An intensive, long-running Vlerick programme is about more than simply going through the motions. You want to get something out of it. But what, exactly? What do you ultimately stand to gain? No one knows better than the graduates themselves. During the Graduation Event, most of the 242 attendees had their say. We have distilled their responses into the seven things they valued most about the programmes they have just completed.
Increasing knowledge and gaining deeper insights is still the number one reason why people opt for a long-running Vlerick programme. Students want to thoroughly master a particular area of expertise, both in theory and in practice. Corentin Wellemans (Executive Master Class in Human Resource Management): “I have a degree in chemical engineering. So I hardly knew anything about HR and people would often comment on that, which affected my credibility. All the same, there are a few similarities between HR and chemistry. For example, HR is a subject that you learn by trying out new things and experimenting, just like chemistry. After this programme, I am definitely ready to get stuck into a new chapter in my career.”
The added value is also clear to Karine Vandenberghe (KPMG – Executive Master Class in Human Resource Management): “I can’t believe how much I’ve learned. My only regret is that I didn’t follow this programme ten years ago. I should have done it much earlier. As soon as the programme started, I felt that there was solid ground beneath my feet.”
This thirst for knowledge is sometimes vague, simply a desire to improve your knowledge in a certain area. But for some people, the need is very specific and pressing. Jeffrey Carol (Keller Keukens – Executive Development Programme) asked: “How can I prepare my company for the digital future? That was my key reason to follow the programme.”
Olivier Vanden Eynde (Close the Gap Int. – Executive Master Class in Corporate Finance) had a different problem: “I found board meetings the most difficult thing about being an entrepreneur. I’d be sitting across the table from an auditor and a seasoned, authoritative business leader. They know I run the show and that I know my business like the back of my hand. But finance wasn’t my thing – or at least it didn’t use to be. So they always gave me a grilling during financial updates. That’s why I chose this programme to take my financial knowledge to a higher level and put myself in a stronger position at board meetings.”
Andy Gijbels (KU Leuven – Executive Master Class in Corporate Finance) also had an extremely concrete goal in mind when he began the programme. I have an engineering background and I’ve spent a lot of time in the past developing technologies with little economic value. Mostly because we did not properly quantify the business case. That’s why I participated in this programme. Now I have a thorough understanding of how to correctly calculate the net present value of high-risk R&D projects. This allows me to make well-founded investment decisions that yield a high return on investment."
But wanting to learn something specific doesn’t mean that is necessarily the most important lesson you learn. Vera Van Hoed (Puratos – Management Acceleration Programme) tells us: “I signed up because I wanted to learn more about business and strategy. But the key thing I learned is that it’s all about people. Not just in terms of teamwork, but marketing too, for example. Marketing is not just trying to convince the customer that your product is the best (with fancy publicity) − marketing should be trying to understand what the customer really needs. Everything revolves around the customer, and the customer is a person. You have to try and work out what that person needs, what they want and what interests them.”
Vlerick can also provide the perfect stimulus for people at a crossroads in their career. What is more, it seems from the graduates’ testimonies that the programme is often a catalyst for sending them in a new direction. Take Jo Bermyn, for example (QinetiQ Space – EMC in Corporate Finance): “Why did I take this programme? I’m an engineer who has been working for QinetiQ Space in various management roles for thirty years. I expect my career to last another ten years or so, and I felt that it was time for something different. That’s why I took on the challenge of becoming Financial Director in 2018. To gain greater insight into finance, I decided to take the Executive Master Class in Corporate Finance at Vlerick.”
For Nathalie Van Eetveldt (Engie CC – Executive Master Class in Human Resource Management), changes in her company were what prompted her to make a career switch: “Due to restructuring in my company, I found myself at a crossroads in my career. I either needed to opt for hard skills, in taxes, or a soft skill: HR. I opted for the latter. It was a really difficult journey for me. But now I’m absolutely certain that HR is what I want to do for the rest of my life.”
We’ve lost count of the number of alumni who have climbed a step higher up the corporate ladder either during or after one of our executive education programmes. The Vlerick programme often gave them the leg-up they needed. As Tom Verbruggen (KBC Bank – Executive Development Programme) tells us: “I have learned an incredible amount this year. More than anything, I wanted to learn to think more strategically. It turned out even better than I had expected. It certainly had a big influence on my personal growth − I’ve been promoted to senior management at KBC!”
