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MBA Program Alumni Profile and Spotlight: Werner de Merode

Brandeis IBS MBA Alumnus Spotlight

Werner de Merode, MBA '10

Werner de Merode, MBA '10
Washington, D.C., USA

Werner de Merode spent his childhood making the world his home. The son of two World Bank employees, he lived in Mali, Belgium and Washington, D.C. before getting his undergraduate degree in international relations and economics from Boston University. He sought an MBA program that would provide quantitative training to advance his career while encompassing the types of global experiences he grew up with. Enter Brandeis International Business School (IBS) – a place he describes as filled with diverse faces and a devoted faculty. 

After six years in finance roles within the supply chain division at Staples, de Merode recently started a new role at McKinsey & Company, where he’ll be doing strategic planning and analysis. 

You graduated in 2010, right in the middle of the recession. Did that make your job search more difficult?
It was a tough economy, but those of us who really pushed ourselves to network and get involved, no matter how far outside of our comfort zones, got to a good place. Regardless of the economy, you can’t sit and wait for opportunities to come to you. I was at home in D.C. when I heard about a career fair taking place in Boston. I flew up for the day in the middle of spring break, and at that event, I landed my job at Staples as a senior finance manager.

When you reflect on your career so far, what aspect of the MBA program was most critical in preparing you for the real world?
Looking back, I really appreciate that Brandeis IBS makes an effort to bring in professors with real-world business experience. It’s not just about what’s in the textbooks. It’s learning from people who have gone out and made contributions to the business community. Their perspectives and expertise reflect what that world looks like. On top of that, you’re working with these experienced professionals in a small class setting where 1:1 relationships aren’t uncommon.

Why Boston? Was there a benefit to getting your MBA in and working there in particular?
The school’s proximity to Boston meant that I’d have easy access to world-class companies based in and around the city. Boston has a strong, innovative business community. There’s an interesting mix of industries from retail to technology to life sciences, and it’s pretty evident that it’s the place to be right now. Businesses want to be here because of schools like Brandeis that produce great employees, and with groups like GE moving into town, it’s clear that it continues to be a city on the rise. 

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Professor Brenda Anderson knew the CFO at Staples and connected us when I first began working there. I asked him how I could best succeed in the business world, and he told me to be laser-focused on doing the best job in the job I was in, that everything else would work itself out. I took it to heart. New opportunities have a tendency to come along when you’re not necessarily looking for them. My new role at McKinsey came up in conversation with a good friend from Brandeis who was working there. If you build the right relationships in the moment, you don’t need to worry about planning too far into the future. 

What advice do you have for our students and recent graduates?
I hear from students all the time, and I tend to respond to those who reach out looking for a conversation or an opportunity to ask questions. If you’re ultimately looking for a job or a recommendation, it’s important to build a relationship first. I urge students to get to know our alumni, to understand a bit more about who they are and what they do. Spend time investing in the relationship, not just the end goal. It pays off in the short term and in the long run.