USA meets Rotterdam: The benefits of doing your MBA abroad

In this episode of The Modern MBA podcast, in collaboration with MBAGRADSCHOOLS, we spoke with Ryan Gray. A public relations guru from the United States, Ryan enrolled at the Rotterdam School of Management in the Netherlands in 2019 to pursue an MBA. He shares his experience at RSM, networking tips that helped him stand out, and the benefits of an MBA for communications and marketing professionals.

In short

Ryan Gray (USA) – Rotterdam School of Management

So, you have a bachelor’s in public relations and communications and have extensive experience in public affairs, communications, and marketing. Would you kindly walk us through your career in more detail?

You bet. I always start this way, where I’m the youngest in my family, two older brothers and an eldest sister, and you know, typical family stuff. Your brothers will beat on you and I wasn’t really the strong one so I use my mouth as a way to sort of combat everyone else. And so I learned to talk very quickly and a lot. I loved communications, and I thought I wanted to be a broadcaster and then I came across public relations. What I really liked about public relations, is in a nutshell, it’s how to figure out everyone’s self-interest and align it. I love that core concept of public relations because that’s sort of the core to be a good salesperson or a good entrepreneur, whatever the situation may be, it’s important to think outside yourself and think about others and what they’re trying to achieve and then try to get your self-interest to align with theirs. 

During my career, I started thinking, where am I going to be in five to 10 years? And all these positions I was interested in, they all had an MBA preferred or MBA required. And so I was like, what is this MBA thing? I started researching and I found that for me, I wanted a special experience, I wanted something different than in the United States. I was fortunate enough to have lived in Europe for a few years when I was a kid; I lived in the Netherlands, so I knew about the country. My wife doesn’t speak Dutch, and neither do I and I thought if we’re going to do an international MBA, I want to go somewhere where my wife would feel comfortable speaking English and getting around and so the Netherlands was at the top of the list. (1:09)

Why the Rotterdam School of Management as opposed to other schools in the Netherlands?

I wanted a real diverse experience. I wanted something different. I wanted to feel like a fish out of water as well. What I liked about the Rotterdam School of Management is it’s very international. When I went there, honestly it was 99% International – there was one Dutch person, 140 students, and only 11 Americans. (4:36

How did you find companies received you when you were applying in the States coming from a school outside of the US?

Excellent question. I get this quite a lot. So I will preface that I am a network junkie. I spend way too much time on LinkedIn. And I feel that there’s really the spectrum of how much you spent on your MBA networking versus getting great grades and good scores. I spent a lot of time conversing and what I found – because that’s a question a lot of Americans specifically message me and say,
“Oh, look, I saw you went to Rotterdam School of Management. But what happens if eventually, I want to come back? How am I going to be perceived because I won’t have that same connection with the local university in that town?”

And I actually found it was a big win for me because you seem exotic. It’s a big conversation starter. Every time I’ve told them where I am or where I studied, they always go, ‘Now wait a minute,’ like, ‘Okay, interesting, I want to know more.’ Everything in the interview process is about standing out and being unique and that’s a really easy tool that I can pull out, which is, that’s what makes me unique. I’m not like everybody else. 

Then the last thing we have to remember: we’re constantly putting ourselves in our perspective and sort of making ourselves seem small in the interview but businesses are interviewing to find a great candidate, and businesses are going more and more international than ever before. (7:01)

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