2020 Best & Brightest Online MBAs: Nicolas Van de Velde, Imperial College

Nicolas Van de Velde (MBA, PhD, MSc, IrChim)

Imperial College Business School’s Global Online MBA

“I am an entrepreneur passionate about vaccines.”

Age: 41

Hometown: Brussels, Belgium

Fun fact about yourself: I am an entrepreneur by nature. In 2009, in my free time, I created a new educational game for children called PuzzStory, the first puzzle that tells a story. I found out by chance with my daughter that stimulating simultaneously the three types of learning (i.e. auditory, tactile and visual memories) produced exceptional results and long-term memory. Hence, I developed, manufactured, and launched this product in the European and US markets.

Previous Degrees:

  • Ph.D. in Epidemiology from Laval University in Canada (Faculty of Medicine, Saint-Sacrement Hospital)
  • MSc in Modern Epidemiology at Imperial College London (Faculty of Medicine, St Mary’s Hospital)
  • Chemical Engineering Degree from Université Libre de Bruxelles (Ecole Polytechnique)

Where are you currently working? I am Senior Director at ViiV Healthcare, working on the launch of the first long-acting treatment and pre-exposure prophylactic for HIV, which is as close as you can currently get from an HIV vaccine.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am so proud of each vaccine I had the chance to work on: Gardasil, the first vaccine against cancer; Shingrix, the vaccine that protects the elderly against shingles; Bexsero, which protects infants from meningitis; or Synflorix protecting children against pneumococcal diseases. I am proud of these products because I calculate what you don’t see. I calculate the number of cervical cancers averted, the pain avoided from shingles, the suffering prevented of parents not losing a child to meningitis, or not seeing a child attain full potential because of long-term neurodevelopmental sequelae. What you don’t see is a cascade of benefits that impacts countries and economies.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? I did my MSc in Modern Epidemiology in 2004 at Imperial College London (St Mary’s Hospital) because it has one of the best infectious disease departments in the world, as demonstrated during the COVID-19 pandemic. The reason I also chose Imperial for my MBA is because of its international network of experts and alumni. Wherever you are in the world and whatever you are doing, you will always find someone from Imperial to help you. The Global Online MBA programme allowed me to launch the first long-acting treatment against HIV globally while doing my MBA which in retrospect was a perfect learning-while-doing synergetic combination.

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? Whereas most of my online cohort was living abroad, I was living in London a few minutes away from Imperial College. This really gave me the best of both worlds because I was able to meet frequently face-to-face with the faculty and the Full-Time and Weekend MBAs, attend all the on-campus electives, work early mornings and late evenings to accommodate my travels and my family, and meet online with super bright professionals living across the world.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? The most surprising thing for me was that, just after having learned for two years how to best work and collaborate online, the world changed and those skills became real assets. So, as everyone will be aware by now, the advantage of an online environment is that it is always at your fingertips.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? First, you need to learn about the tools and what works for you, then online just means increased productivity. I am not saying face-to-face is not needed. That’s because, for instance, to build trust or run a productive brainstorming session online tools have still some way to go.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program? I think most professionals applying for an MBA would have already developed self-discipline. So my advice would be to let the programme, with its material, productivity tools, and constant peer-to-peer interactions, penetrate your daily life completely so that it is there for breakfast, while you work, in your bathroom and in your bed. Do it for two years and I guarantee a transformative experience. You will work and live differently forever.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? I wish I had more time to go on trips with my cohort. Imperial College Business School organised travels to Vietnam, Israel and New York which are unique opportunities to discover local industries, learn from experts, and spend some good time with your classmates to build long-lasting relationships.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? The good thing about the Global Online MBA is that you can learn it in the morning and apply it in your own job in the afternoon. An MBA in general changes pretty much everything that you do in business from selecting the right team for a specific job to setting up a strategy, pitching an innovative idea, or implementing changes in large organisations.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? After 20+ years in the vaccine industry, I enrolled in an MBA programme to truly reflect on the future of this industry and what transformation was needed to move it forward. My ultimate goal is to provide patients, healthcare providers, and public health authorities with the innovative vaccines that they need to improve human health globally.

Don’t Miss: The Entire Honor Roll of the Best & Brightest Online MBA Grads of 2020

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