With their sights set on high-flying careers, El Salvador-born Walter Armando Moran and Sara Abou Haider—from Lebanon—knew location was a key factor in their decision of where to study if they were going to make valuable connections in their target companies.
That’s why they travelled across the world to study for an MBA in Europe. Europe is home to some of the world’s most prestigious companies to work for. Plus, the ease of city hopping makes it an attractive destination for students looking to broaden their international horizons even further.
Embarking on an international MBA program
Working in a multinational company means day-to-day you’ll be liaising and collaborating with people from different backgrounds and cultures—both in-person and virtually.
In his post-MBA role as global innovation manager at AB InBev—a multinational drink and brewing company based in Belgium—Walter engages with up to 50 stakeholders per day across different markets.
For him, preparing for this fast-paced, dynamic environment meant stepping out of his comfort zone. The MBA program at Vlerick Business School in Brussels, Belgium, offered him the chance to work alongside an international cohort in an equally as diverse city.
“The MBA program at Vlerick was the most international program I found in terms of the cohort, Brussels as a city, and the opportunities—this was a huge selling point,” he says.
The Vlerick Business School MBA cohort typically welcomes around 85% international students. It mirrors the diversity of Brussels, which has a population that’s around 70% international.
“As an international student, moving to a hugely multicultural city and business school made the transition easier,” says Walter.
Collaborating with this diverse cohort during an MBA degree allows students to develop essential cross-cultural communication skills and embrace new perspectives on business.
“When working in a global role, you need to have emotional intelligence and understand there are different ways of communicating to get results,” says Walter.
During the Vlerick Business School MBA, students work together in multiple projects such as the Integrated management exercise—a week-long intensive business game where teams compete the run the best company. Plus, international study trips in Europe mean students can gain a first-hand perspective on how multinational companies operate.
For Sara too, this was a very enriching experience, she says. Before joining the MBA program, Sara worked for eight years in sales and marketing in the pharmaceutical industry at Pfizer in Lebanon.
“Lebanon is a very small market and even at Pfizer only the commercial department was available. The MBA gave me a more high-level view on how big companies work and all the different functions operate together," she says.
Exposed to a much bigger market in Europe with access to top companies, Sara landed a role with KPMG after graduating the Vlerick MBA program.
"I was thrown into an environment with people from different cultures and with professional experiences so these exchanges gave me a new perspective on business and my career path," says Sara.
Connecting with multinational companies during an MBA
It’s no secret that landing a role at a big-name company is highly competitive. However, you can get your foot in the door by forging connections with company seniors or demonstrating your skills outside of the formal application process.
That’s exactly what Walter did during the two-month, in-company project on the Vlerick MBA program. With his sights set on a career at AB InBev, he secured a place working with the company’s marketing team for his project so he could start building his network and understand more about how the company works.
“The team was very focused on us and through that we could find out about the skills and qualities the company was looking for in its new hires. We also got a feel for the company culture to see if it aligned with our own values,” he says.
When Walter saw an opportunity arise at AB InBev, he reached out to a Vlerick alumnus he had met during the company project and from there was able to connect more informally with the hiring manager before interviewing for the role.
“The networking opportunities through these experiences and the international Vlerick alumni are unmatched,” he says.
Similarly, fellow MBA graduate, Sara also benefited from the value of MBA company projects. Leveraging her experience in the pharmaceutical industry, Sara secured a company project in the global strategy team at American multinational pharmaceutical company, Johnson & Johnson.
After impressing the team, Sara received an offer for a full-time role. However, studying the MBA inspired her to take a leap and pursue a new career path.
Sara showcased her transferable skills from her experience to land a role as senior strategy advisor at KPMG where she specializes in advising life sciences and pharmaceutical companies.
“The MBA opened my horizons to the new opportunities that were available to me now I had diversified my skillset,” she says.