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Theunis van der Linde: Traversing careers and continents, with the help of my MBA

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  • March 15,2021
  • Tags Stellenbosch, business school, Canada, alumni, MBA, Modular

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Theunis van der Linde, the Chairperson for the University of Stellenbosch Business School Alumni Canada Chapter, shares with us the positive impact his MBA has had in both his personal and professional life. In doing so, he emphasises the value in changing perspective and the way we view our situation.

It was Wayne W Dyer who said, “If you change the way you look at things, then the things you look at change”. A decade is a long time to change how you look at things; roughly 87 600 hours to reflect on how you see the world. It was a decade ago that I graduated with my MBA degree, and so many things have changed since then.

I graduated in 2011, at the time working full time while also starting a family. That’s why I opted for the modular MBA programme, which provided the flexibility of studying remotely most of the time and required us to be physically present on the campus for one week each a quarter. The week on campus would typically be packed with as many tests and lectures as possible, and we would use the face-to-face time to make arrangements between group members on how to work effectively remotely for the next three months. If only we had the features of Zoom, Teams and Slack back then.

At the time I chose to pursue an MBA degree because of the direction that I wanted to develop my career in. The aim was to keep the emphasis on sustainable leadership, and compliment that with the necessary business administration skills and knowledge to be able to lead large teams in a large corporate setting. The MBA checked all the items on the list for me, but it also brought so much more to the table, which I only realised later on.

The MBA checked all the items on the list for me, but it also brought so much more to the table, which I only realised later on.

The concept of entrepreneurship never appealed strongly to me then. In fact, we had Entrepreneurship as a subject, where my performance and results could be labelled as mediocre at best. This confirmed to me that I was not the entrepreneurial “type” and reaffirmed that my decision to progress in the corporate world was the right one. It was in the corporate world where I truly felt comfortable; where clear structure existed and your future path, expectations and deliverables could be mapped out fairly unobscured. All of that drastically changed when we moved to Canada.

Jumping on a chance to expand my professional exposure, we decided to move to Canada at the start of 2016. The offer presented itself in an opportunity for me to join a top tier consulting company’s strategy practice while also living in one of the world’s top 10 most liveable cities, as ranked by the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) annual Global Liveability Ranking. That is the city of Calgary. Known for its proximity to the Rocky Mountains, being the Canadian hub for Oil and Gas and the host of the 1988 Winter Olympics where the Jamaican bobsled team made a historical first appearance (ever seen the movie “Cool Runnings”?). And the Calgary Stampede, which is the world’s largest outdoor rodeo show; yes, cowboys…

Living in Canada has been a drastic adjustment to get used to on a personal level, which includes driving on the other side of the road and shoveling mini mountains of snow from your driveway in the winter in minus 40-degree Celsius temperatures. However, it is the professional environment that is the hardest to adjust to. Living in the most educated country in the world presents unique challenges. In such a competitive higher education candidate environment, the way to differentiate yourself is not by the level or type of qualification you have, but by how you use the knowledge you have gathered over time. Being a partner and part-owner in our start-up consulting company (Helios Consulting Ltd.), we experience first-hand every day the need to be unique, innovative and entrepreneurial. The better we are at that, the more value we create for our clients.

Living in the most educated country in the world presents unique challenges.

This brings me back to changing the way I look at what I had been taught in my MBA. The challenge was to adopt a growth mindset and dig deeper into the elements of the MBA that would align to what I was doing now. Including having a more entrepreneurial focus and “resetting” my knowledge to focus on developing, marketing and financing your own business, as well as configuring my knowledge in such a way that it helps solve specific business problems for our clients.

As Helios Consulting, we are still growing (albeit slower due to Covid-19) and still continuing to bring a different kind of consulting to our clients; a kind of consulting where we as partners and owners encourage and challenge one another to apply everything we have studied, learned and experienced in our past in an innovative way to create value for our clients.

My takeaway is that even if you started your MBA with a specific goal in mind, it could offer so much more if you change the way you look at it.

Every time that I refer to my MBA books and notes, which is quite often nowadays, I find a different way to understand, interpret and apply something. My takeaway is that even if you started your MBA with a specific goal in mind, it could offer so much more if you change the way you look at it. You might not see or realise it the first go-around, but you can always find it if you change the way you look at it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Theunis van der Linde

Theunis van der Linde currently lives in Canada with his wife and two children, where they have been for the past 5 years. He is a Partner at Helios Consulting where he focuses on Digital Transformation, and he believes that a new and disruptive consulting style based on personal investment and a flexible engagement strategy is the key to building lasting valuable partnerships.

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