INSEAD Participant Interview

INSEAD Participant Profile: a General Manager in Transition

Dick Zwaveling

Finance and Organisation Manager for Nedvang

Dick Zwaveling is Finance and Organisation Manager for Nedvang, the Netherlands scheme for packaging recycling. He recently completed the INSEAD Transition to General Management programme in preparation for a forthcoming promotion. In the following interview, he tells us all about his INSEAD experience.

How did your career lead up to the programme?

I was an IT engineer for many years. Eventually I went freelance and found myself managing projects outside IT. One project was here in, Nedvang – and I ended up staying. That was four years ago. And from 1 April (a significant date, some might say!) I will be the general manager.

Why did you choose INSEAD and Transition to General Management?

It was the perfect fit. I wanted a programme that was more than just a few days, as it had to take me up to a whole new career level. But an EMBA would have been too long. The two-times-two-weeks format seemed just right. And I wanted to be at a leading international school – not just to get the best education available but also to benchmark myself with top people.

Were there any particular challenges that you wanted to address?

Definitely. In the next few months I’ll have to become an expert in lots of new fields. But I think the major challenge will be letting my people do their work without interfering – to distance myself from the operational.

Do you think the programme will help you rise to these challenges?

It already has! I’ve already taken on some of my new duties and I’ve used the models for marketing and strategy that I learned at INSEAD. After doing the 360-degree assessment, I also understand my colleagues better – and they understand me better too. My course material is in my study at home and, depending on what I’m working on, I consult it regularly. Last week I had to give a speech at a conference in Rotterdam, so I took out the notes from the classes on communications, which were very helpful.

What was your impression of the INSEAD faculty?

They’re all not just experts but performers. What struck me most was that each professor had a different way of teaching. The strategy professor kept our attention for four hours, using an old-fashioned over-head projector, while the organisational behaviour professor was particularly energetic and entertaining.

Why was the international aspect of the programme important to you?

At Nedvang we work a lot with sister organisations in other countries and have a lot of international suppliers. Most of the staff are Dutch, but a lot of my board members are managers in international organisations. Since the programme I relate much better to their world of management. There are other hidden benefits too. Cultural differences are a bit like personality differences, only magnified. And being in an international class shows you how different approaches can lead to success. Besides… it’s fun. And fun is important for learning!

Was there time for fun outside the classroom too?

Yes, ours was a very enthusiastic class! We’ve all kept in touch and are currently planning a reunion in Madrid.

Finally, would you recommend the programme to others?

I’d recommend it without hesitation, because of the international aspect and because of the quality. Technical skills, soft skills, self-knowledge and the bigger picture… it’s everything you need for general management in one programme – even personal fitness. It’s a benefit I wasn’t expecting, but I’m the fittest I’ve been for ten years!

To find out more about the Transition to General Management programme and how it can help with your own career transition, click here.

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