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Real Humans of the Michigan Ross MBA Class of 2023

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Thomas DeClercq, Michigan Ross MBA Class of 2023

Age: 28
Hometown: Melsele, Belgium
Undergraduate Institution and Major: University College Leuven-Limburg, Applied Computer Science
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 4 years in an intergovernmental organization and 1 year in tech

Why did you make the decision to attend business school? Why now?
There were many reasons, spread between professional and personal. First of all, throughout the steps in my career I moved from a very technical role towards a more business-oriented function area. I really wanted to complement my computer science background with a solid set of business skills, and an MBA has always been in the back of my mind as a “Dream Big” type of goal. As my career progressed, and the need for a business education increased, so did my confidence to apply. Second, and perhaps the more timely factor in this decision, was the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic drastically changed my personal life. After spending the majority of 2020 with about 6000 miles between me and my wife, finally relocating to the US with a strong desire to stay here, prompted me to apply to MBA programs with the objective of building a solid American and international professional network.

Why did you choose Michigan Ross? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
Throughout the process of finding MBA programs that would be a good fit for me, Michigan Ross has stood out as the community that resonated the most with my personality. I first came in contact with the Ross admissions team at a multi-school event that I was attending mainly to meet one of their peer schools. Immediately, I was captured by how friendly and involved all the members in the Ross community are. Every subsequent call, Zoom session and networking event, this feeling did not subside. During my applications, I shortlisted schools based on employment numbers, class statistics and the multitude of rankings that exist. In the end, when it was actually time to decide which school to attend, the more important question was which network I wanted to be part of for the rest of my life. And the answer to that was without a doubt Michigan Ross. Go Blue!

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2023?
Having lived in a couple different places around the western hemisphere, as well as worked with people from very diverse nationalities and backgrounds at UNESCO, I came to Ross to pay particular attention to the added value cultural diversity brings to organizations. Any opportunity I have, I will leverage this into better results for our Class and the next generation of business leaders.

Tell us a fun fact that didn’t get included on your application:
Our cat Juno has moved with us to every city (Paris, Antwerp, Los Angeles, San Diego, Ann Arbor) and country we’ve lived so far, she even has a European passport!

Post-MBA career interests:
As I functionally moved more towards Product Management in the last few years, I discovered my true passion, and fully intend to recruit for Product Management roles in big tech and entertainment-tech firms. I’m very passionate about bringing added value to all stakeholders in digital products, and I believe Product Management is the best place to create that value.

Advice for Current Prospective Applicants:

– What is one thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
Taking the GMAT twice was probably my best decision, even though I was not unhappy with my first score. The second time around I felt much more confident and relaxed, and the score was a more accurate representation of my abilities.

– What is one thing you would change or do differently?
Had it been an option, I would have certainly visited different campuses to talk to current students, there is an energy on campus that is just not transferable to the boundaries of online meetings.

– What is one part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
The self-doubt! It’s so easy throughout the whole process to start doubting every choice you have ever made, and to let yourself be negatively biased towards your own accomplishments. Your achievements are as valuable as those of any of the other candidates.

What is your initial impression of Michigan Ross’s students/culture/community?
It has been such a wonderful experience, whenever someone asks me how I’m doing in business school, the only truthful answer I can give them is “thriving”. The energy I get from being around my very well-accomplished peers is immeasurable. The Ross faculty is absolutely world-class, I have been consistently impressed with our core classes, and can’t wait to start exploring electives. Above all that, the Ross sense of community is very real, and has made me feel incredibly welcome to everything I’ve been involved in so far, be that clubs, classes, social activities, trips, etc.

What is one thing you have learned about Michigan Ross that has surprised you?
I genuinely thought that “the network” was something intangible that is easier to market than it is to actually sense, but it is a very real thing. The weight the Michigan Ross name carries is incredible, and I’m very proud to be a part of this community.

Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your personal application or admissions process in any way? If so, how?
Seeing the virtual offerings and the differences between all the schools was a good way for me to gauge how well a school would do in case of needing to go back to virtual schooling for a period of time. It also allowed me to visit many more events and really get to know the schools and their culture prior to deciding where to apply. On the other hand, the added anxiety and pressure the pandemic caused was certainly something me and many others have had to deal with, and without a doubt made the application process even more stressful than I anticipated.

What is one thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
Without a doubt I must say that balancing between classes, personal life, professional clubs, social clubs and other extracurriculars has been and will be a challenge in the next two years. As someone told me during orientation: “it will feel like drinking from a firehose, but I can assure you it will taste great”. I’ll confirm this to be true so far, but I’m also nervous about focusing too much or too little on one or another aspect of all the important parts of an MBA.

What is one thing you are most excited about in your first year?
All the new experiences, opportunities, and friends have definitely been very exciting, but most of all I’m looking forward to our MAP project to apply all the things I’ve learned so far in a real-life situation. Working with other students on an actual business problem during those eight weeks was one of the bigger reasons I applied to Ross, and now that I’m here it’s most certainly something I’m looking forward to.

Lani Panico
Lani Panico joined Clear Admit as the Content Lead in 2021. Since graduating from Albright College in Reading, PA with a BA in English & Communications (Journalism Track) in 2017, she has gained experience in various areas of content and Digital Marketing. Her specialties include content editing, copy creation, and social media management.