My ESMT Berlin MBA: Back to school after a decade of work |

My ESMT Berlin MBA: Back to school after a decade of work

By Niamh O

Updated May 28, 2021 Updated May 28, 2021

Frans van der Werf said he chose to go back to school to do a reset, get some new perspectives, potentially change industry, and build on a bigger skill set.

The benefits of an MBA, from networking opportunities to enhanced specialised knowledge, mean that it’s never too late to enter the classroom. While interest in MBAs and other business degrees has grown among younger students, there are still many students on business school campuses around the world who arrive after 10 or more years of industry experience.

Frans van der Werf (pictured) is a Dutch candidate on ESMT Berlin’s full-time MBA programme and is currently 41 years old. But with 13 years industry experience, why was now the right time for an MBA?

Frans van der Werf ESMT Berlin

Career so far 

Frans had a background in real estate and has been a real estate consultant for a real estate advisory firm for more than 13 years. He also has an MSc in Real Estate and an MSc in Environmental & Infrastructure Planning.

Why now? 

There are a number of reasons why candidates decide to go to business school, but when you’ve been in the industry for so long, and are successful in your role, why do MBA candidates want to do it?

For Frans, he said the reason was: “To potentially change industry, do a reset, or get some new perspectives and build on a bigger skill set.”

The realities of being a mature student 

Frans doesn’t necessarily think being a mature student offers advantages or disadvantages as a whole, but there are of course differences between MBA candidates due to past experiences, culture, and also age.

He said: “If you can build a lot on your working experience, I believe it could be an advantage. From that perspective, you could consider your experience working in teams, communicating with different types of people, time management and seeing the bigger picture.”

When asked what mature students can bring to the table compared to students in their 20s, Frans said: “Maybe due to work experience, it’s easier to see the bigger picture and to have a ‘helicopter’ view. Normally, you know yourself a bit better, and are familiar with your preferences, strengths and weaknesses. 

But why ESMT Berlin? Fran says it’s one of the few business schools to start in January, and with COVID-19 restrictions in full swing when he started the full-time MBA (although he considered the EMBA too), he wanted to ensure he could still get the international experience without being too far away.

However, it’s the city itself that captivated Frans, as he loves Berlin, and it also offers an interesting start-up scene. Frans added: “There are good economic ties between Germany and Netherlands (my home country), and it’s easier to transfer between jobs.”

Looking ahead post-graduation 

Frans is very much looking forward to continuing with his studies and looks forward to what the future holds for him. 

He said: “I hope to achieve a new perspective, skill set, bigger network, and new friends which will ultimately lead to a new and exciting job or start-up.” 

But what does his career look like post-graduation? Frans asks jokingly if anyone has a crystal ball or could read his palm to let him know. 

If you’d like to follow in Frans’ footsteps as a mature student to undertake an MBA, Frans advises prospective students like himself to figure out whether or not they want to do a full-time MBA or EMBA considering their age. He said: “I can say that despite being in an online only situation at the moment, I’m really enjoying the whole experience.” 

This article was originally published in May 2021 .

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Written by

Niamh is Deputy Head of Content at QS (;, creating and editing content for an international student audience. Having gained her journalism qualification at the Press Association, London and since written for different international publications, she's now enjoying telling the stories of students, alumni, faculty, entrepreneurs and organizations from across the globe.  


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