Sabri Assali (Canada, Syria) – Nyenrode Business University


Sabri Assali has lived through his MBA journey by following his own advice: embrace the change and be open to improving yourself. The MBA challenged him to improve emotionally and welcome the personal and professional change it brought about. He told us more about the impact of the MBA on his academic, professional and personal growth.

Where does your passion for green tech and renewable energy come from?

During my final year of my bachelor’s degree we had to do a graduate project and I was scrambling to find a good group to do it with. I came across a couple of students that were working on a renewable energy grid that combines solar, wind and battery storage for remote areas in Argentina. While working on this project I really started appreciating the beauty of it and how much of an impact it can have. Incidentally I was applying for oil and gas companies at the time – a completely different end of the spectrum, but I quickly abandoned the oil and gas prospects and stuck to my green energy preference.

Why did you choose to study in the Netherlands?

The Netherlands is very big on green technologies, they have a lot of innovation in that field and they support smaller firms that are interested to take big leaps in this industry.

How did you experience the move to the Netherlands?

I found it quite easy, to be honest. I find the Canadian and Dutch mentality very similar so I felt right at home as soon as I came here. I was warned before I came that finding housing might be a problem but I was lucky enough to know someone who did the MBA before me and who could connect me to someone looking for a roommate, so I already had an apartment before I came here. One thing to know is the number of bikes – in the city of Amsterdam bikes are priority over pedestrians and over cars (!) If you have that notion in your head, you’ll be able to walk around safely and not get hit by anyone. The number of bikes is quite a beautiful sight to see, especially since the weather is quite rainy most of the time, but that typically does not stop people from using their bikes.

What attracted you to Nyenrode Business University?

They have three core values namely leadership, entrepreneurship and stewardship. It was really stewardship that spoke to me – it meant to me that, being a person with capabilities and abilities to influence the environment around me, I have the responsibility to take care of this planet. That is why I chose them over others.

Nyenrode gave me a network that I could immediately tap into when I arrived here. They were very quick to respond and support me in all of my needs. With any questions, the faculty and supervisors were very helpful, giving very candid and honest answers to my questions. At first, it was striking to be told something was not possible without any negotiation but in the end, it was helpful because it allowed me to stop wasting time on one aspect and focus on another aspect that could yield better results.

Have you noticed any changes in yourself since you started the MBA?

The major difference between when I started the MBA and now would be that my level of confidence has gone up significantly. I am much more comfortable talking and presenting in front of people even if I haven’t met them before or if I am talking about something that I have no idea about. It really allowed me to be more comfortable in discussions and networking events. The other thing which I found Nyenrode to be excellent at is developing my leadership skills. I have really grown as a person and I understand better how to manage big teams of people and how certain aspects in environments work better for some and others would work better for others. So, it was really about learning how to create an environment for those around me to succeed.

What is your advice to future students?

Understand that you are part of a group, not an individual. Work with the people around you, if you try to do everything by yourself the workload will very soon become impossible. So, collaborate and be open to helping people because you will need their help at some point. Also, be brave. If you have already taken the decision to join the MBA it means you are leaving your comfortable job and probably have to take on some loans or dig into your savings to be there. Have faith and be brave – this degree will help you to get back to where you were and surpass that in the next couple of years.

For Sabri, a green tech and renewable energy expert convinced of his responsibility to take care of this planet, Nyenrode seemed like a natural fit because it holds “stewardship” as one of its core values. Reflecting on his MBA so far, this has definitely proved to be the case.