For anyone who is interested in our MaastrichtMBA programme, attending a class experience or talking to one of our students or alumni is the ideal introduction. And every once in a while, we interview members of our growing MBA community to share their stories. Even when you have reached the end of our programme, the network you have become a part of will be yours for life! This time we asked Charbel Haddad to answer some of our questions. Please continue for a story about change and transformation.
Can you tell us something about yourself and why you decided to sign up for the MaastrichtMBA programme?
May I start by saying I am a better listener than I am a talker? But I will give it a try. My name is Charbel Haddad, I am 38 years old and married. I was born in Lebanon where I’ve lived most of my life. I studied telecom engineering and I am a working professional for fifteen years in a mostly technical context, with some pre-sales and project management. I moved around between various multinational companies like Siemens and Ericsson, and now I am working for a mobile operator in Luxembourg.
For a long time I wanted to pursue an MBA education, but the timing was never right. After relocating to Luxembourg, my current employer provided me with the time and stability to commit myself to four weeks a year. I chose Maastricht for several reasons. First, it is modular, which suits both my employer and myself. Second, I’ve read some very positive reviews about the programme, and they’re Triple Crown accredited. The international and diverse character is a major plus, it’s easy for me to blend in among students from many other countries. Maastricht is also just two hours away from where I work and live, so I can travel by car and I am still close to my family in case of an emergency.
When will you graduate?
Well, I started the programme in September 2015, so in a few weeks, sadly enough, I will have my last module, Entrepreneurship. Right after that, I have to start working on my Business Consulting Project. Hopefully, and I am being really optimistic here, I can finish by the end of the year.
Do you use what you’re learning in your work already?
In my current position as a technical expert, at this point, the answer would have to be no. However, this programme has given me the flexibility and tools necessary to deal with topics from different perspectives compared to just my engineering perspective. I’ve learned to discuss with people from all practices, and now I can use appropriate language with different people. This is really helpful. I am now better equipped to voice my opinion in organisational and business matters, which I was lacking before because I didn’t have the vocabulary. The most interesting part of the MaastrichtMBA for me was the Leadership Development Trajectory. In my situation, being a leader without authority is much more important. I am not a manager so my leadership comes from my expertise. The coaching sessions and the module on Leading Strategic Change changed the way I look at things and at people. I started to listen more carefully, observe better and I don’t jump to conclusions as fast as I used to. I am more open to other people’s opinion. In my area of expertise I was really a control freak (laughs) and convinced of my own opinion, but now I can relax better and value other opinions as well.
Was it hard to let go of the old concepts and notions about yourself?
Yes, it was, but that’s the good thing about the trajectory. It is spread over a period of one or two years. There is lots of room and time to practice.
What are your plans for using the MBA in the future?
In the short term, I would like to remain in the telecom world but move to a management position, preferably in business development. For the longer term, I have a few business ideas to explore, maybe I will end up having my own business. At the moment I think I have acquired the necessary skills that will come in handy at one point in time. So, this is my plan so far and I hope to find the courage to take action after I finish the MBA.
Is the programme what you expected or hoped for?
Honestly, the programme surpassed my expectations in many aspects. Especially in the international mix, I didn’t imagine it would be this big. The focus on the leadership module and the sustainability context was also a surprise for me. But coming from a non-business background, I only wish I’d had more time to dive deeper into the literature and market cases in the short, compact week. I would have loved to get more theory, but in some areas it was really unexpected, and I really appreciated it.
Are there points of improvement as far as the content of the programme is concerned?
I know it is impossible to fit everything within one week, but maybe some theoretical lectures can be compacted. Some modules really have basic theory, maybe this can be shortened to give more time to case studies and market insights. One of the improvements that they did in the last couple of modules is that they brought in more people from the business world or from the alumni. They should continue to do that because it’s really important. And maybe instead of one long presentation, make it two or three short ones instead? It gives a lot of insight, about what is happening and how the alumni do their business.
How would you describe the group of students you have been working with these past years?
It was more than I wished for with a great group of people. Naturally I feel closer to the people in the group I started with, and it is sad to see them leave the programme one by one, but it’s okay. We had a great time.
And did cultural differences, in a positive way, matter when communicating with people or was it irrelevant?
For me it was natural. Having different nationalities brings more diversity and richness, experiences and cultures. Before I came to Europe in June 2013, I worked in about fifteen different countries. In my previous jobs I travelled a lot, and believe me, I experienced completely different cultures so I am used to that kind of difference. Maybe it is in our genes, as Lebanese, we adapt easily to the culture we are living in.
If you could have a say in how to change the world for the better, what would you do, or advise? Also in the context of the MBA programme with what you learned about leadership, what would be necessary?
The old me would have said we would need a magical wand to fix the world, according to my beliefs. After the MBA, my favourite quote now is Gandhi’s “be the change you want to see in the world,” so my advice to change the world would be, stop looking for solutions outside yourselves. The solution always starts within, so we have to first look inwards. This will make us rediscover what really matters to us and show us what we need to do. It’s what I learned from the Leadership Development Trajectory and what I try to apply in my daily life now.
The MBA programme also ranked pretty high at the Corporate Knights Best World Ranking 2016 for their Sustainability Footprint in the programme. It was the first time they were listed, among many renowned business schools. Is sustainability something that should become a standard goal in business and corporate life?
Sustainability was a big issue for me. I agree with this point and I hope it becomes strictly regulated. I was not even aware that sustainability and corporate social responsibility were taught in an MBA programme. From what I knew, classical MBA was all about financial profit. I was relieved to see that the MaastrichtMBA was focusing on this subject in each module. I was afraid of having an inconsistency between what I believe and what I should be writing in a business paper (writing something profit-driven, while I don’t really believe in pure financial profit). So this was a huge relief! It was all very beneficial, and I hope to benefit from every moment I learned.