Andres Reyes says sales is his calling. But after 10 years as a salesman in his native Colombia, he’d come to a point where he felt a bit stuck.
“I needed something else,” he says. “And I was really curious about working abroad. I’d worked with Latin and North American countries so I knew how they did business. But I wanted to learn about Europe. In essence, an MBA was an opportunity to take a break from something I’d been doing for 10 years to doing something else – and seeing how business was done elsewhere.”
Andres started doing research – not just for himself, but for his wife too. They decided to take the full-time MBA journey together. And they found themselves drawn to Brussels – and Vlerick.
“The MBA at Vlerick ranked well and was good value. It was also a modern school, it really appealed. We were able to apply for some scholarships – and in the end, it seemed like a great investment. So we went for it.”
Andres wanted to move to Brussels to get exposure to a third language and have opportunities to travel. But he discovered other benefits to choosing Vlerick for his MBA – in particular, the international cohort.
“My group was very diverse,” he says. “So every single group project had a balanced mix of individuals. It’s one reason I was so proud I chose to do my MBA in Brussels. In Colombia, I would have been surrounded by people who had lots in common with me. But Vlerick was so diverse. It’s one of the things they are great at.''
“There were of course core courses and projects. But for me it wasn’t the lectures themselves but the way we worked that was the biggest takeaway. You’re put in groups and given an assignment to get done. You work with people with different backgrounds who have different ideas and objectives. You learn what drives people, how to manage conflict and how to have a healthy group approach.”
A key part of the full-time MBA is a company project – where you turn the knowledge you’ve learned in the classroom into action. Andres’ project took him inside credit card giant MasterCard. He says: “It was an initiative from the risk management department. It involved interviewing lots of people within the organisation at different levels and making recommendations on how to decrease risk as much as possible.''
“I’ve always worked in mid-market companies. So it was great to have a different perspective of how such a large corporation works and manages complex processes. It was definitely an eye opener.”
Andres also valued opportunities for personal development. He says: “It’s the group projects where you really develop leadership skills. They’re the ones that push you to voice your opinion, challenge each other and try to build something together. That’s where you test the theory you learn in class and put it into practice. That’s where you really learn how to become a leader.''
“I’d led teams before, but in Colombia, the culture is that if the leader says something, you do it. At Vlerick we were all equal, there was no hierarchy. So those discussions could be difficult – but really valuable.”.
Over the course of his MBA, Andres had become interested in the FinTech industry. He took part in a FinTech boot camp. And when he graduated, he started to look for a role in Brussels.
He says: “I found a company and asked my Vlerick professor to introduce me to the founders – and he did. Within a month, I’d signed a contract. I started as an account executive in the sales team for Spain and Latin America. Now I lead the team and also look after North America. I’ve really grown in the company.''
“Sometimes people don’t understand that an MBA isn’t just to master skills. It’s also about nurturing your network so later on you can take advantage of it – and maybe land a job. I’m very thankful to Vlerick for that.”
Now leading an international team that works remotely, Andres finds he draws on his Vlerick experience regularly.
“It’s the peer-to-peer interactions, the group experience I use most in my current job,” he says. “I value knowing how to be a good leader, having a common goal, and having a good understanding of what drives people. That’s my biggest takeaway from the MBA – knowing how to work with people.”
Andres Reyes took the leap from sales to leading a global team. He graduated in 2017.
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