Sebastian Oergel was born in Stuttgart, Germany. Before university, he participated in a social service project in a hospital for one year. While pursuing a Bachelor degree in International Management he undertook numerous internships in fashion companies and got his first job at Ermenegildo Zegna in London. After working for almost two years in London and Hamburg, he started the Master at IE Business School in September 2010, coming to Madrid with the objective of gaining the tools necessary to be successful in the sports industry. After graduation he was chosen for the functional trainee program in Sales at adidas Group, which will take him through six different rotations, including an overseas posting.

We´re pleased to catch up with Sebastian in Panama.

Q: Hi Sebastian! Thanks for taking the time to speak with us back here in Madrid! First of all, can you talk about what you´re doing in Panama?

A: Panama is the fourth rotation in my trainee program. I chose Panama as my assignment abroad for three reasons. First of all, the office is strategically very important. The office is the headquarters for Latin America excluding Brazil and belongs in terms of contribution after capital charge, net sales and growth to one of the top region within the adidas Group. Business opportunities in an undeveloped market are very different to a saturated one, like the German market, where cost efficiency and squeezing-out play a major role. Secondly, I wanted to experience a different working mentality and way of life. Based on an earlier experience in Peru, where I studied for six months, I always wanted to return to Latin America to work. In the end, I can say that the time has helped me a lot to improve my communication with colleagues and understanding for other working habits.

I am part of the Key Account Team for Central America, Caribbean, Ecuador and Venezuela. I am involved in many different projects, for most of which I serve as the lead. One of my tasks was to develop a comprehensive business analysis tool to monitor all key accounts and sales persons at a glance. During pre-sales, project presentations and store visits, I had direct contact to our key accounts, which helped me get a good impression about the markets and the key players.

Q: Sports is such a huge business. What do you see as some of the trends and some of the challenges of the industry?

A: The sports good industry is highly competitive. I believe that the market will become much more so, and brands specialized in a certain sport segments will become much more relevant than they are today. adidas Group drives a multibranded strategy, which allows us to be present in different business segments and to interact with these customers in multiples ways without threatening the mother brand. For example, you will never find Originals and NEO in one store.

I see protectionism of home markets as another major challenge in the near future. Naturally this will not effect only the sports industry, but will have a direct influence on cost price. For example in South America numerous countries have set quotas to define the minimum amount of products a company has to produce in the country in which it wants to make business.

However, the future looks bright. My experience in Panama has cemented the realization that people are investing more and more money in sport products! But in these countries you can clearly see the catching up countries like Panama have. We have to bear in mind that the region is just picking up.

Q: You did the International Business specialization during your time at IE. Do you find that it is helping you in your professional life at adidas?

A: I believe my experience at IE in general prepared me very well for my professional life. I can still remember the uncountable hours of group work and endless discussions of how the group should advance and why your idea is superior. Today I realize how much this experience helps me with the exposure to my colleagues, who also come from diverse cultural backgrounds.

The International Business specialization provided me with a solid financial understanding, which is very helpful in my daily work. Although I don´t work on financial reports, it´s very important to be able to interpret financial data to determine the performance of my area of responsibility, of the company and the markets and clients I am doing business with. Furthermore, the track provided me with a deep knowledge of project management, which allows me to focus on the execution of the project rather than on its organization. For example, I am involved in several demanding projects, but the tools IE provided enable me to structure projects quickly, communicate objectives, responsibilities and due dates in an effective manner, monitor the process and evaluate and present outcomes.

Q: Finally, do you have any advice for the new September intake?

A:  IE offers a very strong network. I recommend that all students to mingle with other students as much as you can. The network you develop at IE will be at your disposal forever. IE offers a great variety of student clubs or sports activities you can participate in. I participated in the Entrepreneurship Club and Football Club, which allowed me to get to know to MBA students.

I personally benefited very much from the network at IE. The IE Alumni Community laid the foundation for my career at adidas. I found a contact in the IE Alumni Forum, a former MBA student who was working for adidas Group. One of his colleagues, who had participated in the Functional Trainee Program, then helped me to prepare for the Assessment Center and later came to Panama. This experience makes me believe in the IE network and clearly shows the benefits of the network and how IE Alumni support each other even if they do not know each other. 

Thank you Sebastian!

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