Axel Pieters

Axel Pieters

Programme/year: Finishing his first year of OneMBA
Nationality: Dutch
Job Title: Managing Director
Company: Ecovalor
Age: 44


"It is creating tremendous opportunities to move on, as it educates you in how to achieve new goals. It will provide a great boost for the second half of my career."

What is your current work?

I manage a waste management company in which I was in charge of setting up from the beginning. We specialise in recovering energy from waste in the cement industry. Ecovalor is part of a Swiss-based cement company. The cement industry is a very energy-intensive industry but we can supply a majority of the energy we need through re-using waste. We use the equivalent of 100, 000 tonnes of waste per year that would otherwise be sent to landfill.

When did you get the idea of doing an MBA?

I was doing a leadership course at IMD in Lausanne. For part of the programme, I had a personal coach with whom I had quite intensive discussions, mainly about my life and where I was headed. During the discussions, it was suggested that I would do an MBA. That started me thinking.

The structure of the RSM course made it manageable alongside my other commitments; the programme can be financed in three annual instalments so that is also manageable. Finally, I could not find a better one. I am Dutch but I live in Romania so it makes no difference for me where I go. I checked out London, Spain, Paris and Vienna but RSM came out on top.

What other factors stood out in making your decision?

Firstly, the innovation; it’s at the forefront of the course and in the intellects of the students.

One of the drivers of the programme is sustainability and obviously for someone in my line of business this was a major motivator for me to come to RSM.

I have already mentioned the structure of the course but this really was a factor too. Most MBA programmes ask you to study by stepping out of your job for several weeks at a time – which is impossible for someone in my position. But the rhythm of attending RSM four days every six weeks worked well for me.

You’ve now been on two global residencies, how have you found these?

The first of these was in the United States and the other in Europe. They were very intensive but, if anything, too short! The interaction between the OneMBA students of the different universities is a main attraction, to learn from different cultures.

…and the Global OneMBA course itself?

The Global OneMBA course is very educational, a great experience, intensive and inspiring. I can use many of the things I have learned directly in my daily business, and I can now see things that I could not see before. For example, I have now made changes to our supply chain as a result of the tools presented on the course. I have also had my eyes opened to change management and realised that we need to improve the quality of the discussions within the company. There are things that I felt were not quite right before and the theory I have learned has helped me realise why.

My colleagues on the course are perfect. They are people who have experienced life and know how to manage it.

You travel every six weeks to Rotterdam. How do you balance this with your work and family life?

The journey to Rotterdam is a three hour flight. This is a lot less than some people have to travel – some of my Germans classmates drive more to get here. For me it’s not really a problem; the main time issue is the pre-reading and the work between the courses; it can be difficult to stay on top of it and it needs consistent attention.

I’ve found my classmates very supportive in stepping in to help with group assignments when things are busy with work. Of course, you return the favour when they are also busy.

RSM’s four values are Critical Thinking, Innovation, Sustainability and Spirit. How are these expressed in the course?

Critical Thinking – Without thinking on your own your business will fail. You are really stimulated to think outside of the box – and you see that this is the way for companies to survive.

Innovation – This is definitely expressed in the course, and is probably the whole point of it; to encourage people to think outside of the box, and widen their vision to include those things people do not think are a valid solution.

Sustainability From my point of view, anything that improves my business improves sustainability. By increasing awareness of our business practices, we are helping to reach our sustainable goals.

Spirit – The spirit is very good. I have friendships with people I meet. Of course you are learning all the time and this stimulates a good atmosphere.

How do you see your life changing as a result of the MBA?

It is creating tremendous opportunities to move on as it educates you in how to achieve new goals. It will provide a great boost for the second half of my career. If you don’t develop from the age of 40 you will have a hard time sitting out the next 20 years.