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PREMIUM graduate Ashwin David started his interdisciplinary education at the Hotel Management School Maastricht. He continued his education at Maastricht University at the Master Globalisation and Law, where he specialised in Corporate & Commercial Law and Human Rights Law. During this first specialisation he entered Maastricht University’s honours programme PREMIUM. EDLAB spoke to him to talk about his personal experience: “PREMIUM provides a bridge between studies and practice, and those are in my experience more than just words on the website. Especially as university education sometimes lacks in practical experience PREMIUM can make up for this. You can do a practical project in your own field or in an interdisciplinary way, which is a great highlight on your CV.”
AN INTERDISCIPLINARY APPROACH
With friends telling him about the PREMIUM programme and emails rolling in promoting the project, Ashwin applied with no hesitation. After sending in his transcript and motivation letter he was selected for the final selection round. After being accepted to the programme he was assigned to a very interdisciplinary group, “Three of the students came from the SBE. One studied Marketing & Finance and the other Strategy & Innovation. Another student studied Medicine at FHML and the fourth studied International Business specialising in Organisation, Management, Change and consultancy at the SBE.” Together with his Law concentration this created a unique combination of interests and expertise.
We sort of build our own consultancy bureau with all types of roles. These roles weren’t necessarily based on our strongest points but rather on the skills we wanted to develop.”
Working together with a group of people with such different interests and knowledge took some organisation. “Our first meeting was very long. We made all sorts of arrangements to see what we could expect from each other and identified our strengths and weaknesses as well as the skills each of us would like to develop during PREMIUM. We also discussed this with our supervisors and based on this we determined how we could work together best. Who would be the strongest leader? Who would be the best PR? We sort of build our own consultancy bureau with all types of roles. These roles weren’t necessarily based on our strongest points but rather on the skills we wanted to develop.”
BRAINSTORMING AND DIPLOMACY
The client assigned to the group was Maastricht’s prestigious shopping area the Stokstraatkwartier, “they wanted to do market research to build a stronger brand for themselves comparable to the PC Hooftstraat in Amsterdam”. Ashwin’s group conducted this research, analysing the opportunities for the different entrepreneurs in the area and determining how they could work together more effectively. In other areas of Maastricht many groups of entrepreneurs had already been successfully working together on new and innovative projects. “In the end we gave our client a lot of best practice advice based on field work in Maastricht and the PC Hooftstraat as well as desk research on marketing and branding.”
The most challenging aspect was working with the different entrepreneurs, and mediating effectively between many different views. “The diplomacy was a challenge. A small part of the group of entrepreneurs in the area came up with the idea to build a collective brand and we communicated these ideas to the other entrepreneurs, who sometimes had very different mindsets. We had to convince them, so a lot of mediation was needed.” Showing the benefits of their ideas was key and this mediation turned out to be one of the key skills gained during PREMIUM. Today Ashwin still sees the result of the project while walking through the Stokstraatkwartier and the successful results the group achieved.
If we hadn’t developed these planning skills the project would not have succeeded. You need to be determined to make this project work.
With the PREMIUM project running next to general coursework, Master theses and other projects, the experience could be challenging at times and planning became an essential skill. “Most of us were working on our Master thesis at the same time and had exams and other activities going on as well. We were all quite avid learners who aimed for the highest grades, so this could be stressful at times. If we hadn’t developed these planning skills the project would not have succeeded. You need to be determined to make this project work.” Fortunately the group dynamic was good, allowing to enjoy the communication with the entrepreneurs and learn from the projects that the clients were working on. PREMIUM was not only a place to gain skills and develop yourself but also a social experience, as Ashwin is still in touch with many of his PREMIUM colleagues.
The networking offered by the programme was another great benefit for Ashwin. He was able to build a network that could provide him with many useful connections, which even led him to his current job at Zuyd University. Thanks to one of PREMIUM’s network events he was able to reconnect with his former teachers at the Hotel Management School Maastricht. “One of the events we attended was at the Hotel Management School in Maastricht where I ran into one of my old tutors. After telling him about my Master in Law he suddenly said they were looking for a Law tutor and asked me if I would be interested in the position. Of course I was! So during the second specialisation of my Master I already started teaching there once a week.” Today, 2.5 years later, he is still active as a tutor and course coordinator in Business Law and Ethics, a regional traineeship supervisor and study coach.
ASHWIN'S PREMIUM DO'S AND DON'TS
Whatever field you’re studying in, PREMIUM is always a great experience that sets you apart from other graduates in the job market.
During your studies you focus on theory but during PREMIUM you can actually start building a network and learn from professionals, which will not only help to develop yourself but will also benefit you in the future when entering the job market
Discuss your strengths and weaknesses when you meet your team members and address what skills you would like to develop. With this strategy you will be able to evolve during a group assignment.
Move outside your comfort zone. Don’t only focus on your strengths, but focus on the skills that still need some work. Don’t be afraid to choose a role in a group which you did not take up before, it will help you grow.
Don’t procrastinate, make clear plans and set goals that you are able to reach. A project requires hard work and a lot of commitment, and efficient schedule is key.
Enjoy the experience! Don’t give up, support each other in all circumstances and just have fun.