01 Februar 2017

Review „AIESEC Alumni im Gespräch: The life of a Search Con-sultant ... and thereafter“ with Victor Loewenstein, Frankfurt, 02.02.2017

The key idea of the “AIESEC Alumni im Gespräch” (AAiG) series is to discuss with an Alumni about his or her experiences and insights in either an interesting job or living abroad in a different culture. In having Victor Loewenstein as a guest this time, we got both and on top, six decades of living the AIESEC idea! Victor divided the evening into two topics, his job as an Executive Search Consultant with Egon Zehnder and his extensive AIESEC experience. The 30 participants learned very soon that these two topics were not two different pillars in his life, but instead quite interlinked.

After a warm welcome, Victor described his curriculum vitae, which started as an undergraduate student at Edinburgh University in 1957. There he bumped into a presentation of then AIESEC Germany president Bernd Thomas (today also a member of AAG), which inspired Victor and fellow students to found AIESEC LC Edinburgh. It was interesting for all participants to learn more about the early days of AIESEC, when there was no AIESEC International infrastructure yet, but the “global” lead rotated from one national committee to the next, in that particular case the German one. This rotation included also lots of files, whose heavy weights helped to foster the wish to establish a permanent AIESEC International office, which then started by coincidence in Geneva. While Victor was a member of the AIESEC-UK National Committee, the first structure of a full-time appointed “general secretary” reporting to the elected Presiding Country Committee (PCC) was revised after only one year. A new elected “secretary general” was established, and Victor became the first person in this new role which is today known as President AIESEC International.

Victor put a strong emphasis on the non-political character of AIESEC in these days of the cold war. Especially former Yugoslavia as an AIESEC member state helped to build a small bridge over the wall, despite some essential propaganda quotes on international meetings. In addition, Victor’s descriptions of AIESEC back then with its clear focus on exchange and corporate internships was interesting for the participating alumni, which often saw their active AIESEC careers in times, where other activities like “Global Theme Projects”, “Career Days” and others took a major part of AIESEC time.

Victor summed AIESEC up in three boxes: 1) The perfect lessons to work in an international environment, 2) Work with people and 3) Do something for society.

After his active AIESEC time, Victor joined executive search consultant firm Egon Zehnder International, which had been founded only five years earlier. His career there started at Brussels, where he frequently returned to after assignments to start over the years the firm’s operations in Spain, Latin America and later the US. Obviously, Victor’s career ticked all of the three boxes mentioned above. The audience also learned a lot about the very special corporate culture of Egon Zehnder International, which as an equal partnership puts strict rules on working together as ONE team and also topics like maximum age of partners of 62. Hence Victor, after having been a board member for a long time, became again a “normal” consultant at the Geneva office, just blocks away from where his international AIESEC career had started.

Since having retired, Victor focusses on lecturing at multiple MBA business schools around the world and coaching MBA candidates in their career planning. Victor was a member of the Supervisory Group of AIESEC for many years and is still advising AI teams in various areas. He had strong involvement in supporting AIESEC Alumni International by being a member of the Executive Board and President for many years, being on the Advisory Board and contributing in various other ways. He is also one of the three founders of the AIESEC Fund, which supports philanthropic projects presented by both either the AIESEC or the AIESEC Alumni body.

During this introduction by Victor, the participants had already posted several questions with subsequent discussions. Over the following time, the audience started questions on both Victor’s views on ideal career development and the work of AIESEC.

A widely discussed topic was Victor’s recommendation to rather try to rise in the ranks with the existing employer rather than speeding up this process by frequent job-hopping. Switching employers is a disadvantage, as new firms are merely interested in one’s existing know-how rather than supporting a transfer to a new job profile.

Victor also elaborated on the job profile of an Executive Search Consultant, which is all but a head-hunter! Basically, there is no direct job path to this function directly from university, but it’s often rather part of a second career after a management experience before. The focus on searching for top management, either on board level or the one level below, requires both a sense for the respective industry as well as the culture and set-up of the client company.

After two very informative and entertaining hours the “official” discussion ended, but was continued in smaller groups first in the lobby and later at the bar, with a great view on the Frankfurt skyline.

We would like to thank Victor again for his insights on two highly interesting themes and many anecdotes from 60 years of personal AIESEC experience. A record level of 30 participants, both alumni and active AIESECers, had a fascinating and inspiring evening.