After a few years at the Roland Berger Amsterdam office (one of the coolest offices we have, by the way), I had the opportunity to pursue an MBA at INSEAD in Singapore.
An MBA year is a good time to reflect on what you have done so far and to set out on a path towards where you want to go. In my case where I did not want to go: home.
While living in Singapore and exploring its neighboring countries, I began to learn how much South-East Asia has to offer. I am absolutely intrigued that all these countries are in such close proximity to each other, but that the differences between them could not be bigger. Singapore, with its high skyscrapers, super-well organized in … basically everything. The Indonesian archipelago with its countless beautiful but rather underdeveloped islands – somewhere between 16,000 and 18,000 of them. Can you imagine? Myanmar, which not even that long ago finally opened itself to the rest of the world (lucky us!).
So, after my MBA year, not yet satisfied with my explorations so far, I decided to apply for a transfer to the Singapore office.
How has it been? To be honest, not without its difficulties. The set-up of industries, clients and colleagues is like it is in Europe. But the challenges our clients face are different from what I’m used to. Although the upside potential is enormous, poverty is still a major issue. Large shares of the population live in (very) rural areas on daily budgets that do not exceed EUR 2. At the same time, certain developments, like around digitalization, take off in this region much faster than we could ever achieve in Europe, because here you can start building from scratch. And working here is teaching me to be attentive to cultural differences. I have learned, for example, that people do not always appreciate Dutch directness.
But having said that, do I enjoy being here? Definitely. The steep learning curve characteristic in the consulting business has gotten even steeper. And walking to work every day through a tropical garden in 30 degrees C, well … there are worse things in life!