‘One degree is no longer enough; lifelong learning has become the norm’
‘This MBA is not only something I do for myself, but also to show my sons the right example’
Being the son of a missionary, MBA student Matthew Smoorenburg (45) lived in various places on the globe. After being born in a Dutch town called Apeldoorn, he moved to the French island of Matinique at three months, to relocate to Haiti when he was ten years old. After finishing his bachelor degree in the Netherlands and France, he returned to Haiti and, with his cousin, launched a company in second-hand computers. In a country where computers were much needed but extremely expensive at the same time, their company Keijzer Computer turned out to be an undiscovered business opportunity.
More than twenty years later Keijzer Computer is still the successful company it was back then – with a second branch in St Maarten (also known as Saint Martin in the Caribbean). We sit down with serial entrepreneur and student Matthew and ask him how it was to dive back into study books after running a successful company for over twenty years – and the main reason why he decided to add the Action Learning MBA to his skill set.
You are 45 years old (young) and running a successful company, as well as a few companies “on the side”. What made you decide to do the MBA?
‘When I returned to Haiti after obtaining my Bachelor degrees in the Netherlands and France, the plan originally was to do an MBA straight afterwards. Yet, there was a “minor” problem: I didn’t have the money for it. Moreover, my cousin who then also lived in Haiti, saw the opportunity to start our business together. Today, 22 years later, that company is still fully operational, although we shifted from second hand computers to new ones. In addition, we run a successful branch on Saint Martin too. The business is going well and my family and I moved to Miami. I have the financial resources and my sons are at an age (15 and 18) when I now have the time and space to do the MBA. That’s why I knocked on BSN’s door late 2013 to register.’
How important is education to you?
‘I have always been a firm believer of the power of education and what it can do for a country and economy. Take for instance a country like Haiti, one of the poorest countries in this part of the world, where education is expensive and, thus only accessible for the lucky few. I personally am convinced things would be very different for this country if only everybody had access to good education. For my personal life, I value education very highly too. After all, you never know what might happen in the future. The world has changed rather drastically over the past twenty years and with a Masters title behind your name, I am sure you’ll always end up in a good place.’
An example you also like to set out for your sons, right?
‘Correct. In the old days, having one single degree was enough to succeed in life. Those days are long gone; life long learning at present has become the norm to ensure a successful career.’
What has been the most valuable – concrete – lesson of the MBA?
‘I’m not really the academic type, meaning that from time to time I found the theory quite challenging. Having said that, it has taught me so much about how to conduct research, to gather information correctly and how to translate that information to a solid, well-structured research project. Moreover, I have gained a far more structured approach to my professional life, and I look at matters from a more structured persperctive. Lastly, I have become more hands-on as a person and I have learned to analyse problems better and, thanks to that, solve them more efficiently.’
How “shocked” were you to dive back into theory after twenty years?
‘I’m from the old days when Internet wasn’t around, at least, not in Haiti, and especially no Google providing you with 20,000 articles on a specific theme with one click of a mouse. Finding all these articles was one the most insightful experiences during my literature review. Even more refreshing is the fact that a program like this MBA forces you to re-look the routine that you inevitably develop after running a business for as long as I have. I love how that routine has been shaken upside down and I have been compelled to look at my own performance and operations and improve matters where necessary.’
Did you succeed in doing so?
‘Absolutely! I made sure all Action Learning Projects were focused on my company, without a doubt leading to improvements in operations. I hope to achieve the same goal with my dissertation, which focuses on a new growth strategy for our Haitian branch.’
When do you hope – plan – to graduate?
‘I have set the Summer of 2017 as the ultimate deadline to graduate; my dissertation is the last obstacle to get there. I certainly haven’t found every step along the way easy, but after all, I’m still Dutch and seeing I paid for the program myself; giving up simply isn’t an option.’
Want to get in touch with Matthew? Contact him via LinkedIn!
For more information on our Action Learning MBA and Management Programmes, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.