On Saturday 16 March, more than 250 ambitious professionals headed to Ghent for the Experience Vlerick Days. It was the ideal opportunity to get a taste of Vlerick – from the beautifully renovated seminar building to the modern and colourful campus, the ‘open’ atmosphere, and a series of stimulating workshops led by thought-provoking Vlerick lecturers.
Learning on a beautiful spring day
Just past 9 a.m. the first participants entered the lounge on the ground floor. They were welcomed with a delicious breakfast buffet.
Some initial uneasiness quickly made way for a relaxed weekend atmosphere. Holding a cup of coffee, the participants got to know one another or headed to the information stands to discuss the different programmes on offer.
At 9.40 a.m., Orphee, the Customer Delight Officer, announced the start of the workshops. Coloured flags led the participants to their respective workshops. Each participant could choose two workshops of about an hour each. These sessions covered the following topics:
- Defining your path to success (Veroniek De Schampelaere)
- Why fight for survival if you can collaborate on success? (Prof Dr Barney Jordaan)
- Taking digital strategy to the next level (Prof Dr Steve Muylle)
- Winning strategy at a personal and corporate level (Prof Dr Carine Peeters)
Growth, acquiring knowledge and exploring possibilities
We wondered what motivated people to attend workshops at Vlerick on a sunny Saturday morning. “I want to boost my management knowledge", says the Ecuadorian Samantha Medina resolutely. She lives in London and works for Heineken Ibecor as a Logistics Officer. She travelled from London to Ghent for these Experience Days. Why? “I completed a Masters in International Business Management in Liège, but now I want to delve deeper by applying for an MBA based on my current work in supply chain management.” What are your future plans? “One day I want to return to Ecuador to help medium-sized enterprises to grow.”
Luc Onderdonck (Account Manager at Engie) turned 50 in the week before the event. For some that is when you should start preparing for retirement, but Luc disagrees. “I need a new challenge, so I’ve come to find out how I can give my career another boost. To be clear, I’m looking to do that at my current company. I’ve already discussed this with HR but I like to look for new training opportunities myself too.”
Roel Estievenart on the other hand, is still at the beginning of his career. He is an industrial engineer specialising in nuclear technology and is currently working as a process engineer with Viro near Roermond (The Netherlands). During the first three years of his career, he has held two very different positions: first a more person-oriented role and then a very technical one. However, he now realises he would prefer a combination of these two positions. “I am not really a techie”, Roel explains. “But I like to work with people, and I’m looking for a balance between the technical side and the people side. That’s why I attended the workshop ‘Defining your path to success’. It was fascinating. After the session, I also approached Veroniek for advice. What should I do next? How do I take the next step? Because I really want to find a job that allows me to grow and build a career.”
Margot Vanden Bossche joined the Vlerick event from a very different perspective. She coaches student entrepreneurs at Artevelde University College. “I came here because I am eager to learn something new.” And did she? “I definitely did. The sessions were very interesting. I like that the lecturers mentioned a lot of concrete examples that I can also use when coaching student entrepreneurs. But I am also here to possibly refer student entrepreneurs who are ready to commit 100% to one of the Vlerick programmes, like New Business Development.”
Breno Villa, a Brazilian who works for Donaldson in Leuven, came primarily for the workshops. “I am mainly interested in new ideas and perspectives on certain topics. I opted to attend ‘Defining your path to success’, which proved very interesting.” The takeaways? “That only you determine your career path. Sometimes a company or person wants you to take on a role elsewhere, but ultimately, you are the only one who can decide. However, in order to make the right decision, you need a clear idea of what you like and want to do.” Initially, it was not his intention to apply for a management programme, but now that he has discovered Vlerick, he has a keen interest particularly in the Innovation and Entrepreneurship programme.
Deepraj Gautam also came to Ghent mainly for the workshops. This 26-year old Indian moved to Belgium for a Masters in Photonics Engineering at Ghent University. Now he is working as an electronics engineer for Caeleste in Mechelen, a company that develops image sensors for many different applications (in the biomedical sector, aerospace and industrial automation applications). He is not planning to leave Caeleste any time soon, but he is considering setting up his own company in the future.
The most interesting session in his opinion was Steve Muylle’s workshop on digital strategy. “What I liked about it? That everything was based on facts and existing success stories. Like that Tinder application to fill vacancies. What a funky idea! In the long term, I would be interested in a programme about entrepreneurship in the digital world. I’ve noticed that the Vlerick professors have a very broad experience. They have seen the evolution from the dot-com bubble all the way to artificial intelligence. Through their expertise, I want to discover and understand how you should deal with up-and-coming technologies. How do you recognise the most promising technologies for the decade ahead? And how do you draw up a winning strategy based on that?”