After studying linguistics in college, I built a career in marketing over about 10 years. I've held several positions, including category manager (purchasing and marketing interactions) at Akzo Nobel, a global company of 50,000 employees that specializes in paints, chemical products, and health products. I pursued the VAE with the goal of seeing the knowledge and skills I had acquired throughout my career validated by a Master's degree, as well as to refresh my skills in a field – marketing – that is ever changing.
I settled on the Master's in Marketing (the Distribution and Customer Relations track); this program and degree are recognized by recruiters and businesses specializing in trade. My superiors supported and encouraged me, and what became a mutual involvement in the process was critical to my success.
Preparing my case took 6 months – as with a thesis, it requires you to be good at writing, research, and reflection. I devoted many hours to it, during vacation time and on weekends, but I enjoyed it and felt proud doing so – this task, which goes far beyond a skill assessment, allowed me to retrace my entire professional career, to take stock, to closely analyze my skills, and to identify my areas of knowledge.
I felt very anxious presenting my case to the accreditation panel, but it went quite well in the end. Positive stress can improve your performance too! The panel required me to complete three courses to receive a full diploma. With my employer's approval, I took these courses at the rate of one morning a week. The additional work I had to do was completely manageable in relation to my professional workload. I found it very rewarding, including:
- High-quality instruction, with a combination of practical, concrete assignments that provided me with new ideas and insights and prompted useful reconsiderations
- A theoretical focus that allows you to see your job in a new light; getting an introduction to various different sectors through professional speakers from several companies, allowing you to discover actual benchmarks
- A strategic perspective, geared toward innovation, new developments in marketing
My perspective on marketing has therefore evolved and become broader.
The other students were welcoming, cheerful, and friendly, which allowed me to fit in very easily. Being around them made me feel younger!
I completed my degree with honors and was promoted to group leader shortly thereafter. Each step required preparation, involvement, and investment, but I feel so proud of the accomplishment. This program bolstered my professional growth; I gained confidence and professionalism, and now I feel completely suited to my new position.
Would I do it all over again? I would definitely do it again; as soon as I finished the program, I started wondering how I could do an executive education MBA, but that plan is still percolating.