Lunchtime at the MaastrichtMBA

Learning from your fellow students, a talk between Susanne and Carlos

Susanne de Vaal (38) started at the MaastrichtMBA in December 2016, with a highly inspirational Introduction weekend, followed by her first module in February 2017. She’s currently working towards her graduation next year. Her experience in the MaastrichtMBA programme so far, is very helpful for Carlos Teijeiro Castella (37) who started last summer, after careful consideration. When they met again during the September module, they spent part of their lunchtime talking about the impact the MaastrichtMBA programme has on their lives.

Carlos: “A good exercise to evaluate things in life is to ask yourself, if I would go back in time, would I do it again? Susanne, I would like to ask you the same question. If you could go back in time, would you sign up for the MaastrichtMBA programme again?” Susanne smiles and answers, “yes, definitely, in a heartbeat!”

“I have become more aware of myself”

“As a pharmacist, my education was specialised and practical. I am a scientist, a pharmacist, but in my current job, I manage a large team. I was used to following my gut feeling. The MaastrichtMBA programme supported my gut feeling with an academic backbone. I’ve also realised that as a leader, I don’t have to doubt myself. When I came here, I thought I had to change myself in order to fully embrace my leadership skills, and that a real leader was a lonesome figure on top of a mountain telling everyone else what to do. But I learned here that my experience as a transformational leader, is valuable as well.”

Carlos wonders how joining the MaastrichtMBA programme has changed Susanne’s day to day work and functioning. Susanne: “I am more aware of myself now, more conscious of what I do, and why. This has influenced the way I approach issues. My scope certainly has expanded since I started at the MaastrichtMBA. I also learned how to take a step back and look at my actions from a new angle.”
In general, time management is the key issue. Studying next to a full-time job and a family keeps you busy. It can be tough sometimes, but you just have to go with the flow.

When Susanne asks Carlos what he hopes to gain from the programme, Carlos remembers his talk with MBA director Boris Blumberg, and how the honesty surprised him. “The interview with Boris was great, natural and pragmatic. In a nutshell: it wasn’t another talk of someone trying to sell the programme to me. At the end he advised me to keep on trusting my own judgment, even if this means being sceptical. For me the situation is as follows: I studied Telecommunications and work as a business unit lead on a technical consultancy company. I managed to develop well within the company, they gave me more responsibility which ultimately resulted in having to manage large teams and being in control for most of the unit activities. That was more about trying to be a “superman”, a “go-to” person for fast answers or decisions, than a matter of good management. I was involved in every single project trying to make sure they would move on (I can remember moments with seventy projects simultaneously), or as I’d call it, I was “keeping the balls in the air”. In the long run this would at some point cease to work, it was not healthy for me nor beneficial for the company. So I was looking for a way to learn more about efficient managing and leadership, avoiding the superman approach.”

“Learning on personal levels is good for future business decisions”

The proximity (Carlos lives in Aachen), the modular set-up and his talk with Boris Blumberg helped Carlos to decide for the MaastrichtMBA. “It’s a huge step for me,” Carlos admits, “because I have never been the kind of person who has his life planned ahead. Some people have a map in their mind of what they want and when, I am more the spontaneous type and try things as they come or as I felt was needed, day by day. But indeed some planning can be helpful and that made me think that even though I have been developing myself professionally in this company for eight years, I didn’t have a clear picture of myself in the future. I realised that it wasn’t about my skills, but more about who I am, my own core. Now I am aware I want to learn more about who I am, as a person, so this can help me move forward and explore different new paths. And that’s what they teach you in the MaastrichtMBA programme, how to develop yourself on a personal level, so it can enhance your business performance. As a sceptical person by nature, the experience itself tells me I’ve made a good call by signing up in Maastricht.”

“The first day I felt guilty, as if I forsake my responsibilities”

The modular set-up means spending a week on campus with fellow student-professionals, who often quickly become like a second family, or new friends. Susanne: “On stepping into the MaastrichtMBA, you connect instantly and tightly to a group of strangers. When you engage in the assignments together, you learn we’re all at the same crossroads in life, with the same kind of questions about work, our drive and ambition. It is nice to find likeminded students who understand what you’re going through, because they experience it too. I will be a bit sad when I graduate, because the modules enabled me to solely focus on developing myself. I will miss that. And all my new friends. But I am also eager to spend more time with my family, who have been very loving and patient these past two years.” Carlos still has a long path ahead of him, and a bundle of modules to work through. But he’s genuinely enthusiastic, not in the least because he already feels the effect of the modular set-up, for not having checked his work e-mail for the past three days. It’s a moment followed by an outburst of laughter when he shares this news! “I think this is really the first time in the last six years that I haven’t checked my work mail for three days in a row. Because of my responsibilities and commitment, I always check my mail – even when on holiday or at a friend’s wedding. I want to be there when a problem arises. The first day I felt guilty, the second day I was too busy to think about it, and now it feels like, ‘why haven’t I done this before?’ It’s important to focus on the things that deserve it, in order to fully immerse yourself in the experience and obtain the most out of it!”