Investing in the future
"I felt an instant connection with the people at vlerick."
In 2011, Kristin Gudjonsdottir started managing a boutique gym and spa in her native Iceland. It needed a complete overhaul – but she turned it around within a year. It was a great opportunity to flex her business skills – but the experience made her realise she needed to take it up a gear. Now living in Brussels with two young children, she has started an executive MBA at Vlerick.
THE OPPORTUNITY TO BROADEN HER SKILLS
Kristin enjoyed turning the company around. But it wasn’t without its challenges. She says: “I love to roll my sleeves up and get stuck in – and I was able to use my analytical and financial skills to really make a difference. But I realised that I lacked some of the tools I needed. Managing a team of 40 people took a lot of energy – I really had to work on my leadership skills. And I wanted to become better at making decisions – and executing them quickly and effectively. I’d seen how much my husband had gained from his MBA. To me, it seemed like the logical next step.”
When Kristin decided to take on an MBA, she was accepted into two Belgian business schools. But it was Vlerick that really stood out. She says: “I felt an instant connection with the people at Vlerick. As soon as I walked through the door, someone was there, ready to help. I had support as I went through the process. It has very much a family feel, a very personal environment.
I also love the international feel of Vlerick. I’ve lived in several different countries – and I know it can be difficult to fit in somewhere new. But at Vlerick, there’s a great mix of people. Everyone makes an effort, it’s so welcoming.”
PAVING THE WAY FOR WOMEN IN BUSINESS
Kristin showed so much potential that she was awarded the Vlerick Female Leadership Grant. She says: “I was looking at options to fund the Executive MBA myself but I was lucky enough to get a grant – and now I have financial support it means so much to me.
Women in my position – with a young family – often find it difficult to devote time and resources to something like an MBA. As well as that, MBAs can be very male-dominated. So it’s great that Vlerick offers women the opportunity to really go for it, and supports us throughout the programme.”
THE PROGRAMME IS FLEXIBLE AND ADAPTABLE
Kristin was amazed by the many options available within the MBA format at Vlerick. She says: “For me, the flexibility of the programme is one of the big pulls. You really can tailor it to fit your work and family commitments. I’m doing the combi format – which means classes for two days every three weeks in Brussels and Ghent."
She also credits the class sizes as a huge benefit: “The class size is perfect. It’s small enough to be intimate – the professors have time to get to know you, and they’re very approachable. But equally, it’s big enough for lots of interaction and discussion. There are people from all sorts of sectors in my class – finance, engineering, medical and the arts. It’s great to have such a wide range of industries to learn from, and we’re already learning lots from each other.
An Executive MBA is a big commitment – to do it you need everyone in your family to be on the same page. Luckily, my husband is very supportive. We make it work. It’s an intensive 18 months – but it’s manageable if you organise your time well. When the children are at school, I have time to study. With classes every three weeks, the combi format really works for me.”
A LIFETIME INVESTMENT
Kristin has set her sights high for the future: “I thoroughly enjoyed running my own business – albeit on a small scale. It was great to see what I was capable of – and to realise that I could take my skills even further. After I finish my MBA, I’d like to work in an international Company, to continue learning and see how it works on a large scale."