Loris Alvarez: The Executive MBA pushed me to develop humility. You realize it is impossible to know everything and always be right

Loris Alvarez finished the International Executive MBA in 2017. He went on to start his own company and lead many projects. He says that what he got in the EMBA programme has helped him realize all the opportunities open to his company and has given him more confidence and humility. One thing Loris recalls very clearly about the EMBA is that you not only learn new theories, “you build on your experience and you amplify what you already know to go even further.” In this interview he reviews the varied opportunities, challenges and advantages of EMBA studies with BMI and UCLouvain.

Tell me a little bit about yourself and your professional background.

I studied Applied Management Sciences in Namur and Louvain-La-Neuve, and chose to continue with production management. Soon after graduating, I joined a Danish manufacturer of food flavours based in Louvain-La-Neuve, which was later acquired by a Swiss company. As head of planning in Europe, a big part of my time was dedicated to local and regional planning. My work started to get a bit repetitive, so I discussed with my managers what the next step could be. Given my good performance, my superior agreed to offer me the Executive MBA. It was a good way to move forward in my career path, giving me more weapons and broader knowledge in the perspective of taking a role of site manager.

Why did you choose the LSM-BMI Executive MBA among others in the Belgian landscape?

The curriculum is certainly a big factor that led me to go for this EMBA. What is more, I knew some of the lecturers from earlier studies at LSM. The internationality part is also a big asset of the programme. It was extremely interesting to travel to many different locations around the world, discover diverse economies and put what we learned in class into practice. And finally, of course, the location was certainly a major factor in my decision. Working in Belgium and knowing you’ll have to manage work and family time, the proximity of the lectures is really important, so that was a big plus.

What was your most valuable achievement during the EMBA journey?  

Definitely the final paper. I was working at a company where the 24 hours of the day is not enough to put deal with everything. You have to make quick decisions and delegate some of the analysis to get a better understanding. The final paper made me dive deeper into a topic about reducing the lead time on a very demanding line. It helped me broaden my understanding and see opportunities within the company. All the steps in developing the analysis and doing a complete review were, to me, my greatest achievement.

You launched a new business venture in 2018. How influential was the EMBA in this new project?

You get a bit more confident during that programme. Everyone mentions that when you discuss it with other participants. They were all employees in upper management roles, but still employees, and many of them mentioned a desire to start their own business, their own company. But I wouldn’t say that at that time it was clear in my mind that I would start my own company. No, it just happened like that. So, I would say the EMBA doesn’t push you in that direction, but it gives you confidence that you can succeed. The EMBA is a boost of confidence.

How have you integrated the insights you got in the international trips into your current experience?

It has helped me understand that there is no single view in business, but that you have multiple views and multiple realities. I would also say that something in all of that helped me grow in humility. You realize it’s impossible to know everything about everything. It’s impossible to always be right. Being humble, listening, is one of the things you develop throughout this experience.

Imagine you could talk with the Loris of 2016 who was interested in the Executive MBA but hesitant about moving forward with it: what would your advice be?

It’s a good way to be forced to take a step back from an organization. I think most people in management are drowning in hundreds of emails and lots of meetings. The EMBA is a good way to open your eyes to other things and reflect on your place among all these things. What I’m saying is a bit contradictory, since in one way it’s time for yourself, you can reflect, while on the other end, you pay a price because you have to run to catch up with things you missed both at work and at home. But it’s a great way to reflect and to reposition yourself for what is to come, since you get ‘formatted’ when you spend years in a company. Formatted by what matters to the company, how they want to read the figures, how they want to set priorities, how they do appraisals from an HR point of view, the culture they have put in place. Doing the EMBA helped me reflect on the options that are theoretically possible, where my company stands, where I stand, how I would challenge that. That would be the best way to express what it brought for me.

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