General Manager, Isaline Desclée, joined the Vlerick Executive MBA to consolidate her understanding of areas like finance. What she’s discovering is that the learning experience goes way beyond the financial statement.
“I guess I’d say I’ve always been motivated by a desire to have a positive impact. It’s long been my objective to work in some kind of capacity that addresses people’s fundamental needs. The opportunity to do that arose in 2012.”
“Before then, I’d spent most of my professional life working in mechanical and industrial engineering. I have a technical background, having trained as a civil engineer, but my early career gave me opportunities to segue into marketing roles. I spent five very enjoyable years with technical product manufacturer, 3M, working in sales and marketing. In 2012 I heard that a high social-impact borning start-up was looking for a general manager to support its development and growth. It was a chance for me to do what I really wanted – integrate my technical and business experience with a cause that I felt I could align with personally and professionally.”
Pivoting for greater impact
“I took on the role of general manager with Goods to Give, conscious that I was pivoting into a totally new field and that the challenges would potentially be very great. Goods to Give collects non-food overstocks from companies like shampoos, soaps, washing powders, toys,… and redistributes via hundreds of social organisations to families and individuals in need around Belgium.
It’s a non-profit organisation (or say it otherwise “a for social profit” organisation). Making this transition to social entrepreneurship did constitute an enormous shift, but it made absolute sense to me and profoundly resonated with a deeper set of KPIs that I had developed. I believe that the measure of success goes way beyond the financial to me, being successful is more than just profit and growth.”
Joining the dots, and bridging the gaps
“Of course, when you take on the role of general manager, whatever the field or industry you work in, there are a set of competencies that you need to develop. As Goods to Give took off and began to gain impetus, I understood that it was time for me to consolidate my own experience and knowledge. I learned plenty in the field, with 3M and starting up our company, but there were gaps in my expertise and technical understanding that I wanted to bridge. I opted to take the Vlerick Executive MBA in 2018 to address this and to build a skillset that would accelerate my impact, while driving my own professional efficacy and setting the ground for future professional development.”
Mastering the financial statement, and so much more
“What have I learnt so far? I went into the Executive MBA looking to improve specific things – my understanding of finance, for instance. I wanted to get better at reading financial statements and improve some of my managerial skills. And while I am building these core capabilities, I’m also finding that all of the courses I take are complementary and build a much broader, more holistic understanding of management and leadership. You don’t explore things in isolation, because that’s not the way that business works. And pulling the experience back to my own professional goals and objectives, this broadened grasp of how businesses operate is helping me build better, more strategic theories and arguments about sustainability in the commercial context. I want my partners and other companies we interact with to know that sustainability isn’t just a nice addition – a patch of honour that organisations can wear to boost their image. It needs to be built into strategy. At Vlerick, I’m developing the business understanding, the mindset and the skills to make this case convincingly.”
Being sustainable isn’t just for hippies!
“My goal is to play a role in changing thinking about sustainability in this sense. We really need to stop seeing things like CSR as activities we do to boost brand or appease hippies and women! Companies need to understand thinking seriously about sustainability is an opportunity to drive change, to innovate and to find new solutions and new business models for the future. Whether we like it or not, the world is changing. The issues of climate change, population growth and inequality won’t fix themselves, and there is a new generation of business leaders and decision-makers coming in now who understand this and see the challenge of sustainability for what it really is – a driver of innovation. CEOs and incumbent leaders need to grasp this – a company that doesn’t change is a company that is dying.”
Bringing it all together
“At Vlerick, these are some of the ideas that we explore within the cohort and with faculty. And the learning experience is boosted by the diversity of thought and background that characterises the group. When you work and operate within an environment that is homogenous – where everyone thinks the same, does the same, represents the same things – things become stale and entrenched. Change becomes less possible. At Vlerick, we share deep values, but everyone brings their own perspectives and approaches and this diverse mix challenges you to rethink your perspectives and be more experimental and innovative. And that is exactly what I aim to do in my life and in my career going forward.”