2023 Best & Brightest MBA: Wouter Jaspers, IE Business School

Wouter Jaspers

IE Business School

“Using trust and motivation to make an impact in this world.”

Hometown: Delft, Zuid-Holland, the Netherlands

Fun fact about yourself: I can’t iron my shirts (and I really make an effort)!

Undergraduate School and Degree: Delft University of Technology, Master of Science in Civil Engineering

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Royal BAM Group, Program Manager Climate Adaptation

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? I spent a great summer of 2022 with my wife and two sons (twins) moving to Madrid. Even though it was not an official internship, it felt like an internship in parenthood, and it was truly a great experience to see your children enjoying and adapting towards new cultures.

Where will you be working after graduation? I want to work at an organization that has purpose. I am still in the decision process of which organization aligns best with mine.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Class Representative (Start-Up Lab);
  • High Potential Scholarship recipient;
  • Part of Global Transformation Club, Net Impact Club, SDG’s Club;
  • Sustainability Certificate (to be obtained).

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Apart from obtaining honors in all courses until now, I am actually most proud of my team during our first term. During this term, I was leading a team of five students with whom I did all group assignments. We managed to create an environment of trust amongst ourselves. Because of this trust, we were able to address conflicts, develop commitment, and we created true team results. Team results are always better than individual results. We did a test amongst all top business schools globally and we were in the top 1% of best performing teams, with the highest score globally in psychological safety. Alone we may go faster, but together we go further.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Between 2020 and 2022, I developed a strategic alliance between four large Dutch corporations (from scratch), that together agreed to enter contracts in order to develop climate adaptation projects (€800 million pipeline). These projects ensure that the Netherlands is protected against sea level rise, and increased risk of river floodings due to climate change. I initiated a program and built various teams to ensure all projects were constructed with the least amount of emissions, biodiversity was increased in the surrounding areas, and projects were finished within the triple constraints of time, scope and cost.

Why did you choose this business school? As a father of two, and a trained engineer with experience within the climate change industry, I unfortunately know what the future will bring. Therefore, I have made it my life’s purpose to contribute to high impact programs that benefit climate change globally. I am pursuing an MBA to increase my capabilities as a program manager to contribute to these programs. IE Business School is one of the only business schools that actually uses Ethics & Humanities throughout its core curriculum. By doing so, we do not only look at managerial choices from a pure business point of view, but also from an ethical point of view. We take externalities into account (such as the effects of business decisions on climate change). This university was the best fit with my personal goals & values.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite MBA professor was Susana Martinez Meyers (Corporate Finance). She truly has the ability to combine sustainability within a cornerstone course as Corporate Finance. We were not only valuating the monetary value of major oil & gas companies but also critically assessing if it was ethical to invest in these types of industries. She makes the new generation of managers aware of the externalities that organizations have, and inspires her students to think differently in our fast-changing world.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? My favorite course in the MBA was ‘Leading People and Change’ because we used real life examples to enhance our soft skills. Our professor, Kriti Jean, used a powerful case to show us true leadership during a terrorist attack in her home country. In the ‘terror of the Taj Hotel’, we looked into the terrorist attacks in the Taj Hotel in Bombay in 2008. During this attack the staff of the hotel protected the guests of the hotel by putting their own lives in danger (even though they could have simply left). The staff was intrinsically motivated to do so, because they felt purpose in their jobs, and they were proud of the organization they worked for. Having an organizational purpose, and aligning your staff with that purpose, is a valuable lesson for any organization. I am grateful for all the lessons I learned during Leading People and Change.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Doing an MBA is more about learning from one another and building a network than just obtaining the best grades. During my first term, I focused solely on obtaining high grades and spending as much time with my kids as possible.

From 2023 onwards, I decided to spend a little less time worrying about grades, spend more time outside of university with my peers and even more time with my kids. This was a great decision: I am having more fun, I see my kids more, and my grades are actually not affected!

What is the biggest myth about your school? IE Business School is only for young successful entrepreneurs.

Yes, we have many entrepreneurs that founded very successful companies. But we have just as much students who did not. What I like about IE is that it teaches you the skills that an entrepreneur has, which you then can use to be an Intrapreneur at your future employer, if you don’t want to start your own venture. With a highly uncertain future it is of great importance that we have Intrapreneurs, that are able to change the direction of organizations and adapt as our future unfolds.

