Listen to this article
The 27-year-old son of Belgian diplomats Arun Luykx was born in Belgium but raised all over the world. After completing an MSc in materials science and engineering at the University of Maryland, he worked as a freelance consultant for a high-tech start-up before joining The Economist in London last year as a business management intern, where he was mentored by the magazine’s chief executive Andrew Rashbass. He then became deputy publisher of a small publication in Geneva, Switzerland, before returning to Belgium, where he is in the process of starting his own magazine.
What course did you take and how did you choose it?
I chose the masters in general management at Vlerick Business School because I want to run my own company. I felt the course’s general approach would be better than focusing on marketing or finance. The convenient location in Leuven (where I already had a place to stay) was an added bonus.
What did you hope to achieve by doing this programme?
To immerse myself in business. I had reached a ceiling where companies were not willing to look beyond my engineering degrees. A first question at interviews was always “You’re an engineer; why are you here applying for a business position?” Looking back I can see why, particularly in terms of my accounting knowledge, however I still feel they overlook the nature of an engineer in being able to quickly adapt and learn new things – often with refreshing perspectives. I now feel much more business-ready, and am taken much more seriously when dealing with corporate types. Mentioning “Vlerick” when speaking to people also helps.
Did you hope to make contacts?
I expected to meet bright fellow students, inspiring professors, and gain access to an extensive alumni network. Vlerick puts serious effort behind its alumni network and encourages us to contact its members. Former students are always willing to help current students and graduates.
Were you hoping to get a new job?
Yes, but a job that I am creating. I use Vlerick as a testing ground for my magazine’s business plan.
Has it sharpened your brain?
Constant interactions with very bright students mean I am learning new things at a very rapid pace. Projects, cases and an endless roster of events mean we have to be on top of our game quite a lot of the time – not that there isn’t any time for fun afterwards.
Did you worry about taking time out from work?
Initially I did, and the course load certainly does put an enormous strain on my start-up as well as my personal life. I spend free evenings and significant parts of my weekends dedicated to my magazine, and when I have a few minutes I like to mess around with my drums.
Did you gain anything unexpected from the course?
We are a class of very strong individuals. I was concerned that this would lead to head-butting in group projects like that in The Apprentice, the TV show. Amazingly, this has not happened, and every group I have worked in has had people excelling at completing the various tasks. There are no leadership struggles, everyone respects the appointed leader/moderator of a project. We are not quite there yet in life, but we are already acting like professionals.
What would you do differently if you did it again?
I probably would not try to start a business and maintain a personal life, all while going to business school at the same time. I would also recommend people take a careful look at the course load; I was not able to say what class I looked forward to at the interview (which was rather embarrassing).
Any tips for others thinking of taking such a course?
I would advise them to talk to partners, friends and their workplace. Make them aware of your ambitions, how it will help you in the future and the commitment, and hopefully this will go a long way to ensuring support and understanding. The 16 months will go quickly, so make the most of it. There will not be more opportunities to dedicate such a chunk of time to education.