Civil engineer Carlos Ramírez loved working in real estate development. But he lacked the business knowledge he needed to move up in his role – so he started to think about developing his skills further. He made the move to Brussels and is now enrolled on the full-time MBA programme at Vlerick.
“I decided on an MBA because I wanted to become a more holistic professional,” he says. “I realised that in real estate development, the people making decisions aren’t the technical specialists. It’s the leaders with good management skills. I wanted to be able to move into a more strategic role – so I decided on an MBA.
Making the move to Vlerick
“I knew I wanted to study abroad so I looked at schools in Europe. Vlerick is very accessible, they have a great ranking and it’s a one-year programme – this was crucial for me. I decided that in terms of value it was the best option. The location also helps – Belgium is a great base to explore the rest of Europe from.
“Another reason I chose Vlerick is because the team is great, always available and happy to help. The admissions process was smooth – I did my interviews online from Costa Rica and Minna and Yolanda made it easy.”
Gaining a deeper understanding
So far, Carlos is having a great MBA experience. “I’ve never lived abroad so this was a huge step for me,” he says. “I love Brussels and I’m enjoying making new connections.
“The academic side of the programme definitely has its hard moments but I’m also finally understanding a lot of things I knew a little about before. Learning how to use different tools and frameworks is so useful. Course-wise, I’ve particularly liked Business Strategy with Prof Martin Weiss and Taking Sound Business Decisions with Prof Mario Vanhoucke.
“And one of the things I’ve enjoyed the most is company visits. For example, we went to Google and learned about machine learning. That kind of thing is mind-boggling.”
Developing the skills he needs to lead
Carlos plans to stay in real estate development, but he hopes the skills he gains on the MBA will help him move into a more strategic role. “I want to be a decision maker in a business I feel passionate about,” he says. “So the soft skills work we do at Vlerick – like how to manage stakeholders – is really useful. The technical knowledge you can learn anywhere, but it takes time to develop leadership skills. I want to be a good manager.”
The part of the MBA that’s helping Carlos develop these skills most is the group work.
He says: “Group work is the perfect way to try out soft skills in the MBA environment – like different ways of communicating and managing expectations. It’s great practice for the real world. Working with people with diverse ways of doing things is challenging – but your classmates are your first, immediate network. So you need to deliver in your work with them, demand good work from them and maintain your relationships. There are so many different backgrounds at Vlerick – there are plenty of people to learn from.”
Finally, Carlos has some great advice for future MBA participants. “If you can afford it, come to Brussels a couple of weeks before the programme starts,” he says. “You’ll be able to explore the city – there’s so much to do and once classes start, your time is more limited. If you arrive early it’s a win-win. You have time to find accommodation and take advantage of the Belgian summer!”