An MBA journey of transition

October 16 2020

“A little more than one year ago my MBA journey started at Nyenrode Business University. Like many of my classmates, I was in transition, moving from a career in humanitarian aid to understand more about the commercial sector.” Thomas Ian Harrison-Prentice, Full-time MBA Alumnus, Valedictorian and Student of the Year, shares his experience at Nyenrode and the importance of leading from the inside out.

During this past year I have gained an incredible amount of knowledge about the fundamentals of business and management, studying a combination of theory, cases, and live examples. The Nyenrode MBA places strong emphasis on combining theory with practical relevance. A good example of this are the Meet the CEO sessions, led by Prof Dr Désirée van Gorp, which provided an opportunity to interact and present ideas to top CEOs of Dutch and international companies, resulting in great learning and networking opportunities. Last week my group was invited back to present to the whole board of a leading company in Amsterdam.

Leading from the inside out

While the academic knowledge gained is important, I think the most important learnings of the MBA are a deeper understanding about myself, my strengths and weaknesses, and my leadership style. Throughout the year, the course ‘Personal Leadership Development Journey’ challenges each student to look into themselves, culminating in the ‘Life Journey’ assignment. Many students in the cohort have told me they think that when we look back in 10 years, this personal growth will be what made the biggest impact on their life and career.

Facing change

The corona virus pandemic overshadowed the 2nd half of our MBA journey. Working and studying online was different. While being grateful for the trips we could make before the pandemic, it was sad of course to miss planned modules around Europe. However, once through the bumpy transition, the online environment also brought to light new creativity, resilience, and empathy. These attributes will be needed as we face a world that is confronted by a multitude of challenges: climate change threatens to destroy lives, livelihoods, and ecosystems before we wake up to its severity. Racial, gender and wealth inequality require change to societal structures.

Disinformation, social media, and AI threaten to undermine the shared knowledge basis for decision making. Social democracy is under threat by populism and authoritarianism. The global economic and financial system remains fractured and inequitable. Confronted with this reality, those attributes will be important, combined with a belief in using the knowledge and privileges we have to make a positive impact in the world – in line with the  Nyenrode values of Leadership, Entrepreneurship and Stewardship.

A new chapter starts

For the class of 2020, the MBA year has come to an end. The graduation ceremony has been held, speeches given, and hats thrown. However, that does not mean that the process of learning and growing is done. In the contrary, the hard work of continuing our personal leadership development journey towards more authentic, empathetic, impactful leaders outside of the MBA bubble only starts now. I am excited to see where that leads to!

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