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What is the ideal moment to start a challenging part-time Master’s programme? 2 Executive Programme in Management Studies (EPMS) alumni share their experiences and how they found a way to balance studying, work and family. 
Noha Shafik
Noha Shafik

'I wanted to start studying again for a long time, mainly to delve more deeply into the strategic aspects of my work. I was looking for a more scientific foundation in areas such as team motivation, and dealing with uncertainties. The strong focus on digitalisation in the programme was also very appealing to me. Moreover, the lectures on Fridays fitted well with my daily life – as a wife, mother and manager', says Noha Shafik, Principal Engineering Manager at online retailer Bol.com. She completed the programme cum laude. 

For Adriaan Dorenbos, a property manager at social real estate company RSO, a need for pursuing in-depth knowledge was also a key motivation behind choosing the programme. ‘I studied at the Hotelschool The Hague, and I then took various practical courses through my work at The Grand Hotel Amsterdam, Hilton Amsterdam and the Pieter de Raat Foundation. But I wanted to pursue a Master's degree to make the connection between everyday work practice and academic theory.’ Like Noha, Adriaan found the programme appealing because of its structure, and the lectures on Fridays.

Clear goals, good arrangements

The Executive Programme in Management Studies is an 18-month part-time programme that prepares ambitious professionals for the next step in their career. Students choose from several electives and 3 tracks: Digital Business, Strategy, and Leadership & Management.

The study load is about 20-22 hours per week; in addition to the weekly lecture day, an average of 14-16 hours of self-study is required. ‘With my 3 young children and a full-time job, the required time investment was initially the biggest challenge for me’, says Noha. ‘But it helps if you have clear goals in mind, and you make good arrangements with your loved ones. I chose this study very deliberately, with the aim of growing as a person and boosting my career. This mindset enables you to make clear choices and set priorities.'

Adriaan Dorenbos

Adriaan adds, ‘Initially, the study load took some getting used to, as I had not studied for a while and was not used to reading so many scientific articles. We made clear arrangements in our family about my study days and when my wife would take care of our 3 young children. Thanks to the guidance provided by the programme, I found a way to study efficiently and effectively. I could study for a few hours in the evening after the children had gone to bed. That’s how I was able to find a good balance between work, family time and studying.'

Study together

Both alumni emphasise that a challenging part-time study is not something you do alone – you need support from those around you. Adriaan: ‘Before I started, my wife and I talked extensively about how we would handle the study days. My wife took the children out on Sundays for an activity so that I could study. But on Saturdays, I went with the children to their sports activities.’ Noha relied on help from her husband, brother and mother. ‘Delegating is important. Even if sometimes it’s just something small, like taking the children somewhere. I also set clear boundaries. Sundays were for my family – not for studying or other obligations.’

‘Working together with the other EPMS-students was a source of extra support’, says Noha. ‘ We had a lot of mutual contact, even outside of lecture days. We encouraged each other and learned a lot from one another. We developed a very strong network which still stimulates and challenges me.’ 

Career step

Was the Executive Programme worth all the time and energy? Adriaan and Noha both answer with a resounding yes. ‘The depth I was looking for has proven to be very valuable,’ Adriaan says. ‘You take your work practice into the lecture hall, and you learn solutions that you can immediately apply in your work.’ Noha: ‘The programme has really changed my life – the way I think, read and work. I now approach the issues of today and tomorrow from a grounded knowledge of strategy, digital transformation, change management and organisational psychology. This makes it easier to deal with uncertainties and anticipate the future.’

It’s no coincidence that both Noha and Adriaan took a career step while studying. During her studies, Noha made the switch from ING and Ikea to her current employer Bol.com, where she was promoted after graduation. Adriaan was approached by a recruiter while writing his thesis, and chose the job at SRO.

Noha is convinced that the programme will contribute to her career. ‘The up-to-date academic knowledge is a valuable addition to my expertise and experience, and the MSc title enhances my profile and improves my career opportunities. For many management positions, the MSc title is a preference or even a requirement. I owe my current job to the study.'