‘My IMD EMBA was the accelerator for an incredible journey of self-discovery'
These days Dominik Reinhard mostly has his toes tucked under the table of a Microsoft Teams call, as he executes his role as European Head of Commercial Sales of the Crop Protection Division at R&D firm Battelle from his flat in Valencia, Spain.
It’s a position he took on just before Christmas at the UK-based company, and it sees him enjoying the ever-more accepted cross-border working set-up.
But less than 18 months ago, Reinhard could be found (or not) hurtling around Brazil on a motorcycle, fueled by visions of the iconic Che Guevara’s travels as per the epic book-turned-film, The Motorcycle Diaries. He had reignited an adolescent hobby – big adventure bikes – and plunged in at the deep end: a solo trip thousands of kilometres from home with no real idea of how to fix a flat.
And yet if it hadn’t been for his EMBA, Reinhard would never have contemplated embarking on the journey.
From Lausanne to the end of the world
Reinhard took the EMBA, by his own admission, to break the mold of his Basel-based existence (the same one in which he was once fined for taking the trash out on the wrong day).
He sought to catapult himself into the unknown. The trip around the world that was to come off the back of his IMD courses turned into a two-and-a-half-year odyssey.
“Suddenly I had the money, the education and the time,” he said – reminiscing proudly about that pivotal moment he decided to go.
“The EMBA really helped me from a personal growth angle. It forced me to get out of my comfort zone. Then my travels helped me to face the lessons learnt in my EMBA. I mean, at the most basic level, when I flew to Brazil to seek out a motorbike and didn’t speak the language, I had to build my network!”
Whilst Reinhard pursued his EMBA studies, he worked in parallel as Chief Marketing Officer at a medium-sized company.
“There was some restructuring at my company going on at the time, and I felt it was the moment to take a break and redefine what I wanted to do,” he added.
The “I’m coming first” philosophy that was to propel Reinhard forward was born during his EMBA leadership lessons, which he says forced him to “raise my self-awareness, look at my blind spots and say ‘now it’s time to make my own decisions’”.
As he travelled the world, the German met his lifepartner in Cali, Colombia; made his own camper van from scratch in New Zealand (“I didn’t like any of the ones on offer”); and started his consultancy for the life sciences industry (to become heavily hit by COVID-19). The seeds for taking at least two of these steps had been planted during the entrepreneurship courses of the EMBA.
Life is like an EMBA, you never know what you’re gonna get
But the EMBA wasn’t some kind of well-orchestrated plan into a gap-year extraordinaire in the tropics on Reinhard’s part.
“At the time,” he recalled, “the idea of doing an EMBA seemed important to me, as a way to back up my scientific background with a commercial one. I had already gone from the lab to a commercial role [Reinhard is an environmental scientist by training], and I felt I needed the EMBA to learn about strategy and finance, and to be able to apply frameworks. And those are skills I absolutely use to this day.”
Indeed, back to today and life at Battelle, the largest not-for-profit R&D company in the world, and one that focuses on solving the bigger picture. That picture, for Reinhard, is agribusiness, although the company serves industries from national security to environment, and also decontaminates PPE for re-use.
Reinhard’s work is in the crop protection division where he “helps to solve the challenges of the companies that feed the world”.
What does that mean? “Take a client that produces plant protection products to enhance the yield of crops,” he said. “There are environmental and human risk assessments involved. We, as a neutral body, carry out contract research in our laboratories, perform a risk analysis and help our clients to get their plant protection products to market.”
Sustainability coloring the most conservative of industries
Asking how plant protection products or bio-solutions can be sustainably applied to the field occupies a lot of Reinhard’s time.
“Everyone is looking for a sustainable approach as European regulations get stricter,” he said “We have seen a significant shift towards new innovative technologies like precision agriculture and biosolutions.”
“Imagine a company needing to refine the application of plant protection products in a smart way. We might look at how drone flight application time can be increased by developing highly concentrated formulations, or create data to determine the right combination of nozzles and buffer zones.
“Ours was a rather conservative industry in the past,” he added. “But now we want to help our clients to be more sustainable, and we find ourselves on a drive to find innovative ways to do so.”
As for Reinhard personally, he finds himself “on a high-speed train, to deliver”. Indeed, he has a new role and it’s to be expected.
But he also has a motorbike parked outside his flat, an acute awareness of his passion for photography and chooses to live in Valencia for work-life balance. And all that, he says, wouldn’t have come to the fore were it not for the journey of self-discovery that began during his EMBA.