What did you love most about your business school’s town? The greatest thing about Madrid are the people with their Spanish culture. Even though it is a big city, it feels like a small town. Everyone is super friendly; every day you can have a nice conversation with a complete stranger on the street, and everyone is super helpful. My wife and myself have to maneuver across town with a twin stroller, and there is always someone that helps you into the bus, or down a flight of stairs. If our kids are crying in a public space, people will never complain, but show sympathy. Even though the Spanish have some interesting cultural features, such as going to dinner at 22:30, the Spanish culture is very warm, and really something we can learn from.

What surprised you the most about business school? When I was studying Engineering in University, and later working in an Engineering firm, there were always a lot of kind people around me. Even though there were plenty of fun events, most of my colleagues and peers kept more to themselves. They were comfortable that way, and that is perfectly fine. People should do what makes them happy.

Business School is very different. Upon arrival at IE Business School, I was surprised by all the events, parties and social activities. Months before our MBA began, people had put a lot of effort in finding each other online, large parties had been planned for weeks (outside of the schools planning), and everyone was putting a lot of effort in simply getting to know one another. It is fair to say that during our MBA introduction week, most people had already met. This intrinsic motivation to be social and bond is what makes the MBA so great and memorable for the rest of our lives. Needless to say, it was a welcome surprise!

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I told the admissions team the following:

I spent the first ten years of my life in developing countries as Indonesia and Zimbabwe, witnessing some of the global challenges we increasingly face today. These developing countries barely possess the means to protect themselves against the effects of climate change, whilst their contribution towards this phenomena was minimal. Even though the effects of climate change are becoming more visible throughout the world, experts are stating that the current changes are merely the beginning.

It is my personal purpose to contribute as much as possible to high impact projects and programs that benefit global issues such as climate change. I am convinced that an MBA will enlarge my capacities to make a higher global impact. Global challenges such as climate change involve complex intersections of disciplines, including economics, business, engineering, and policy development. An MBA, in addition to my MSc in Engineering, will provide me with a more holistic view. In addition, I will be able to learn together with – and from – a group of students with a large variety of knowledge, cultural values and beliefs, and (geographical) backgrounds. I am ready to go back to my roots, and make an impact in the places where it matters the most!

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? In an MBA, a lot of value is put on your ability of presenting yourself. You are presenting projects on a weekly basis, and every day in class you are judged on how well you participate. This way of ‘assessing talent’ is not very fair towards certain cultures.

I have collaborated a lot with Erika Abe, a woman from Japan. In Japan, it is not common to always speak up; within a working environment, presentations are mostly performed by high ranking managers. Her culture is very much oriented towards respect. In my opinion, western civilization can actually learn a lot from Japanese culture.

Nevertheless, Erika had to adapt to the system of ‘presenting yourself’ on a daily basis. I remember the first presentation we did together, she was very nervous, but she went for it. Ever since the start of program. Erika has been putting herself out there, every day, always feeling slight anxiety, but being persistent and trying to improve herself. Now, six months later, Erika is doing presentations as if she did it all her life. To me that is true leadership. Putting yourself out there, every day.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? First, I want to go back to Sub-Saharan Africa and make a difference through contributing to a high impact projects and programs.

Second, I believe my primary job is being a father. I want to look back in twenty years and say that I was there for my sons, and I gave them the guidance to live a purposeful and happy life!

What made Woulter auch an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?

“Wouter Jaspers is a remarkable student. As his corporate finance professor in the IE IMBA, I really enjoyed his contributions and participation during the course. Wouter frequently contacted me for additional content and references that showed his learning curiosity and commitment. His engineering background worked as a perfect complement giving him a structured approach to tackling Finance where he showed an outstanding performance. His previous experience in sustainability was an added asset as it gave him the critical point of view to see the flaws in the approach of classical finance. He was able to see and address the challenging issues we are experiencing in the world today such as climate change. I know he plans to move forward in this field, and I am sure his contributions to uniting the two points of view (business and sustainability) will make him stand out in the future projects he moves into. He is a student that made a deep impression, and I am sure we will hear from him again as he will become a driver for impact in his future career.”

Susana Martinez
IE Business School Professor


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