2022 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Kristel van Haaren, Purdue University (Krannert)

Kristel van Haaren

Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management

Age: 42

“Always eager to learn, strong in “connecting the dots”, and enabling people to grow.”

Hometown: Eindhoven, The Netherlands

Family Members: Hungarian husband Sándor and two little daughters Tesz (8) and Lisz (5)

Fun fact about yourself: I speak seven languages out of interest…

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Nijmegen (KUN) in the Netherlands – Master’s degree

Where are you currently working? Heijmans NV, a large construction company in the Netherlands – head of divisional M&A and Venturing (infrastructure and energy domains) and operational manager of the Geothermic Business Unit (building heat energy distribution networks).

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

– Recognition of outstanding achievement for my Executive MBA (Krannert December 18, 2021),
– Award for best leadership talent in the Dutch Construction industry in 2013.
– Blue Tulip Accenture award for best innovation in public space in 2014.
– Volunteered advisory board activities for youth association in the Netherlands (2014-1016)
– Volunteered in refugee camp Zuthpen for children leisure activities during their time in the camp (2004-2005).

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of what I could learn from other international students during the MBA, even during COVID, and being able to connect with all students online and learn from each other that way.

In addition, I was very proud (and surprised) by my top grades and by being top of the class of the program, while I kept working full-time and suffering a very tough time with kids at home (schools closed) and my father-in-law barely surviving COVID during the first wave of the pandemic.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? It was my ability to share my knowhow with others, enable others to grow, and building up corporate ventures and successful business lines with other people.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Dr. Thomas Eppel. He taught what he believed in and enabled me, on the toughest of subjects, to believe in myself and succeed.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? Due to the international program and the ability to meet other international students, the program gave me the ability to graduate with an MBA in the USA as well as in Europe at the same time. The backbone of this MBA was an engineering university, which was important to me.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? I learned really many lessons. Many of them I applied at work already, from practical M&A and finance models, to lessons on leadership and BHAGs. But the biggest lesson came from David Schoorman, who taught us Negotiation class in a very effective way. He taught me to expand the pie in order to get a better framework and a more honest negotiation. I had a very tough and also political situation at work, and I was saved by the approach David taught me and used that instantly in the negotiation.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? The key to the secret is my husband. You decide together to do the MBA. Accept that your social life is restricted for a while (which wasn’t a big deal during COVID by the way) and focus and prioritize every week again.

A small story is that I was lucky that my time zone in the Netherlands was ahead of USA time, so I could spend most of my group calls or other study work in the evening and night. I am gifted with a huge amount of energy, so there were moments during COVID when I started at 7 am with sending kids to school, working until 3 PM, and moving right into USA time zone colleagues until 11 PM at night or later.. If I look back on this, I truly do not know how I did this at that time, for almost two years, week in and week out.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Don’t go for the title or the extra salary dream, truly do this for learning from great teachers as well as from other MBA students. Make serious time for this and you get the best out of your MBA.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? What everybody told me was that going back to school after many years of practical experience helps you to understand better. I truly found out that is true. You can far better absorb and reflect once you have worked for some years than I had as a youngster at the university with no work experience.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I had to deal with COVID, which meant I wasn’t able to travel and meet in person with students for three modules. I wish, like the whole world, COVID wasn’t around.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Tough question: the diversity was huge and I admired many of them. If I had to pick one, it would be Anastasia Richman. She got pregnant and delivered a baby during the program. As a mom, I think that was amazing.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? To meet other professionals and to get some deeper academic insights.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? In my Gallop profile, my top strength is ‘learner’. I wish I could keep on learning with and from other people. I have no ultimate thing, title or position, in mind. For me, the continuous goal is to keep being able to inspire and enable people to grow, and using that reflection to also learn.

What made Kristel such an invaluable addition to the class of 2022?

“Despite the many obstacles the past couple of years have presented, Kristel’s persistence and dedication proved her invincibility. When the rest of the world seemed to find itself at a standstill in March 2020, Kristel was not discouraged in her pursuit of completing the IMM Global Exec MBA program. She persevered through the hindrance that international travel restrictions created by joining her fellow students virtually despite the six-hour time difference between the Netherlands and the United States.

While the many hardships of COVID had other students questioning their commitment to the program, Kristal was unwavering in her dedication and always seemed excited to be continuing onto the next step of the program. This enthusiasm soon rubbed off on her classmates, and she quickly became a positive example for the group. In fact, she further contributed to the overall the morale of the group when she was finally able to meet them in person in June 2021. During the program’s time in Utrecht, Netherlands, she shared important aspects of Dutch culture with the group and made the trip a much more culturally immersive experience for everyone.

On top of what she contributed to the program with her upbeat personality and Dutch expertise, she also was the top performing student in the class. This is especially impressive considering the many obstacles she had to overcome in order to participate in the program. She managed this while working full-time, volunteering, and overseeing her children’s education during Covid. Kristel’s dedication was the epitome of perseverance, we are all most proud of her achievements.”

Karen Poore
Senior Program Manager
Krannert Global Programs – IMM Global Executive MBA
Purdue University


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