‘I didn’t expect such depth’: the Swiss EMBA that boosts your personal life

When Tom Borec enrolled at the University of St Gallen, he didn't think that one day he'd be learning from hostage negotiators.

'I didn't expect such depth': the Swiss EMBA that boosts your personal life
Photo: Tom Borec

During a storied, high-flying career with some of the world’s most respected names in consulting, business and tourism, Borec was used to working alongside – and thereby learning from – some of the world’s most talented corporate professionals. Unfazed and unflappable, it takes a lot to surprise the laidback Slovenian-born executive. 

Yet as his studies progressed, the former tax director at eBay was surprised to find himself learning from some of the world’s most experienced figures when it comes to negotiating with criminals and terrorists. Furthermore, he found that the lessons he learned were both invaluable and applicable in his daily dealings not only in business, but with friends and family. 

As Borec tells us: “We got a chance to learn from the world’s most renowned hostage negotiators turned business advisors, like Gary Noesner, Kirk Kinell, and Scott Tillema. It was an unforgettable experience, and I would love to repeat it and focus more on negotiations in the future.”

Being confronted with the unexpected, and re-evaluating one’s potential is a theme running throughout Borec’s journey to study the IEMBA at the University of St Gallen – one of Europe’s great business universities. 

After years working for business giants such as Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, eBay and MTS Globe Group, he decided that to progress his career, he needed a challenge – and one that would fit in with his active lifestyle. 

Discover the Swiss university pushing career executives to reach unexpected summits. Cohorts begin each August.

Finding the right fit

Says Borec of his choice to attend the University of St Gallen to complete his Executive MBA: “The idea first started boiling away when I was at eBay and led the tax component of multiple high-priority projects. I regularly saw leadership first hand and started to recognise the traits of good leaders and tried to learn from them as much I could.

“So, I started researching what programs I could attend. First, I looked at various leadership courses, but I figured out they provided only a brief overview of leadership – which is great and needed, but I finished a few of them in the past and wanted something more substantial this time.

“I narrowed my search to three top universities and ultimately chose St Gallen, and I’m very pleased with my decision. I didn’t want to attend weekend-only courses, as I love spending my weekends outdoors, hiking the Alps, and prefer modules going on for a whole week or even two consecutive weeks.

St Gallen offers this module-focused learning approach, and I believe I gained more out of it this way as we truly lived and breathed the course content during those weeks.”

Scaling new heights

From the start of his time studying at St Gallen, Borec was surprised at the breadth of subjects taught, and how different elements of knowledge fit together. 

Borec says of his studies: “I like the variety. We study various topics, and some of the modules couldn’t be more opposite to the other. Surprisingly, however, they all somehow connect as studies progress, and the acquired knowledge assembles like a puzzle.

“There is an Entrepreneurship module which I loved. It was about stepping into the mindset of an entrepreneur, and getting a taste of the resilience and grit that it takes to build and drive a company. We learned a lot about the specifics of the startup world, about pitches, and got to hear some great behind-the-scenes investors’ stories.”

Borec is equally enthusiastic about the quality of teaching at the university, telling us: “The professors are very progressive, business-oriented, and eager to challenge us all the time. They are an excellent selection of educators, and I feel bad for not having the time and space to mention each and every one of them.

“I would highlight Professor Karolin Frankenberger, our Academic Director. She leads a fantastic team of lecturers. All our teaching staff are competent, friendly and easy for students to approach.”

Explore the university that connects students with some of the world’s most talented business professionals, the University of St Gallen 

Photo: Tom Borec

Growth, both professional and personal

Tom Borec’s ongoing time at St Gallen is one that he believes has not only benefited him on his professional journey, but also personally. “The influence on my personal life surprises me as I hadn’t expected it would have such depth,” he says. “It improved my relationship with my wife and made our marriage better. It helps with my friends and family and in everyday interactions.

“The lessons I’ve learned about active listening, big picture thinking, and negotiations are put to good use! I never expected any of this when enrolling in the IEMBA. I knew I’d get the knowledge and practical tools that would enhance my career and help me do my job better, but the shift of mindset in my personal life surprised me.

“Through my studies at the University of St Gallen, I became more open toward new views; I became curious, eager to learn new skills. I am very keen to learn about topics that are out of my immediate knowledge base. I have learned to listen actively and to gain as much as possible out of each interaction.

St Gallen has helped me gain knowledge and confidence in topics that are way out of my primary working area. My time in the IEMBA has taught me to look at the big picture in all interactions and think about the fundamental objective in each. 

“Currently, I am writing my thesis on ‘What Startups can learn from Navy SEALs’. This actually illustrates the mind shift and growth that IEMBA has provided me with.

“Initially, I was 100 percent sure I would write about taxes in my thesis. It is what I do; this is where I excel. However, as I encountered the many exciting topics that comprise the IEMBA, I decided to ditch my safe and perfectly fine tax-related thesis outline, and started researching startups and Navy SEALs instead.”

More than the average business school, the University of St Gallen encourages Borec in his learning every day, and looking forward, he sees a bright future where he can pursue a career that truly challenges him. 

He smiles as he tells us: “I look forward to what the future holds. Before the University of St Gallen, my work world was purely tax-related; now the world is my oyster.”

Learn more about the executive MBA program inspiring exciting new ventures that mid-career professionals never expected, with the University of St Gallen.

