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INSEAD Participant Interview
Reframe yourself with the Transition to General Management programme
Senior Program Manager
"It’s a moment that helps you start looking at your career, your industry and at your professional development differently. It’s like reframing yourself." Maarten Kerbert on how the Transition to General Management programme helps give you different perspectives.
Why did you choose to enroll on the Transition to General Management programme?
I attended the Young Managers Programme in 2000 and so was familiar with INSEAD. In 2012, my Director said I could choose an executive education course to attend. I said I’d like to go to INSEAD. I knew that the Transition to General Management programme was the next step. That’s why I chose it. It was a good fit in terms of my level of seniority and where I was in my career. It was perfect.
What were some of your expectations ahead of joining?
I had very high expectations which were surpassed.
You know that the Transition to General Management programme is one of the best programmes in Europe. That was my mindset before attending.
I wanted a strategic programme that gave insights into how you look at markets, how you look at politics, how you look at the global economy and how all these relate to each other.
How did you find the faculty?
The quality of professors lay in not only what they knew, but also what they did, who they knew and were connected to. The stories they could tell about their experiences of advising boards, that’s what made it really exciting. It made you feel like you have the inside stories, rather than just the textbook knowledge.
Was there lots of interaction in the class?
Absolutely. The group was divided into two and with 30 in each group, you get more than enough interaction. We were all quite senior executives who wanted to get most out of the programme. This meant the questions came by themselves. No one held back. It was very interactive. It should be. You learn more by asking questions and by discussing.
Some participants were more advanced than others, but we all have our differences and that’s fine.
So you can learn a lot from the other participants?
Definitely. The mixing of people from different cultures and industries was very valuable. You learn more because can look at your own challenges in different ways, with different perspectives. If someone else has challenges they are facing, but can overcome them, why can’t we? This then becomes part of your discussion. How do you organise change in your company? How do you steer and direct it?
What did you think of the modular format?
The first module creates a cliffhanger and you know you want to meet the other participants again. You automatically start reaching out to them to catch up in between. In doing so you create a sense of togetherness.
Somewhere in between the two, the Dutch on the programme decided to meet. Almost everybody (15 to 16 people) attended. It was a little bit of a reunion. People said we should do it after the second module. We did. Even others joined. It was natural flow from one reunion to the other.
Could you tell us about the reunions that you take part in each year?
I am one of the presidents and help organise the reunions. It’s a very active group and the attendance over the years has been amazing. Since 2012, we’ve been to Spain, Greece, Latvia, Holland and Fontainebleau. Around 20 attend each reunion (out of a total class of 60). This is amazing considering how busy people are in their professional and personal lives. It has become a very close group of friends who can share without holding anything back.
One of great things about the Transition to General Management programme was that we all came with expectations. We all had our personal and professional development challenges. In the first module, participants spoke only of their successes. However, little by little, we all realised we all had challenges regardless of career position, industry worked in and personal setting. This made you quickly realise that we were on the same wavelength and that we had the same level of understanding. This is what has also happened in the group. Since the end of the programme we have continued to share challenges and this is something that bonds us.
So, the programme was perfect, but what happened after was even more fabulous. In all it has been quite a life-changing event. The reunions make you feel a kind of energy you don’t feel anywhere else.
Is the interest for the group and the reunions still strong?
Absolutely. It’s getting better every year and the group is growing year on year. We still feel the same energy, laughter and enthusiasm that we did when we first started in 2012. Everyone looks forward to the reunions and everybody comes with great expectations.
People continue to face challenges and we reach out to one another. What we have created is a platform in which people can share things; share with people who know you, where you’re coming from, understand who you are on a personal level and what you are looking for professionally. It’s a safe place to share.
It’s been quite an experience to meet such a large group of people and make friends. It’s not something that happens very often. One participant comes from India each year, the other even from Australia. It’s testament to the bonds that have been created.
How has your career changed since the programme?
I attended the programme at a time when I felt I had hit a ceiling in my company. I was responsible for restructuring my department and in doing so I would become redundant.
As soon as I had finished the Transition to General Management programme I started looking out for new possibilities. I looked internally, but found that there were not many vacancies that I felt suited me. I sensed more and more that should one come along, it would be a role very similar to the one I wanted to leave. It would not be something new, challenging or something I could learn from. It would be a repeat of my then current role and not something that would add to my personal development.
The more I thought about it, the more I felt that the company and I needed to part ways. If I could not continue to add value, and if the company could not do the same in return, then we should part.
All of a sudden it became an easy decision to make, but also a decision I could not have made without the understanding that I gained at INSEAD and on the programme. It gave me a different perspective on what matters and doesn’t in a career.
My ambition all along was to reach director level within my company, but the Transition to General Management programme helped me realise I am designed in a different way and helped me focus on what I wanted and on jobs that were suitable to me.
Today, I work as a programme manager in the financial services industry. The company for which I work wants to merge two branch organisations into one and I am responsible for this.
Did the programme give you a more rounded view of your career?
It gave me the bigger picture and provided me with insights into my own profile and what suits me.
What would you say to someone who asks you about the programme?
I would describe it as life-changing. It’s a moment that helps you start looking at your career, your industry and at your professional development differently. It’s like reframing yourself.
Visit the website to learn more about the Transition to General Management programme.