Astrid Altena

Astrid Altena

Nationality: Dutch
Age: 38
Job title: Director and owner of Astrum Borealis
Previous degree: Master of Environmental Technology, Wageningen University

1. How did you come across the Executive MBA?

Last year I started with a new business concept. I felt I needed an MBA that would teach me how business is done internationally and that focuses on diversity and individuality. I wanted an MBA with a high reputation and good accreditations. I looked across Europe and beyond before I noticed RSM’s really high score.

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

As I have strong planning skills, I try to plan my exams and group assignments way in advance. I am lucky to be self-employed, so I am quite flexible and able to work on evenings and weekends. Still, you need a lot of self-discipline to stick to your planning.

3. Is having an MBA common in your organisation?

When I started the EMBA I was already a self-employed interim professional. I want my start-up to grow into an international company. After understanding how many aspects are involved and how little I actually knew, I realised that I missed a helicopter view of doing business. Going back to school gives me knowledge about new developments, innovation and corporate concepts that I need to build my own business on. I’m also developing a network of people who can be important to me when expanding this concept.

4. Have you been able to immediately incorporate your learning into practice?

Yes, not only directly in my business, but also in myself. I learn about my strengths and weaknesses and am more aware of how the broader economic context affects my business start-up. I also developed a broader set of aspects on how I learn and have become more aware of how I interact with different kind of people and how to influence that interaction.

5. What is your contact like with others on the course?

Everyone makes different contributions to the programme. We are all very diverse and ambitious, which creates a lot of energy in the group, especially during the study trip to Johannesburg. It’s really special to meet and connect with people from so many different backgrounds who I wouldn’t have met otherwise.

6. How have you found RSM’s four themes expressed through the EMBA?

  • Sustainability – I’m excited to learn about sustainability, especially when combining it with my previous degree. Sustainability is a way of living. I know a lot about it and am looking forward to incorporate it in my new business concept.
  • Innovation – The EMBA has a traditional way of looking at corporate concepts. The EMBA provides the structure to link innovation to this traditional structure. You need to look at the history to be able to look forward, and the EMBA provides me with that bridge.
  • Critical Thinking – Professors challenge us to think for ourselves and discuss our views with the right arguments, also in team assignments. I use the advantages of critical thinking skills when working as an interim professional. I listen more carefully and translate issues into my own thoughts, use my intuition and present new views that help the different organisations I work in.
  • Spirit – There’s a real RSM community among students, alumni, staff and faculty. RSM encourages people to be and stay who they are. Being here is not only about connecting with other people, but also connecting with yourself.

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

The study trip to South Africa. During class you learn how to do business in an instrumental way. In Johannesburg we were challenged to also look at the social aspects and complex context of business. If you want to be successful, you should be part of a community and learn how things flow before you can do business there. If you figure out how people interact on a micro-level, you can translate that into how they do business together. It overwhelmed me. These international aspects and interacting with people from different cultures have made a deep impression on me during the EMBA.

The EMBA focuses on many functional aspects of corporate business as well as entrepreneurs. It’s wonderful that RSM also provides one-on-one coaching for training your soft skills what is useful for learning how to communicate, engage and present my concept to stakeholders.

8. What do you envisage for the future?

The EMBA is only the starting point of my future. After the EMBA I will be able to launch my own new concept. That’s a huge milestone in my career. I look forward to the in-company project that will focus on the first iteration of my start up, using my new knowledge from classes, classmates and especially the professors whom I stay in touch with and are inspiring sparring partners. The process of launching my concept feels like being born. It’s all about establishing its identity and I’m really excited about that.