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Migration and ageing: How Switzerland’s population is changing

The number of people living in Switzerland is growing while the population is increasingly getting older, according to new official figures.

Migration and ageing: How Switzerland's population is changing

A lot is said about Switzerland’s population as it nears the 9-million mark. 

On the one hand, many people – including businesses and other employers – want to see the Swiss population boosted through immigration to help fill job vacancies.

But others – including politicians leaning to the right of centre – have spoken of their fears that Switzerland’s population is growing too fast and piling pressure on infrastructure. 

READ ALSO: How immigration is impacting Switzerland

So here’s what we’ve learned from official figures about the development of the population in the Alpine country released by the Federal Statistical Office on Thursday. 

Is the population actually growing?

Yes – slightly. At the end of 2022, more than 8.8 million people lived in Switzerland – a 0.9-percent increase compared to 2021, the figures show. 

Compared to EU countries, Switzerland recorded a similar growth rate to Denmark and Liechtenstein (+1.0 percent each). At the top of the table were Malta, Iceland and the Czech Republic (with growth rates of around +3 percent). Bringing up the rear was Greece with negative growth of -0.6 percent.

People stand at the station in Grindelwald, Switzerland, in January 2023.

People stand at the station in Grindelwald, Switzerland, in January 2023. Photo by Luke Tanis on Unsplash

The stats show that the population growth in Switzerland is growing at a slower pace than before 2017, ranging between +0.7 percent and +0.8 percent over the last five years. In 2022, it was slightly above the values of the previous years at +0.9 percent.

READ MORE: OPINION: Switzerland can be thankful to ‘foreigners’ as population nears 9 million mark

How many foreign nationals live in Switzerland?

Of the total 8,815,400 inhabitants, 6,519,400 were Swiss nationals (74 percent) and 2,296,000 were foreign nationals (26 percent).

The number of Swiss nationals increased by 24,800 (+0.4 percent compared to 2021), while the number of permanent foreign residents increased by 51,800 (+2.3 percent compared to 2021).

The population in the canton of Schaffhausen saw the strongest increase, with a rise of 1.5 percent compared to the previous year.

The Swiss resident population grew most in 2022 in the canton of Fribourg (+0.8 percent), while the foreign resident population grew most in the canton of Nidwalden (+6.7 percent or 456 people).


How is migration and emigration impacting growth?

Migration is the main factor fuelling Switzerland’s population growth, the Federal Statistical Office said.

In 2022, Switzerland registered 190,900 people coming to live in the country. Of these, 21,800 were Swiss nationals and 169,100 were foreign.

Around 122,100 people moved abroad from Switzerland, including 31,300 Swiss nationals and 90,900 foreign nationals. That means that both immigration and emigration increased compared to 2021 (+15.2 percent and +4.6 percent respectively). However, it should be noted that it was more difficult to move between countries during the Covid pandemic, which was still having an impact in 2021. 

In 2022, German nationals were the largest group of people to move to Switzerland, accounting for 24,200 immigrations. The number of Swiss nationals moving to Switzerland stood at 21,800.

Among the foreign people who immigrated or emigrated, German, Italian, French, Portuguese and Spanish nationals were the most strongly represented. Together they accounted for 46 percent of immigrations and 51 percent of emigrations of foreigners.

The international migration balance, i.e. the difference between people moving into Switzerland from abroad and those moving away, increased by 19,900 to 68,800 people. In the cantons of Basel-City, Basel-Country and Appenzell Ausserrhoden, the percentage change in international net migration compared to 2021 was the greatest. Glarus is the only canton that recorded a decrease in net migration compared to 2021.

How is demographic ageing changing the population make-up?

Switzerland’s population continues to get older as people live longer – a trend being seen in many other countries, including neighbouring Germany.

The number of people aged 65 and over went up from over 1.6 million to over 1.69 million (+1.8 percent) between 2021 and 2022. It increased in all cantons compared to the previous year but was strongest in central Switzerland (+2.5 percent), especially in the cantons of Schwyz and Obwalden (+3.0 percent each).

People walk in Bern's main station.

People walk in Bern’s main station. Photo: Timon Studler/Unsplash

In 2022, the permanent resident population of Switzerland comprised 485,600 people aged 80 and over, compared to 472,000 in 2021 (+2.9 percent). With the exception of Appenzell Innerrhoden, where one person less was counted in this age group than in the previous year, all cantons recorded an increase. The strongest rise was registered in the canton of Nidwalden with 5.1 percent or 121 more people.

The number of people aged 100 and over also increased. In 2022, 1,948 people in this age group were living in Switzerland, compared to 1,888 in 2021 (+3.2 percent – an increase of 60 people).

Between 2021 and 2022, the growth of those over 100 was greatest in the canton of Thurgau. In the three cantons of Nidwalden, Appenzell Ausserrhoden and Zug, the numbers remained unchanged and in 11 cantons they declined (Graubünden, Schaffhausen, Uri, Glarus, Appenzell-Innerrhoden, Zurich, St. Gallen, Lucerne, Schwyz, Bern and Valais).

Women outnumber men in the ageing population in Switzerland. Every fifth woman (928,600 or 20.9 percent) and every sixth man (763 000; 17.4 percent) is older than 64. The proportion of women in the population increases with age. Among people aged 80 and over, 294,500 were women (6.6 percent) and 191,200 men (4.4 percent). Meanwhile, among the ‘centenarians and older’ category, there are four times as many women as men (1,601 and 347 respectively).