Mirjam van Aarle

Nationality: Dutch
Age: 27
Job title and company: Deputy Head of Logistics of the Engineer Workforce at Ministry of Defence
Previous degree and university: Bachelor of Military Business Studies at the Royal Netherlands Military Academy  

1.  Why did you decide to join RSM’s Executive MBA?  

“I work for the Dutch army. When I was filling in for colleagues who were deployed to Afghanistan and Mali, I learned a lot in a short time. This made me realise I wanted to accelerate my personal growth. I wanted to get a broader social and cultural view. The atmosphere at RSM seemed vibrant and alive. People are motivated here, and it’s an international and multicultural environment.”  

2.  How did people around you react when you decided to go for it?  

“Most people were very excited. My partner and my boss were encouraging me. Some people doubted the value of an MBA in a non-commercial environment. But I believe that the skills learned in the MBA could bring great value to any environment, including the army.  

3.  How are you managing to balance studying with work?  

“Combining a full-time job with an MBA is challenging for everyone. It’s all about discipline and planning, and a very patient partner and friends. I did have to cut down some overtime at work. I was covering for people who were deployed. I now don’t do ‘extra jobs’ at work during the EMBA. So I work in the daytime, and do EMBA assignments in the evening.”  

4.  How is the EMBA experience affecting your work?  

“It’s giving me a lot of energy. I approach matters differently than I did before. I take more initiative and want to make positive changes to things that are normally set in stone in the army.”  

5.  What is the return on investment you expect from the Executive MBA?  

“I wanted to do the MBA programme to grow as a person and as a professional. It’s a new set of tools in my toolbox. I’m using my brain in a different way than I would at work. The people I meet at RSM are also a great return on investment.”  

6.  How has the Personal Leadership Development (PLD) programme affected you?  

“It’s about personal awareness. It makes your strengths and weaknesses more apparent. It also helps you identify who you are. Talking about it in an open environment gives you a better perspective of things you do and don’t do, and help me become a better leader.”  

7.  What can you say about your classmates?  

“They’re great! It’s impossible to not meet interesting people at RSM. They make the classes so much more interesting – every conversation brings these people’s lives together. We are good friends now, and have a lot of fun.”  

8.  What has been the best part of the EMBA so far?  

“The people are the best thing about the EMBA. It’s great that everyone has a minimum of four years’ work experience. There’s a great mixture of backgrounds in culture and industries.”  

9.  Which class have you enjoyed most so far – and why?  

“Accounting – I never realised the amount of influence accounting has on how people perceive your business. I thought there would be two ways of portraying the truth, but you can be creative – I learned a lot of lessons from this. Managerial economics was a great class too.”  

10.  What did you learn from the international study trip – and where did you go?  

“The study trip to South Africa has made me approach things differently. It was a great learning experience. A lot of Western people ask how to help people in townships but the question should be how they can help themselves, this was an eye opener to me.”  

11.  What is the biggest challenge of the Executive MBA?  

“Finding time for my partner, family and friends. I work full-time and live on the army base on weekdays. So my social life is only on weekends, and I do EMBA assignments then too so this is a big challenge.”  

12.  After the Executive MBA, what does the future hold?  

“I don’t know where this journey will take me. But I’m sure the EMBA will help me identify opportunities. And once I seize these opportunities, my new skills will help me overcome the challenges on the way, wherever I end up.”