More than just finance

Bangladeshi Intekhab finds international starting base

Intekhab Syed AhmadOriginally from Bangladesh, Intekhab Syed Ahmad (MFM, 2011) pursued his dream of studying abroad and doesn’t regret his time at Vlerick for a moment. And his Belgian story continues, as he subsequently landed a job with multinational Johnson & Johnson in Beerse.

Why did you choose Vlerick?

Intekhab: “I did an undergraduate degree in business administration, with a major in finance and a minor in computer sciences, at North South University in Bangladesh. After my four-year course there, I worked in an advertising agency as a planner, and then in a bank, where I stayed for a little over three years. I was looking after treasury, investments and the back office, and enjoying myself. I realised that I had found my calling, as I particularly appreciate the rigour and challenge of working with both data and numbers.

“But there comes a time when you have to make a decision. Either you settle down and accept the next promotion or you go for your dreams and study abroad as I’d always wanted to do. I felt it was the ideal time to do further studies. Above all, I wanted a business school that was in the top 100 in the Financial Times Ranking, preferably one with accreditation from the CFA institute. The list is a long one, but for various reasons – affordability being one of them – I had a shortlist of two schools: Vlerick in Belgium and St Gallen in Switzerland. I had a long telephone interview with the department head here, Professor Regine Slagmulder, and I liked her approach. Having worked in the sector certainly helped me gauge the level, and I appreciated her knowledge and understanding. I also asked a local friend, who happened to be Belgian, what he thought of the School and he recommended it. Everything began to point in Vlerick’s direction: the FT ranking, a good recommendation from The Economist, my feeling, my friend. So I made my decision.”

Did it live up to your expectations?

Intekhab: “I was the only Bangladeshi student on the course, but that wasn’t an issue. There was a good mix of local and international students in the class, and the fact that I didn’t speak Dutch didn’t matter at all. In truth, though, the School still has a very Belgian flavour, and whereas I’d worked before, the majority of the students hadn’t.”

What were the main differences with studying in Bangladesh?

Intekhab: “In Bangladesh I had done an undergraduate degree; the lens is inevitably wider at that level. At Vlerick, we had many interactive sessions, many more case studies, and – most importantly – our teachers were active in business. I remember, for example, a lecture by the head of the taxation department at Linklaters law firm, and there was an interesting valuation exercise given by someone from Gimv. They were working professionals, not people solely involved in academic research.

“It was a good combination of theory and practice. I don’t have any aspirations to be an academic, but I did want to understand where we were coming from. Another key element of the course was the discussions on strategy. We didn’t just talk about finance.”

After graduating you stayed in Belgium. Why?

Intekhab: “I got a good offer from Johnson & Johnson to work with their regional IT services in Beerse. I do the capital and asset management for IT infrastructure projects in EMEA, and I’m responsible for several large-scale IT infrastructure projects.”

What’s the biggest challenge?

Intekhab: “Working with so many different countries. We’re the link between Europe and the US head office. The main issue is the managing and reporting part, and sometimes it’s very difficult to get accurate information – especially because we don’t always have access to ‘the local systems’.”

How do you see the future?

Intekhab: “I have no immediate plans. At J&J we can change roles every two years, and I still have one more year to go before then. Maybe I’ll go to Switzerland, where they have the second biggest operations department in Europe (after the one in Beerse).”

Any plans to go back to Bangladesh?

Intekhab: “Maybe in 10 years’ time I’d like to go home. I’d like to start a business one day, once I have the credentials and the experience.”


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