Hands-on business experience is among the key things that MBA students are advised to look for in their MBA programs.
Particularly for students who are looking to move their career—whether that’s to a new industry or a new country—getting experience outside of your comfort zone is paramount to landing your dream career.
At Maastricht School of Management (MSM), MBAs get the opportunity to take part in graduate traineeships after completing their studies. This year several MBA graduates joined international healthcare company Arion.
Also based in the Netherlands, Arion produces two main healthcare products, and enlists the MBA trainees to do essential research and outreach in marketing and more.
“It’s a very big hands-on assignment,” explains Fabian Groven, the Corporate Social Responsibility manager at Arion. “There is a little bit of information-gathering, of course, but we also expect them to reach out to potential distributors.”
MSM prides itself on its international environment: situated in Maastricht, close to Holland’s borders with Germany and Belgium, students are well-placed to experience multiple business contexts, and the classes are frequently filled with a diverse range of nationalities.
It also has a more experienced cohort than many MBA programs: the average age on the current cohort is 32.
Both of these elements of the MBA at Maastricht School of Management contribute to students’ positive performance during the traineeship, says Fabian.
“What we think part of the value of MSM students is, is that they generally have more life experience compared to students of other knowledge institutions,” he says.
“They often also have a lot of international experience because they come from different countries, different continents, different cultures—it’s nice to have different cultures at Arion, where you can learn from that.”
Confidence to take initiative
The international management courses and multicultural environment of the MBA mean that students arrive equipped to delve deep into new markets for their employer, and the confidence they have gained from their year of learning shows in their work.
“Because they have more experience, we also see that [MSM grads] are a bit more independent—they need less support and although of course we are willing to offer that, we also expect people to take initiative,” says Fabian. “In general, MSM students are good at that.”
Paula Back is a current MBA trainee at Arion, and she believes that the company is the ideal forum for her to apply what she learned on her MBA.
Originally from Brazil, she chose the Netherlands to study in because of its international connections and the opportunity to stay in the country for a year after her studies, thanks to the Search Year Visa offered by the Dutch government.
“Mainly, what weighted my decision for the Netherlands was the environment—it’s very international and multicultural, and it’s great to be part of a big group,” Paula says.
She’s currently doing market research for Arion, helping them to expand their products into new markets using a different model.
“Everything is new, which is very exciting,” she says. “Everything that we learned during the marketing course on the MBA, I’m putting into practice now.”
“What the MBA affords you is not only education, but a completely new mindset and view of the world, and what you learn at the end of the program is more about yourself and how you can do business—it’s possible to apply these tools because you have a proper environment.”
Alain Mugabo is another MSM MBA who is working alongside Paula at Arion. Originally from Rwanda, his background is in his family business, and he decided to go to Maastricht School of Management to sharpen his skills in international business and specialize in Healthcare Management.
Like Paula, he believes that his MBA prepared him well for his traineeship.
“It’s more than what I was expecting,” he says. “I was interacting with many players in the school—the faculty that MSM work with include many actors in the business region here and in Germany.
“They have a lot of connections that I enjoyed [taking advantage of] a lot, because I was able to make contact with other people in the region, connections I got from MSM.”
Indeed, these interpersonal skills are put to good use in an environment like Arion, as it is a relatively small company but with a big international reach. Alain says that he has a good relationship with Arion’s CEO and with the company’s workforce, and he is enjoying his market research project.
Much like Paula, his experiences at Maastricht School of Management and the Arion Group have encouraged Alain to stay in the Netherlands for a bit longer.
“You want to go to a place where you feel welcomed and at home [for your MBA],” he says. “It’s cold here—especially for someone from Rwanda—but the people are warm!”