Ben van den Burgh

Ben van den Burgh

“Simply knowing how to achieve a goal is not enough. There must also be some internal mission; a drive deep within yourself. The focus of the Global OneMBA programme is on building your passion, character, judgement, and knowledge. These are the things I am getting out of my MBA: the ingredients needed for success.” 

Currently: Global OneMBA student and Special Products Director at WebAds.

 Background: World champion speed skater; Television host and producer; Vodafone marketing manager. 

 You’re onto your second successful career. What does it take to successfully reach a goal? 
When I was young, my goal in my life was to become a world-class speed skater. I achieved that goal when I was 21. Afterwards I read many books on how to succeed, and found that a lot of what they suggested I had done without realising it. But simply knowing how to achieve a goal is not enough. There must also be some internal mission; a passion or drive deep within yourself. When I changed careers [from television to marketing], I realised that I needed to go into an industry I really liked, and to do something I had a similar passion for. 

How did you think an MBA would help you? 
In my job I am bringing new services into the market, which requires understanding customer demands. I always did this by following my gut feeling, but I wanted to know the theoretical background to these decisions. I was also ready for a new challenge; a new learning curve. While I love learning and reading and have a lot of self-discipline, even I need that push that an MBA gives you. Lastly, I wanted to meet intelligent people who had experienced industries and roles outside my own. Get this sort of people together in a room and you have a synergy you don’t normally find. 

What were your reasons for choosing the part-time (modular) Global OneMBA? 
I wanted to continue working. Some people do an MBA because they want to change career; I just wanted to be better at what I currently do. I looked at Insead and IESE, which are significantly more expensive, but I couldn’t see the added value; plus I loved that the OneMBA is global. Another important factor was the programme directors: I found them to be characters with passion. They talked immediately about sustainability and the broader role of companies in society – it wasn’t all about making profits. There is so much money in the world it is almost a commodity. It is what you do with that money that is important. 

Did you find your previous accomplishments made you a unique member of the programme? 
No, interestingly, most people in the programme have unique backgrounds. I heard a great story by a board member recently who said, “When I was 30, I thought people need to have knowledge to be a leader. When I was 40, I realised that knowledge is important, but it is judgement that really matters. When I was 50, I realised judgement is valuable, but it is character that makes the difference. And when I was 60, I thought no, it is passion that is the mark of a great leader.” The Global OneMBA programme is full of characters with passion, and the focus of the programme is on developing this character, passion, judgement, and knowledge – these are the ingredients needed to reach a goal. 

How are you currently implementing what you’re learning in the programme?
I can take a much broader view of what I do. I work with a lot of consultants, and sometimes you need to give answers. I am creative, but because I now have an understanding of supply chains, I can factor this into the advice I give, and the decisions I make. At this point in the programme we have gained a lot of knowledge. The next part is about our changing behaviour in order to execute the decisions we make. 

In your current career, what will be your next gold medal? 
I want to be an international digital marketing specialist. My great goal is to develop the advertising model for the digital world, which will mean consumers can consume media more cheaply. If Google had not come up with the advertising model for the internet they never would have become so big. It is quite a challenging goal, but the goal I set myself when I was young was also challenging. 

How will you know when you have achieved that goal? 
That’s a good question. In a sports career results are very concrete – you know when you have won. But in my current career, success is much more subjective. I could say, ‘When I give a presentation about digital marketing to Google, or Apple, then I know I am there.’ But the advantage of having achieved a goal already is I know that achieving it may not make me happy. Success is more about my own personal feeling that I am on the right track, and doing what I should be doing.