María’s MBA is the passport to her career goals

"This was an opportunity to really make my mark."

María Alejandra Bohórquez (Colombia)

María Alejandra Bohórquez has already had three promotions in the marketing team at Coca-Cola FEMSA in her native Colombia – and has her sights set on becoming a marketing director in the future.

María knew she needed to broaden and deepen her business knowledge to continue towards her goal.

She says: “When you start to reach a more senior position in a multinational corporation, you’re expected to have a certain level of education. And because the executive level is still predominantly male, as a woman you really need to make an impact. That’s why I decided to study an MBA.”

For María, it was the right time to further her education. She says: “I wanted to take some time out to study before starting a family. I also had several years’ experience under my belt to go into the MBA programme.”

After considering schools in the UK and the Netherlands, it was the full-time MBA
at Vlerick that grabbed María’s attention. She says: “It’s a very pragmatic programme. You don’t just have classes and methodology – Vlerick focuses on personal development and hands-on experience, especially through the in-company project and study trips. This was something other programmes didn’t offer, so it was a unique opportunity for me.”

The full-time MBA programme was packed with new experiences for María. She says: “It was an intense 12 months – especially when you include an eight-week in-company project and a study trip to China. But it was also a real eye opener. I learned so much – about business, but also about myself. There’s a managerial edge to the course. Of course you need to know the theory, formulas and frameworks. But you also need to know how to apply them. Vlerick combines the technical skills with personal development.”

For her in-company project, María spent eight weeks in the procurement department of a global food and beverage company. She says: “The project involved sourcing deals from various suppliers – so I drew heavily on my negotiation skills and leadership skills. It was one of the best experiences I’ve had, working in such a large company and gaining such valuable insight.”

She credits the Vlerick faculty with providing an open environment to learn in. She says: “The professors are fantastic. They were always approachable – and encouraged us to participate in discussion and activities. There’s such a close relationship between students and faculty and it really adds to the experience.

“Women are always in the minority on MBA courses, and this was true for me. I saw this as an opportunity to really make my mark – and to prepare for an environment I may well encounter later in my professional life. I’m really encouraged there are many women on next year’s programme.”

Now at the end of the programme, María says the whole experience has been a great insight into her abilities and how far she can take them. She says: “The skills I’ve developed the most have been people management, in particular leadership and negotiation.”

And her investment in the future is already paying off. Before she graduated, Coca-Cola FEMSA offered her a management position based in the Philippines. She says: “I wouldn’t be in this position if I hadn’t done the MBA – it’s made me far more professionally desirable.

“The Philippines is my next challenge. I’ll be in a new country with a new language, and a big team to lead. In a few years, I hope to have moved up in the company – and my ultimate goal is to become a marketing director. I want to prove myself in so many ways.”

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