Jennifer’s career in hospitality has taken her all over the world – including Paris, where she took on a managerial position at a Hyatt hotel in 2017. But she felt she was lacking some business fundamentals – and decided an MBA would be a good next step for her career.
“I decided to do an MBA for two reasons,” she says. “First, I knew I lacked some financial knowledge that would be useful in my role.
“Second, my family has a steel construction business in Belgium. It’s not related to my expertise, but one day I may be responsible for it. So I felt it was time to get a foundation in how business functions overall. I knew an MBA would help my career now and in the future.”
Jennifer had been living abroad for six years – in China, Spain, Switzerland and France. It was time to go back home to Belgium. And this made her choice of MBA easy.
“I wanted to go to Vlerick because it is such a well-known, respected school in Belgium,” she says. “There is also a lot of networking potential and I wanted to be part of its network.
“I also I really liked the practical, hands-on approach. This convinced me to do it because I felt I could learn more this way. And having teachers that come from the industries they teach about is really inspiring.”
LIVING THE FULL-TIME MBA
Now halfway through her MBA programme, Jennifer says it’s been intense but rewarding. ”The first semester you build a foundation in every topic,” she says. “Then you look at your skills – how to be a leader, how to negotiate. The next challenge is our in-company projects.”
“The thing about the MBA programme is that it really touches upon almost every department in a company – if not all the departments of a company. So, it's extremely interesting and I think everything that we learn can be used in real life.”
Another element Jennifer is enjoying is working with such a diverse group of peers. “I think it’s one of the best networking possibilities we will ever have,” she says. “We spend so much time together, we have all these deep conversations. It really makes you realise where you want to go in life.”
Learning on the Full-time MBA
Jennifer was keen to develop hard business skills from the MBA. But she’s also learning more about herself.
“Vlerick is great in terms of the hard skills,” she says. “But they are also exceeding my expectations in terms of how you get to know yourself and develop yourself. That for me was something I did not expect at all, and has been so valuable.”
Jennifer is also very impressed with the career support she’s received at Vlerick so far.
She says: “Career services are great – they help you with your development, they let you know about potential job openings in Belgium and they know about different industries. They also arrange company visits – like to Amazon and Trivago. You get to talk with people and see how different businesses are run.
“And the great thing about the career fairs that Vlerick organises is that is that they are specific – so one might be just start-ups, another might be more corporate companies.”
Making the leap
When she started her MBA, Jennifer planned to return to the hospitality sector and take on a more senior role. But now – after being exposed to so many different industries and topics – she’s starting to think about taking the leap to something new.
She says: “So far it’s been a really eye-opening experience. I don’t know what’s next, but I know I want to be in a company where I feel confident in what I'm doing and where I can stay for a long time and grow in my role. To be honest, the salary is not my biggest priority. My priority is to be in a role I really believe in.
“I always like having a lot of responsibility so I think an environment that is challenging and dynamic, where I can use my creativity and also have a managerial role would be ideal.”
And Jennifer says that when the time comes to take on this new career, her MBA skillset will be there to help her. “The hard skills will help me for sure,” she says. “But also the entrepreneurial mindset. Vlerick really opens your mind to entrepreneurial thinking, coming up with new concepts and so on. I think this entrepreneurial spirit will help me. Before I was very detail oriented. But now, I see the bigger picture.”
Jennifer Buyck graduated in 2020.