For some, promotion was not just a side effect but the goal of starting a programme in the first place. That is certainly true for Liesbeth Lemmens (Gallo-Roman Museum – Executive Development Programme): “I wanted greater insight into business processes. And I found that insight here. It gave me greater confidence to really go for it. The recruitment process to become the business director was a real struggle, but I got the job!” Ludo Gielen (Schoeller Allibert – Executive Master Class in Corporate Finance) had a similar experience: “One of my goals for this programme was to get the top job at Schoeller Allibert. And I made it, partly because it was a really great group. I will always remember you.”
Jūratè Poskute (LBC Belgium Holding – Executive Master Class in Corporate Finance) did not beat about the bush. She saw her long-running Vlerick programme as a way to get to the top: “I really appreciate the impact that the programme has had on my current job. I’m not at the top of my organisation yet. But the programme has certainly brought me closer. That doesn’t mean I know everything, but I do have the freshness – all thanks to you.”
Vlerick is more than just an executive education programme. It is the ideal place to expand your network and make new friends. Things with lasting benefits long after the programme has ended. Olivier Vanden Eynde (Close the Gap Int. – Executive Master Class in Corporate Finance) tells us: “I have met a lot of people here and made friendships for life. You know my wife and I are going to Kenya soon to start up Close the Gap 3.0. You are all welcome to visit, and I genuinely mean that from the bottom of my heart. Maybe we could organise one of our next reunions there? As a group, we probably have enough negotiating power to charter a plane. But that’s not all. I’m looking for investors for our future Impact Fund. Well, I know all about your backgrounds now and I know where to find you. That applies to the entire Vlerick network, by the way! I’ll be making use of that too for future investment plans.”
Karine Vandenberghe (KPMG – Executive Master Class in Human Resource Management) summed up importance of fellow students succinctly: “The group picked me up off the ground. I was in the desert and for me, Vlerick – the group – was the oasis.”
It’s impossible to complete a long-running Vlerick programme successfully without hard work. We all agree about that. But that doesn’t prevent most people from enjoying their learning journey to the full. And they look back on it as a fun experience. What makes it so much fun? The special activities (desert exercise, learning to fence, acting lessons). The enjoyable, inspiring teaching style. And last but not least: the open and friendly interaction with fellow alumni (especially during après-class activities), which often went on until late at night. Anthony Meul (VGD– Executive Master Class in Corporate Finance) says: “It was really fun. I enjoyed the lessons and the best thing was meeting you all.”
Wim Wolzer (Papallona – Executive Master Class in Corporate Finance) adds: “Sometimes the EMC was an interesting search for the balance between work and pleasure. But an important part of the value that you’ll take home from this programme lies in the network and friendships that you build and that are shaped through the much-appreciated evening sessions.”
Many alumni describe the programme as a journey that took them to new places. Provided you are open to it, it is a journey that expands your horizons and broadens your perspective.
Kaat Torfs (VIA Don Bosco – Management Acceleration Programme) says: “It’s unique having so many young managers brought together with so many different viewpoints - I come from a not-for-profit organisation, for example − and that’s very enriching. So you really learn to appreciate that everyone is different and sees things in a different way. For me it was incredibly valuable to be able to expand my horizons for six months.” Johan Van de Velde (Schreder – Executive Development Programme) adds: “I have certainly broadened my scope. I would recommend this programme to all lawyers. It would certainly dampen a few egos.”
But how does a broad outlook help you in your professional life? As Hans Cools (Wienerberger – Management Acceleration Programme) sees it: “The programme gave me a broader view of management and business dynamics. In my day-to-day job as a project manager, this made it easier for me to focus afresh on the things that are important for the business.”
You want to gain knowledge, broaden your outlook, climb the corporate ladder… but ultimately, it’s all about one thing: growing. First and foremost as a professional, but also as a person. Lieve Lenaerts (Be-Lieve, Executive Development Programme) wonders: “What does this programme mean to me? Well, it’s all here, in this pendant. It says ‘Be-lieve’ on it. The programme has quite simply made me stronger.”
Nelis Linsen (Impuls – Management Acceleration Programme) illustrated the point with a simple metaphor: “Before this programme, my company saw me as a reliable family car. I did good things, but I knew I had more to give. Thanks to Vlerick, I can. The programme has transformed me from a family car into a jeep. I can now drive up steeper and rockier roads and climb mountains confidently. And that’s just as well, because I’m currently working on a 'thinking forward' business plan for the company, together with some of my colleagues and +1s. Vlerick has given me the confidence to tackle this and to also take the lead in discussions about the subjects in the company that I care about most.”