Erik Stroet


Nationality: Dutch
Work country: Bahrain
Graduated: 2012
Job: Country Head & Chief Executive Officer, BNP Paribas

When I decided to do the GEMBA, it was mostly a personal challenge… In hindsight, it has definitely boosted my career.

You were already pretty senior – why do an EMBA?

When I decided to do the GEMBA, it was mostly a personal challenge. I’d been working for more than 20 years and it felt as if something was missing. I also work for an organisation that values education very highly. In hindsight, it has definitely boosted my career.

And how did you choose INSEAD?

I met people who’d been there and heard from them that the GEMBA was different – not just international, but with an emphasis on entrepreneurship and leadership. I knew then: if I’m going to do this, it has to be INSEAD.

Was the programme what you expected?

You know, it was only when we graduated that I realised the huge and unexpected impact of the GEMBA… I remember the very first day. Everyone seemed very happy with their achievements so far. Just 15 months later, I could see that most of us were different. Even if they weren’t looking to change jobs, they were asking themselves questions. You can use the GEMBA to push yourself up the corporate ladder, but there are so many other choices: pursuing your personal dreams, starting your own venture … you can’t imagine this before you join the programme.

How exactly did you change as a result of the GEMBA?

I knew I was organised, but I never knew I could be this organised. Our second child was due a few months after the start of the programme. But my wife still pushed me to go ahead. “It’s now or never,” she said. “The kids will need you more when they’re a bit older.” So I bought a set of noise-reduction headphones and made a strict timetable for study at evenings and weekends. At the end of the programme my wife said: “Please don’t go back to how you were before it started!” But there were other – more subtle and important –changes…

What are those other changes?

The way I look at things is different. I didn’t lack confidence before, but now I know when to trust my ability – or not. I get the bigger picture and consider options I’d never have looked at before doing the GEMBA. But most of all, I know myself. Again, it was only in the last few days of the programme, when I wrote a reflection paper on the Leadership Development Programme that I finally realised what my weak points were – and how I could turn them into strengths.

What about the impact on your career that you mentioned?

Four months after the programme I got some face time with top management and we’re now in discussions about a new role. But it’s not just about promotion. I find myself getting involved in strategic decisions for the region more than I did before. I see clearly how to form a plan and put it into action. And people react to me differently now. I also have a network of people all over the world to consult for advice. I’m in constant contact with my former classmates. To be honest, they feel more like friends for life than a network!

Network, personal change, impact in the organisation are important… and what about the more technical, concrete learning?

It goes without saying that it was incredible. I encountered so many inspiring examples in class. I kept all my files and I refer back to them all the time.

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