Ifrendely Gijsbertha guides the Caribbean Coast Guard to more effective cooperation.

At age 27, Ifrendely Gijsbertha from Curacao is one of the youngest MBA graduands of BSN – not only of the Caribbean, but worldwide. Her ambitious nature started when she graduated high school as a 17-year old girl, not only the best of her class, but of the whole school. Followed by a 9 out of 10 score for her Bachelors thesis in General Management at the University of the Dutch Antilles.

Curacao

The Banco Industrial de Venezuela where Ifrendely currently works is housed in the blue building, third from left

Ifrendely then moved to the Netherlands, where she started a Masters in Finance. Unfortunately, she did not complete, something she still regrets to-date. “I still felt the strong desire to gain my Masters degree, so when I came across the Action Learning MBA from BSN, I contacted them. Her dissertation was recently assessed and finalised, and next year Ifrendely will officially be awarded her MBA diploma. “I am extremely happy and proud that I now almost officially have graduated my MBA,’ says a very excited Ifrendely.

In recent years she has been working as an Accounting Officer at the Banco Industrial de Venezuela (Sucursal Curaçao) in Willemstad, Curacao. Unfortunately the bank is far from stable, and has filed for bankruptcy last February and has been in the liquidation process since.
The bank’s banktruptcy is the reason why she didn’t do her dissertation research for her current employer, but chose to approach the Coastguard of the Carribean. “I knew writing a thesis for the bank would have been pointless, seeing the institution will no longer exists in the near future. I wanted to spend my time wisely and do research that could possibly have a real impact. One of my classmates worked for the Coastguard, the organisation we also did our ALP for. I approached the Coastguard and asked them whether I could complete my dissertation based on a strategic problem in their organisation”.

Gijsbertha from CuracaoA very special letter of recommendation
“I have read the results and conclusions drawn by your student Ifrendely Gijsbertha with great interest, as written in her disseration ‘From working together to working together’. Ifrendely brought various interesting points to our attention, some of which I had already established myself, but also a few new, surprising outcomes. I am convinced I will take her recommendations very seriously and implement most of them at the Coastguard.”

The letter of recommendation was signed by H.R. Lodder, director of the Dutch Caribbean Coastguard. He was very enthusiastic about Ifrendely’s research, which focused on the improvement of effective cooperation between the different cultures operating in the Coastguard. The organisation operates in Aruba, Curacao, Saint Maarten, Bonaire, Saint Eustatius and Saba (BES Islands). The main focus revolved around the following question: ‘How can an organisation like the Coastguard facilitate bridging of cultural gaps and differences, herewith enabling effective communication and cooperation?’

That’s an interesting question. What was the outcome?
“Based on my research, I have provided a few recommendations. For instance, improving the adjustment process of European Dutch people (Dutch people arriving at the Caribbean from the European continent. They need to get to know local cultures and connect with locals. That works both ways: locals need to gain a better understanding of the Dutch culture. The effort needs to be mutual. To-date the effort is made, but not as much nor intense as it should be.’

What else?
“The coastguard needs to train her employees so as they learn how to address each other directly. Today, people find it hard to communicate as directly, partly due to language barriers, as well as cultural politeness.”

Why do you think better communication is important?
“Good communication can diminish cultural differences. In fact, good communication lies at the core of many aspects within organisations, and eventually all comes down to the following: When communication improves, cooperation improves. Moreover, when everybody knows what people on other islands are doing, mutual understanding and sense of togetherness is established.”

How have you reflected on your MBA?
“I was extremely excited about starting it, and was fully focused on the programme. The fact that I am a relatively easy learner definitely made life easier, as well as the fact that I don’t have children (yet). Looking back, I can’t say I experienced the programme as ‘too intense’ or ‘extremely heavy’, which might be different for older classmates that have families. However, I personally don’t think having a family necessarily has to be a barrier; it’s all about finding the right balance between family and the programme.”

Does it feel like you had to make sacrifices over the past two years?
‘No. Well, perhaps the fact that I was unable to go on a vacation, as my funds went towards my MBA.”

What was it about the MBA at BSN that appealed to you?
“Mainly the fact that the programme wasn’t focused on memorising textbooks, which is one of the things I didn’t want at all. It was the Action Learning approach, where you gather knowledge from theory and peers in order to apply in the field directly that appealed to me greatly. That problem-solving attitude and focus is extremely valuable and suits my needs perfectly.”

How has the MBA helped you?
“Besides the fantastic letter and recognition from the Coastguard, it has helped me develop and grow as a person. Before the MBA I was quite shy and mostly kept to myself – not with friends, but in the professional context, definitely – I hardly ever said a word during workshops. During the MBA and more specifically, during the international ALP and dissertation I really learned to put in the effort, to approach people I don’t know and ask them for an interview or information. I knew I had it in me, but I needed to take the step to ‘doing it’. The MBA has helped me greatly in that respect.”

Would you advise women around you to do an MBA too?
“Unfortunately, women are still often underestimated. An MBA helps you to show you possess a great set of skills, knowledge and intellect. It will help you on your way to a higher position, or even the top.”

And now you’re eyeing for that position at the Coastguard?
‘Well, I would love to work there! I have approached them, but up until now, I haven’t heard back from them…”

For more information on our Action Learning MBA and Management Programmes, send an email to international@bsn.eu.

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