find out what you like and what you don’t like. I think that’s for me one of the key drivers.”

Watch the video above and at this link.

In addition to her role as EVP at Schneider Electric, Dr Frei is on the boards of several other companies such as Swiss Prime Site, Swisscom and Feller AG.