In your own words: Peter Wagner, Sales director for Microsoft Eastern USA
What were you like when you studied at CBS?
I majored in Computer Science at University of Copenhagen and got a dispensation to study for a Graduate Diploma (HD) as a four-year programme at CBS, instead of the mathematics/physics/biology combination, which our curriculum otherwise called for.
I had some really great years at CBS, and I enjoyed the commercially oriented environment and the fact that my fellow students brought other aspects than scientific and technical knowledge into the classroom. My time at CBS gave me a very good combination between a heavily scientific/technical programme and the reality that you face in business.
And I also remember that the parties at CBS were more ‘interesting’ than the ones we had at Datalogisk Institut.
How did you get your first job after graduating from CBS?
In 1987, following my final exam at CBS and an extended summer vacation, I was invited to a job interview at SimCorp through my network. They were quick to give me a great job offer where I would be developing software, travel, and become part of a very qualified staff at the headquarters in Knabrostræde, Copenhagen. It was interesting company, in the best sense possible – many held a PhD and most held multiple degrees, many with an engineering background and a CBS degree like myself.
Which moments in your career have been defining – and how?
When I finished my Graduate Diploma (HD) programme at CBS, the final thing I needed to do was write my thesis at the University of Copenhagen. Many of my fellow students dropped out of the Computer Science programme before writing their theses because you could earn so much money in the industry, whether you had your certificate or not.
I was fully determined to get my Master’s degree, but with a full-time job at SimCorp it was suddenly somewhat harder than I had anticipated. But I graduated three years later, when I had completed a thesis of a quality that I felt reasonable, and in return I received my graduate certificate with a major in Computer Science from the University of Copenhagen.
At this point in time, I had grown a bit tired of my job and I needed a change of scenery. I quit the job at SimCorp and began full-time in a new business that I had spent whatever little spare time I had starting with three friends. With three high-end sunglasses agencies in Scandinavia we reached critical mass to begin hiring after eight months, and by then I had figured out what my next career move should be.
One of my closest friends had started working for Damgaard Data, a software company that was growing rapidly in a market segment that was undergoing rapid development (Business Software). It only required one meeting for us to agree that I should start full time as responsible for Concorde XAL implementations, as the state of the art system from Damgaard was called back then.
That was the beginning of a 10-year long, intense, and very educational and exciting career segment. My interest in the international customers and projects as well as a desire to look beyond Denmark’s borders was in 1993 rewarded with the responsibility for the international part of our business, and a year later, in 1994 and with IBM’s acquisition of 50 percent of the owner’s shares in our subsidiary, came the great opportunity to focus on internationalization. As sales director in Damgaard International I was busy building export markets and sales channels at the primary markets.
My next big career opportunity came in 1998 when we set out to invest heavily in the American market by relocating some of our best people, combined with hiring local employees in what should become an autonomous unit for Damgaard in the US. As director of the American unit I was given great authority and autonomy as well as resources to generate growth in the World’s largest and most competitive software market.
Following the adventure with Damgaard came a couple of years with good jobs and great responsibility, but in companies that did not feel right for me. So I started a consultancy with a group of my former colleagues from Damgaard, and because Microsoft had acquired Damgaard-Navision we anticipated a potentially big upside. But Microsoft made me a job offer that was impossible to turn down. I therefore ended up accepting the offer and started working for Microsoft USA in November 2003.
From Jutlandic production companies under the auspices of Damgaard Data, to European trade companies with Damgaard International, the turn had come to some of the world’s largest companies with Microsoft. The backbone of it all was still the Danish developed software, that was now called Dynamics AX, and over the course of the years with shifting responsibilities within sales management I have secured contracts with some of Microsoft’s biggest customers. On the list are names such as Coca-Cola, Bank of America, Time Warner, and Delta Airlines – customers with whom we work intensely through a number of years before any business becomes reality.
What is the most valuable experience you gained at CBS that you still use in your daily work?
Over the course of the years, it turned out that I had acquired quite a lot of knowledge and tools during my time at CBS. Especially structural understanding, organisation, and organisational insight have been key components in my career. One day I am visiting a customer in the service sector, the next day visiting a global production company, and then, right there in the mix, were the world’s largest bank and the world’s largest airline company.
The ability to achieve success with these companies to a large extent comes from the ability to be able to construct an inner image of the company as a living, dynamic organization as well as understanding its mission and business processes and thereby being able to pinpoint what approach must be taken from a sales perspective. That foundation was to a large extent a product of the cornerstone knowledge from my time in the Graduate Diploma programme.
Knowledge of business economics must not be forgotten – an excellent tool from CBS, which I have used constantly over the years, whether it be for budgets and management or Business Value Assessment for a customer or starting up and running my own business.
Also, there was statistics, which I time and again have found useful for analyses and for making complex decisions. I do not remember that the mathematics that we were taught in the university came to any use.
Have you maintained a relation to CBS since you graduated?
I have many friends and colleagues with degrees from CBS, but aside from that I have no further relation – probably because I have been in the US since 1998. Trine and I together have Frederik (4), Isabella (8), Oliver (10), Rose (16), Emil (19), August (21), and Cornelia (22). I really would have liked to send one or more of my children to study abroad at CBS for a year or more to learn about the Danish approach to business, innovation, organisation, and to become acquainted with the Danish educational environment.