MSM's Executive MBA inspires, is challenging, informative and fun


After ending his career as a professional cyclist, Danny Nelissen decided to study Sports Management and Journalism and has since then worked in several positions in Marketing & Communications, Sales, Business Development and Management. Parallel to his career, he is also works as Cycling Reporter and Analyst at the Dutch National TV station NOS.

He is currently following the Executive MBA program at Maastricht School of Management (MSM). We asked him why he is pursuing this program, how is experiencing it so far and what his plans are for the future.

Why did you decide to follow the Executive MBA in Sports Management?
In sports we have this saying that “if you don’t use it, you lose it”. This is also valid for your brain. If you don’t train it, it will weaken. The Executive MBA in Sports Management triggers you in such an intellectual way that your brain stays sharp. It is challenging, informative and maybe even more importantly, it is a lot of fun. The Executive MBA in Sports Management is a ‘regular’ Executive MBA with a specialization in Sports Management, hence the qualification Sports Management.

As I progressed through the curriculum though, I reviewed my initial specialization choice, and have recently decided not to continue in the sports specialization but instead, I have chosen the specialization “Digital Economy”, since this better fits my current career path. This is also the good thing about following the Executive MBA at MSM. While learning the theories, you are also learning to anticipate the needs of your company and your career. The School listens and thinks with you and is flexible in making it possible to switch your specialization topic. So for me, it has now become an Executive MBA in Digital Economy.

How have you experienced the program so far?
The program is challenging and diverse and the top-quality teachers are very inspiring. I am educated as a journalist and marketer, meaning that I pose a lot of questions. I am eager to learn and want to know everything. The teachers really take the time for you, which is a very refreshing experience. The modules which made the most impression on me so far are Managing Cultural Diversity and Accountancy & Finance for Managers. The Managing Cultural Diversity (MCD) course was especially enlightening for me. As a commercial manager I work with a big sales team and branches around the country, with colleagues coming from the provinces of Zeeland, Friesland and Limburg. Through our supply side, we also work with international companies and our parent company is French. So the MCD course was really helpful in putting some issues into perspective. The Accounting & Finance course was also great since it taught me how to calculate the important financial ratios which I have to rely on as a commercial manager.

What do you think of the structure of the Executive MBA, and the combination of this study with your work and private life?
Since I am currently single, I can organize my own time. This is probably not the best example of the reality and phases of life of the average Executive MBA student. At the moment my focus is divided between the part-time care for my daughter, the Executive MBA and my job. Personally, this combination works very well. It comes down to a matter of time management, focus and the will to succeed, which is also something I learnt from sports. The great program organization by the MSM-team only adds up to this experience. However, you yourself are responsible to shape your own life. My father used to say: “You have to learn how to take care of yourself. Be independent. Nobody will do it for you.” This applies to anyone who would like to start an Executive MBA. Time management and the will to go the extra mile are key in pursuing an Executive MBA. For me, this has not been a problem and I have managed to go smoothly through the program so far.

Can you apply the lessons learned so far to your daily practice?
Absolutely. The level of impact is of course dependent on the level on which you may, and can, operate in your job. As a commercial manager at DESTIL, a wholesale trade company for construction and industrial products, I do have this freedom of operation. For a trading company it is important to have strong sales and financial processes. DESTIL is a fast-acting company on acquisition opportunities and for this, the insights I obtained in the Corporate Finance course are very useful. I am now able to ask better, and more specific, questions to our CFO. All issues related to managing people and resources are addressed, and I try to implement every insight I can use.

Recently you have changed your job. Can you tell us a bit more about the job you have now and what you were doing before?
At first, I worked as a marketer and journalist in sports, but I have always dreamt of a career in business. Ideally I wanted to work at a company where I could get the freedom to organize and coordinate, and where I can help people to fully exploit their strengths in order to make the company stronger. That is what I found at DESTIL, part of Descours et Cabaub, a French multinational in construction and industry products. DESTIL is not only the place where I can optimally use my talent and energy, but it is also a very good employer, fully supporting and stimulating me in my Executive MBA.

Did you already have plans to change your job before starting the Executive MBA? Did the Executive MBA contribute to this change in any way?
I had indeed already planned to change job before starting the Executive MBA. I realized I needed more challenges in my life. I had been working for more than 25 years in sports and wanted to explore other things. Winds of change always provide new energy. The Executive MBA has helped me to get this job. I did not apply for this job, but I did a pitch for the management team instead. They gave me a problem definition and I pitched my solution. This is what you learn, and what you can use, during (and certainly after) finalizing the Executive MBA program.

Do you already have an idea about your future career path? Where do you see yourself in five years?
At this moment I am perfectly happy at DESTIL. I have the freedom in my work to help function optimally in this company. Since you asked me what my next dream is, then I would like to work in France, Asia or New York. I have always been attracted to working abroad. Decours et Cabaud is an international enterprise, so who knows where I will end up …within or outside this company.

Would you advise current candidates who are considering the Executive MBA to follow the program, and why?
As I mentioned earlier: “if you don’t use it, you lose it”. Scientific research indicates that you need to train, challenge and take care of your brain. This is what you will be doing by following an Executive MBA. It inspires and pulls you out of your daily routine. You have to work for it and it will include some late nights! But you are doing it for yourself; to improve, to become stronger and to become smarter! For that reason alone you should grasp the opportunity to follow an Executive MBA while you can. It plays an integral part of developing yourself.