Barbara Cornelissen's career has already taken her all over the world – and has seen her progress from the role of conference interpreter, to becoming a manager at a conference organisation company. But she wanted to go even further – and felt she needed to build her skillset to achieve more.
She says: “I started working at Lnoppen Group in Belgium, producing their African events. Then I got promoted and moved to Colombia to set up and run the Latin American office. My role there was to plan events for a number of different sectors, including aviation, healthcare and infrastructure.
Gaining the knowledge to make the best decisions
“I loved it, but felt I lacked the theoretical business knowledge I needed to be able to move forward. In my job I was making a lot of financial and operational decisions. But they were based on gut feel and common sense. I’d never studied anything to do with management. “So I decided to do the MBA to get the knowledge I need. I want to be more confident about making these decisions – and making more informed decisions.
“I want to know why I decide things – and have some rationale to back up the decisions I make. I also want to develop my leadership skills. I’m good at taking the lead in a group of peers, but I find it hard to balance being the boss and being a colleague… so the leadership courses at Vlerick are really valuable.”
Barbara says being a Belgian national was not the reason she chose to study at Vlerick. She explains: “Vlerick has a great reputation and ranking, and that was important to me – I wanted to make sure I got a return on my investment. But I also had a great feeling about the school. I felt at home there – and I had a good connection with the admissions team. It was the right fit for me.
Getting an in-depth understanding of specialist sectors
“Another big attraction of Vlerick for me was the domains the school specialises in. I liked the entrepreneurial focus – and I was particularly drawn to the healthcare domain. This is a sector I’m really interested in.
“Next month I’m going to start a three-week healthcare boot camp. It’s something other schools didn’t seem to offer – it’s unique.”
Barbara says a surprising highlight of her first few months at Vlerick has been Corporate Finance. She says: “I’d never done it before – and I wasn’t looking forward to it. I thought it would be hard and boring. But Professor Wouter De Maeseneire made the subject really fun and easy to understand. We did loads of assignments – and by the time it came to the exam I hardly had to prepare because I knew it all so well.”
Learning from diverse perspectives and insights
But the biggest highlight so far, Barbara says, is working with fellow participants from around the globe. She says: “I’ve lived and worked internationally and think of myself as international. But there are so many nationalities on the programme, all people with different backgrounds and experiences. We get diverse perspectives on how to deal with challenges. It’s a real learning experience. I feel the school really supports international learning and giving us that wider perspective.
“The faculty are great too. Outside the classroom, we have regular meetings with the professors and the whole class to talk about issues like diversity and inclusion and communication. It’s enlightening to learn about different ways of doing things and ways of thinking. I really like that they make time for that on the programme.
“Before I started the MBA, I had zero management education. But I feel like I’m learning so much in a very short space of time. I’m already looking back at my previous role and seeing things I’d do differently now, based on my new knowledge.”