Elanie Steyn

Nationality: South African
Age: 30
Last job title: Assistant Operations Manager at Allan Gray
Previous degree and university: Honours Degree in Financial Management, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa

Elanie Steyn

1. Why did you decide to do an MBA?

“I wanted an edge to set me apart. In my last role I managed team leaders, and I hope the MBA will broaden my thinking and my knowledge to help me move up to senior management. I want to take my learnings from the MBA back in the workforce. I chose RSM because it’s a one-year programme, and I’ve always wanted to live in the Netherlands because of its good living standards. RSM’s rankings, reputation and good value for money also stand out.”

2. What has been the most challenging assignment or activity?

“I worked for seven years before the MBA. Getting back into the routine of being a student again has its perks and challenges. You have to adapt, and be flexible in changing your routine and lifestyle. We’ve also had challenging assignments that were due on the same days, so there’s a lot of time management, planning and discipline required. I’ve also been surprised by the topics. Some are obvious, like marketing and strategy where we go really in-depth which is good. But there are also subjects like quantitative platform for business. This deep dive into statistics caught me off guard and we had to work really hard.”

3. How has the Personal Leadership Development Programme (PLD) affected you?

“It’s very interesting. I’m really enjoying the coaching element, on a team level and personal level. There’s a lot going on in the programme, and this helps in the process as you can use these new perspectives in action in the MBA. I come from leadership already, so some things I have dealt with before but I got a different perspective on it. I also know it will pay off when we start job hunting at the end of the year.”

4. Do you notice different cultural approaches to working within diverse teams in the programme?

“For sure. People are very different, in a good way. That’s why you go abroad to do an MBA. You want to learn from people who come from various backgrounds and experiences. It’s an incredible learning curve. In every team I’ve learned how to adapt my approach and how to deal with different people. Some cultures are more reluctant to speak up in the beginning, or they plan more in advance. But others feel like constant collaboration is necessary. When you get together in a pressurised environment, everyone adapts to their own team culture and form a new group to achieve the goals. In the real world you also work in diverse teams.”        

5. How would you describe the RSM MBA experience?

“It’s challenging but exciting. You have to come in with an open mind. Suddenly there’s an extra amount of learning you didn’t realise was going to happen. Definitely worth it. You’re here for a reason. You make amazing friends, and can learn so much from them. You just become part of the RSM community, a group of really smart people. When you walk out, then you stay part of that network forever. You have to be open to that experience.”

6. After the full-time MBA, what does the future hold?

“I’ll probably head back to South Africa, and in a few years explore options around Europe. I’d like to stay in operations management, but more as a head of department or director role (eventually). I also want to learn the operational aspects of other industries than finance. And I want to make a positive impact on the people I’ll be leading. It’s a circular effect: people who have good leaders are happier and hopefully they will pay it forward to the people they will lead and manage. You then create a healthy work force that isn’t only about numbers and tasks. It’s the human beings that make things happen.”