2020 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Sanne Patjin, IESE Business School

Sanne Patijn

IESE Business School

“A courageous and open-minded person who cannot help to see the possibility in any challenge.”

Age: 38

Hometown: Amsterdam, Netherlands

Family Members: Husband Tom and 3 daughters Stella (5), Femme (3), Cato (1)

Fun fact about yourself: My twin brother and I are opposites, both in appearance and character. Due to the latter, nobody can complement me better.

Undergraduate School and Degree: MSc Economics and Business, Erasmus University Rotterdam

Where are you currently working? Robin Radar Systems, Director Operations

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

  • Class president GEMBA 2020, IESE Business School. 2020- present
  • Coordinator @ Odense huis Amsterdam: a walking walkout community building for people diagnosed with early dementia and their caretakers. 2018-2019
  • Board Member Women on Air, Aviation Network for women working in Dutch Aviation sector. 2014-2016
  • Mentor Giving Back, mentoring program for high school students with a multicultural background. 2012-2015
  • Vice president in the board of Rotterdam’s largest student association R.S.V. Sanctus Laurentius. 2004-2005

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? During Managerial Communications course, I was given the opportunity to deliver my speech on ‘Why Women Need to Step Up’ to the whole class. My message came out of my deepest being and the class exploded in the warmest and longest ovation I have ever experienced. I am most proud of what happened after this moment. I closed the speech with the appeal to all my classmates to talk to women in their environment who are held back in some way. Since then, every module a classmate has come up to me to tell how they followed through on this and that they helped or inspired a woman to step up.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? It is the change I have brought to leadership in my direct environment. I have shown my bosses, peers, and team members that it is possible to combine the traits of strong and persistent leadership with the respect and sympathy of a people manager.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Núria Mas, Professor of Global Economics and Health Economics.

This professor is, apart from highly knowledgeable, afflicted with the unique talent to translate actual and urgent matters in a global complex context into a tangible and exciting story. The way she does this – not saying too much, not saying too little, without any ego, and somehow also gets drawn into her own narrative herself – has been a rewarding and thought-provoking experience.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I have chosen the IESE GEMBA program because I have a strong belief that the world needs leadership that looks further than shareholders’ value and profit maximization. To me, IESE is the only business school that puts actions to words by implementing the perspective of social, ethical, and environmental interests throughout the entire curriculum.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? It would be the diversity of people, their backgrounds, and their experiences. I have learned most from the fierce discussions with my classmates and professors and surprising insights I have gained. It has made me feel both humble (i.e. prevent the prejudice at all times) and grand (i.e. there is so much to learn and understand better) to be part of such a meaningful global experience.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? In corporate careers, it is not uncommon for a senior leader to become complacent. I personally have realized that there are still so many interesting and fast-changing fields of work that I can learn from. And the only way to stay up-to-date is to develop a healthy discipline on making learning part of your schedule. And once you hit unknown territory and you always will reach out to people who know better and ask for their expertise and support. Sharing experiences and challenges will improve your plan.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? That is a very long story, which lasts approximately 16 months…

The one and the only reason is that I have been able to manage the past year of starting a new job in a fast-growing tech company, following the GEMBA program, and enjoying my three lovely daughters is the fact that my husband has motivated and supported me all through the way. While he has his own full-time career, he was the one who said: “We are going to make this happen.”

And to share one story: for the residential 2-week modules, I started to prepare the military caretaker scheme 1 month in advance, so that all interests and activities were carefully taken care of. My husband, multiple babysitters, grandparents, and generous friends in my social network were updated with a lovely excel sheet just before I boarded the plane.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? While researching a school, do not only look into the curriculum, the setup, and the likely results of an EMBA program. Instead, ask for which type of people generally attend and ask for profiles of graduated and already admitted students. My opinion is that the more diverse the class, the more you can learn from each other.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? Following an intense EMBA program will negatively impact your results at work or even your relationship with your loved ones.

I believe it doesn’t because you can (and should) make your closest (work and private) relationships part of your EMBA experience. After every module, I update my management team with insights our company can learn from. And I have enjoyed the company of my husband and friends living abroad almost every module during the weekends. The best part of the latter is that my classmates know my husband and friends and vice versa.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I do not regret anything.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Susanna Cecchetti.

Italian by nature, married to a German, living in Spain and thriving in an American software company, she has unprecedented organization and motivation skills which she will for sure use to conquer the world.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I decided to take the more challenging path: I would broaden my horizon and enrich myself by following an EMBA program more than any promotion would have been able to do.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Go into politics and become a minister

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As someone who can make things happen, is a pleasure to work with, has sharpened their minds and broadened their hearts.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? I am very blessed with where I am now, and my deep longings at this moment are quite fulfilled every weekend with breakfast in bed with my kids and having lively conversations with my husband on the state of the world and what we can do to make it a little better.

So it is not a bucket list item per se but rather a mindset: strive for happiness while helping others with my energy.

What made Sanne such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“When Sanne started IESE’s Global Executive MBA, she had just been offered the opportunity to join a fast-growing tech company to head their expanding operations. Being conscious that her new role and responsibilities will be taking her out of her comfort zone, she was very deliberate in leveraging all aspects of the program to help her be successful in her new role. As she applied the learnings acquired in class to her day-to-day work responsibilities, she was as deliberate in bringing back, to the benefit of the class, the insights gained on the job.

As a mother of three young children, Sanne is the embodiment that it is possible to balance a successful career with family commitments and be one of the strongest contributors in a demanding and intense Executive MBA.  She represents the increasing number of senior executives who, with a deliberate hands-on and active management of their careers, have managed to forge their own individual path towards adding one more chink on the glass ceiling.”

Mengistu Ermias Mebrate
GEMBA Program, Associate Director


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.