Top Manager Elisabetta Castiglioni

“I draw the best from different cultures”

After her doctorate at TUM , TUM Alumna Elisabetta Castiglioni decided against a habilitation and for a career in business. Today, the sought-after expert for digitisation has an unparalleled international career in top management.

Dr. Elisabetta Castiglioni, who was born in Italy, attended a grammar school on Lake Maggiore and, in addition to two other foreign languages, also learnt German. She was so fascinated by the language and culture of Germany that she took a step that was rather unusual at the eighties. She set off on her own to study in far-away Germany. She decided to study Business Administration. “I found the combination of international experience and economic education strongly appealing,” she says today about the decision that had a lasting impact on her life.

During her studies at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Elisabetta Castiglioni again and again heard the name Prof. Dr. Horst Wildemann. At that time he was a professor at the University of Passau and was considered a luminary of Business Administration. “When Professor Wildemann was appointed to TUM in 1989 and took over the Chair of Corporate Management, Logistics and Production, it was clear to me that I wanted to do my doctorate with him,” she recalls. She applied and was immediately hired. “He believed in me and put his trust in me,” says Elisabetta Castiglioni. Almost three years later, she received her doctorate summa cum laude from Professor Wildemann.

Successful Strategies

Elisabetta Castiglioni remembers her doctorate at TUM to be labour-intensive. “Of course I don’t want to miss that time,” she says. “I learnt a lot.” Here she emphasises two successful strategies of TUM: the implementation of research projects in cooperation with companies and the associated teaching of competences in project management, teamwork and team leadership. “At university we acquired in-depth knowledge and in the numerous projects for business and industry we learnt to apply the theoretical knowledge” she says. Her doctoral supervisor was the ideal role model: Horst Wildemann, in addition to his work as a university lecturer, he headed a consulting institute for corporate planning and logistics and was a member of the supervisory and advisory boards of German companies.

Even though her doctoral supervisor wanted to keep her at his chair and encourage her to habilitate, Elisabetta Castiglioni decided to pursue a career in business. She wanted to contribute her expertise to the operations of large companies and work closely with clients. In 1994, she joined Siemens as a Senior Project Manager and led group-wide restructuring, growth and innovation projects. Since then, she has had an unprecedented career in the top management of large companies in the technology, media and telecommunications industries.

The Right Decisions

Elisabetta Castiglioni has been Managing Director and CEO of Telekom Austria Group A1 Digital since 2017. There she is working on one of the major topics of the future, the digitisation of companies. “It is very exciting to be able to accompany our customers into their future,” she says. She relies on her interdisciplinary and international teams, and thus on her own experience.

I draw the best from my cultural and professional experience and complement it so that I get an improved version.

She herself has lived in Italy, Germany, Austria and Great Britain and emphasises how this has broadened her horizons and opened up her thinking. “By living and working in different countries I have learnt to take on different perspectives and to allow for different possibilities. In this way I am able to make better decisions,” she says, “I draw the best from my cultural and professional experience and complement it so that I get an improved version.”

To live in different countries and to experience different cultures is what Elisabetta Castiglioni has also given her mentees in the TUM Mentoring Programme by Alumni for Students as advice. Her most important message to all young people is to only do in life what corresponds to their own interests and inclinations. “Only if you enjoy something can you be really good at it,” advises Elisabetta Castiglioni. “Don’t live the lives of other people, leave your comfort zones and make your own choices.”