Natcha Khiangprakhong’s background is business law – and up until last August, she was a lawyer at a government-owned electricity company in her home country, Thailand.
But Natcha didn’t want to restrict herself to roles within the legal profession. She decided an MBA would be the perfect way to explore the wider business world and expand her career options.She also has ambitions to open her own business in the future – and knew the MBA would give her the tools to do just that.
Making the move to Belgium
“I’d already spent a year in the US – I did my Masters in Law at the University of Pennsylvania,” Natcha says. “So I wanted a new environment. I’d never lived in Europe and Brussels seemed ideal – it’s a diverse, cosmopolitan city right in the heart of Europe. And Vlerick’s ranking made it stand out from other schools.”
The first few months have been challenging yet rewarding. Natcha says: “Many of my course colleagues are from finance or engineering backgrounds – so they’re already familiar with some of what we cover. But it’s all new to me. I have to work really hard, but that’s a good thing – because when I graduate, I’ll have so much new knowledge.
Brussels is a world away from Thailand – but Natcha is already embracing Vlerick life. She says: “It’s much colder than what I’m used to. But I really like the city. The people are very welcoming, and the public transport system is excellent.
“I really like the Vlerick campus too – which is great as we spend most of the week there. The facilities are high quality and I particularly like the canteen. When you’re working hard, a good lunch helps a lot!”
Putting her skills to the test
So far, the MBA has been a learning curve for Natcha. She says: “I’ve found group work challenging. As a law student you work individually, so it’s not something I’m used to. And in my culture, I’m not really comfortable challenging people. But the soft skills classes Vlerick run – in professional management and leadership skills – have really helped and things are getting easier for me.
“I’ve learned that people from different backgrounds have different personalities and viewpoints – which is a good thing. You learn what your weaknesses are and how to adapt your approach. And of course, it’s a reflection of real business environments – you can’t choose your colleagues! It’s all part of the charm of being on an international programme.”
Widening her opportunities, growing her network
Natcha is focused firmly on her goal of becoming a business consultant – and on developing the skills she needs to get there. She says: “I want to perfect my communications skills so I can always get my point across. I also want to explore different working styles so I can be as productive and efficient as possible – working through my assignments is already helping me with this.
“Another thing I hope to take away from Vlerick is a valuable network – with alumni as well as my course colleagues. I’ve already reached out to people via the alumni network for advice and everyone is really happy to help.
“I’m already much more confident in my skills. And by the time I graduate, I’ll have a business qualification alongside my law degree which will open doors in many industries. If I did decide to go back to being a lawyer, I’d be a great candidate for a legal firm – lots of lawyers don’t want to leave their comfort zone by going back to school to study business. It will definitely give me an edge.”
Natcha would definitely recommend the full-time MBA – as long as people are willing to put the work in. She says: “It’s going to be tough – it’s intense. But the return you get on your investment is worth it.”