Michael Pearce

Michael Pearce

Michael Pearce
International Full-time MBA Class of 2008 
Global innovator at ExxonMobil

“The RSM MBA changed my professional and personal life.”

Michael Pearce was only 26 when he started the MBA. “RSM was the introduction of a whole new world to me. It changed my life.” He said the level at which top business professionals are expected to perform was new to him, and the new relationships and friendships changed his life. “Learning with people who are so different was a life-changing experience.”

Before coming to Rotterdam, Michael had taught English in France and returned to the USA. “I then wanted to do something bold, move back to Europe, and accelerate my career.” He adds that the MBA made a lot of sense. “I did a lot of business school research. RSM has an international environment, high rankings, a one-year MBA, impressive career placement, and is a good value. And I like the Netherlands. So it was a no-brainer.”

Disrupt to survive

There’s no typical day in Michael’s work as a global innovator at ExxonMobil. He’s now based in Houston but this week he’s in Chicago, and he’s not sure where he’ll be the week after. His previous roles required visits throughout EMEA, and the Americas. “It’s a very global business. We’re in a mature industry, however the pace of change around us is constantly accelerating. All companies these days need to disrupt themselves in order to innovate, and ultimately, survive.”

Michael says ExxonMobil sees electrification and autonomous vehicles and on the horizon. “We’re thinking about how we can compete and create value by doing something new.” He explains his team is constantly working to better understand ever-evolving customer needs, changes in the business and regulatory environment and competition. “I frequently meet face-to-face with various colleagues and business partners. Sometimes it’s in a part of the business that I am familiar with. Other times, less so. But together, we innovate by finding ways to do things differently.”

‘Welcome to the world’

In the MBA, Michael had more than 100 classmates from 45 different countries. “RSM was an incubator of what I would eventually experience at this global company,” he says. He started at ExxonMobil in Brussels because he liked the company and wanted to stay in Europe. “The education in the MBA was top, and the tools and models I learned were crucial in getting myself ready for the business world. And I had the experience of working with people from different nationalities. The MBA was a ‘welcome to the world’ kind of thing.”

The MBA gave him the credentials to work for ExxonMobil, the world’s largest publicly-traded energy company, Michael says. “I learned essential business and communication skills, learned some Dutch and became fluent in French at a ‘business level’ during my internship in Paris. I could never have done this without my RSM MBA.” In addition to an important change in his career path through the MBA, Michael met his closest friends in Rotterdam. “They’re from South America, Europe and Asia. That international experience taught me how to collaborate with people who are different from me to create something of value. This was important then, and still is today.” And ultimately, it was through ExxonMobil in Moscow that Michael met his wife, who also worked at the company. “So you can definitely say my personal life would’ve looked very different without the MBA!”

Making transitions

Still, Michael admits transformations aren’t easy. “You go through experiences. And in group work there were some skills where I depended on others at first. The group dynamics were critical.” In the business world, you must collaborate and find everyone’s strengths together, he explains. “We were always helping each other to grow and learn new things. It’s incredible to work with people who are completely different with various strengths from all over the world.”

Michael says that when people are at a point in their careers in which they want to make a transition, the MBA is a great foundation to prepare to become a business leader. “If you’re considering this, go for it and be engaged as much as you can. It’s challenging, but the more you put in, the more you’ll get out. And Rotterdam is a great place to do it. The programme will fly by, so fully experience every moment and be open minded.”