Simone Marschall: drawing on the well of experience

Make sure you consider the less tangible aspects of your work and personal life and choose what you enjoy in both. This was the answer given by Simone Marschall, a graduate of the Full-time MBA 2012, when asked what advice she might offer to anyone considering committing to undertaking an MBA.

Story by Brian Bollen

Focusing on something you enjoy is not a lazy option, as some might see it. Rather it can be a key to maximising one’s potential, and can deliver unforeseen consequences. She points to the classic example of Steve Jobs, who famously popped into calligraphy classes at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, after dropping out of formal studies. ‘Who would have guessed that he would eventually monetise this when he began to achieve success with Apple computers?’ she says.

Entrepreneurial travel sabbatical

Simone, who began her MBA studies in 2011 and is currently pursuing what she describes as an entrepreneurial-cum-travel sabbatical, is drawing upon a deep well of experience at what is relatively still a young age. Born in the Netherlands in 1977, she has had an international upbringing having lived in Chile and in Canada, and, among other things, studied economics in Edinburgh, Scotland.

It was during this period that she realised that the economics manifesto which she dreamt of writing would come up against a difficulty: the tendency of people not to behave in practice to fit someone else’s theory. This led her to add social and organisational psychology to her formidable roster of studies.

Creating opportunities

She has seen certain decisions she made in order to enhance her personal life later feed into other areas, including work. ‘Going to Canada to study banking, but mainly to go skiing, eventually created the opportunity to return there to do consultancy work with Mercer in Toronto.”

At global consultancy firm Mercer, she analysed financial statements and statistical data to benchmark, value and establish executive compensation packages across a range of industries. This took her into the fashion and retail industry in The Hague as business controller of Artesanos Camiseros, a custom-made shirt retailer. ‘That in turn helped to bring me to where I am today,’ she explains.

Simone Marschall is clearly very much driven by a sense of purpose. She also has fond memories of her time studying at RSM, for a compelling combination of reasons. ‘It has given me an immense sounding board which helps me in my decision-making,’ she says. ‘The way that each profession looks at opportunities is radically different.’

Team ethic

‘You become very much engaged with the people you are working with so closely for a year, and learn from the different skills and perspectives they will have. Working with people who have skills in, for example, computer programming, in marketing, in engineering or in public relations, allows you to gain valuable insights into different perspectives. This enables you to understand the broader implications of decisions, involving the right stakeholders.’

Sporting activity provides fond memories. ‘At one intercollegiate event we almost won the volleyball,’ she says, clearly still struck by what would have been a highly unlikely achievement. Even in losing that final she finds a positive. ‘One thing that sticks with me is that the team captain made sure everyone had a chance to play,’ she says. In this context, pursuing a team ethic took priority over winning.

Risks and rewards

The message is that while taking an MBA can be a big risk, the rewards can be even bigger, and those rewards are practical as well as educational. ‘My new network helped in my four years at PVH [a leading fashion holding company, formerly known as Phillips-Van Heusen, with Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein in its brand portfolio],’ she goes on. ‘If I needed to speak to a specialist adviser on a specialist topic in a different country, I could find out very quickly just who I should speak to.’

Simone identifies this intangible benefit as a large component of the value of doing an MBA, during and after the course itself. Each individual’s level of learning will be highly dependent on the quality of one’s fellow students. Given RSM’s acknowledged high standards, and the self-selecting nature of the peer group, their levels of skill, ability and commitment are certain to be high.

Social and emotional support

Social and emotional support also proved immensely important, if largely unexpected. On the social side, Simone began her year of MBA study determined not to develop a late-night lifestyle. ‘Within weeks, though, we all thought nothing of visiting one another at two or three in the morning for a coffee and a chat,’ she recalls. ’You always had someone to talk to and engage with at any time.’

This emotional support came into its own very early in Simone’s MBA year, when her mother Alida (Lydia) Wesselingh died. Alida had been the first female geophysicist to graduate in the Netherlands. ‘It helped enormously that I had such outstanding people around me,’ she says.

Returning to the present, what are her plans? ‘I want to fully invest in myself, in an online fashion and retail business app that I am currently developing, in completing my CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants) qualification and in travelling with my daughter before she has to go to school,’ she says.

‘I don’t know anyone else who is doing an entrepreneurial travelling sabbatical but am receiving an increasing number of enquiries from people about pursuing a similar route,’ she adds. Where she is headed sounds very much as if it could be unique and pioneering, thanks mainly to of her sense of purpose and a great deal of determination.

More information

This article was first published in the winter 2018 edition of RSM Outlook – RSM’s alumni and corporate relations magazine. You can download RSM Outlook here.

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s top 10 business schools. RSM provides ground-breaking research and education furthering excellence in all aspects of management and is based in the international port city of Rotterdam – a vital nexus of business, logistics and trade. RSM’s primary focus is on developing business leaders with international careers who can become a force for positive change by carrying their innovative mindset into a sustainable future. Our first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes encourage them to become critical, creative, caring and collaborative thinkers and doers. Study information and activities for future students, executives and alumni are also organised from the RSM office in Chengdu, China.



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