Marion Debruyne

Before becoming the dean of Vlerick Business School, Marion Debruyne was an academic at the same school and at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School in Atlanta, in the US. Recently featured in our Meet the Dean series, she has a masters in chemical engineering and a PhD in applied economics from Ghent University. She also has a masters in marketing from Vlerick.

Prof Debruyne lives in Belgium and likes running and cooking.

Why did you choose Vlerick?

I have been a student here myself and feel deeply connected to the school. Doing a masters programme at Vlerick has been a life-transforming experience. So it is amazing to now be able to serve the school as its dean.

What is an average day like?

An average day does not exist. One week I will have three board meetings, a live radio interview and an annual gathering with our 250 staff members. Another week I’ll be flying to Shanghai.

What are you enjoying most so far?

I was only appointed as the dean in August, so I’m still enjoying the first weeks in the job. So far, it is the newness that I enjoy the most. I love dealing with challenges but still being in my own beloved school that I know so well.

What are you finding the most difficult?

There has been quite a bit of media attention, and I have discovered I am somewhat media shy, so that has been rather difficult to handle.

What is your biggest lesson learnt?

To carve your own path, even if others question your moves. I heard a lot of scepticism when I moved from engineering to marketing. And then some more when I chose an academic career over a business career. But I have never had any regrets.

What is your favourite business book?

I read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg from cover to cover in just a day. I relate to so much in it, especially the quote “the single most important career decision that a woman makes is whether she will have a life partner and who that partner is”. I also recently read True North, by Bill George, Medtronic’s former chief executive. The key message, to lead through a sense of purpose, resonates with me.

Which websites / apps would you recommend for businesswomen?

I use Evernote to gather meeting notes and random thoughts/ideas and Twitter to find and share interesting content.

What are your top tips for networking? Are you a member of any networks?

People associate networking with attending after-work drinks and business receptions. I am not very good at that, as I hate the empty banter that usually accompanies these settings, and I am not good at mingling.

Really valuable connections have always come to me by reaching out to people, making sure you have something to offer, and meeting them one-on-one. So my top tip would be to go for depth, and not superficial contacts. I have also built interesting connections with people I have never met but have shared interests with through Twitter.

Which three people, living or dead, would you invite to a business meeting?

For a strategy review meeting, I would love the advice of Steve Jobs, Eric Schmidt and Martha Stewart for their ability to lead smart strong-headed people. I also admire them for their deep customer understanding and for their ability to execute a growth strategy.

What is your plan B?

In another lifetime, I would like to be a doctor, preferably a surgeon although I’m probably just too clumsy for that.

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