“We’ve been forced to adapt – and improve”

As part of the current Blue MBA cohort due to graduate in August 2021, Thomas Bek has had a very different CBS experience thanks to the pandemic. But despite moving to distance learning for his Blue MBA mid-programme, the Blue Water Shipping executive has broadened his already extensive knowledge of the shipping industry and gained many invaluable business skills – not to mention a new appreciation for the opportunities afforded by technology.

I started out in Blue Water Shipping as a trainee. That was 25 years ago and I’ve been there ever since, rising to global director for two of the business units: Oil & Gas, and Wind Logistics. Going back three or four years I started to consider an MBA; I could see my role moving into management and wanted to increase my level of knowledge. So when I heard about the Blue MBA it sounded like the perfect way to access that leadership education and also gain a broader understanding of the shipping industry.

All change

To start with, I was travelling to Copenhagen every three months, but after the first three modules Covid-19 came along and everything had to shift online. Distance learning for my Blue MBA may have been a little rough around the edges to start with, as is probably to be expected, but the faculty soon got into their stride and the quality is now very good. In fact, it has helped give me some confidence in the idea we could use this kind of technology more for smaller meetings within in our business. Not that this will ever replace travelling the world.

Of course, we would all prefer to be in the classroom together, but there are definite advantages to working online too. For one thing there is less travelling – as someone who already works away from family a lot, it’s nice not to have to be away from home for studying too. Plus, everything that is delivered online is recorded so you can go back and review things as and when you need to. It all adds to the flexibility of the course.

Broadening knowledge

I find the variety of people on the Blue MBA fascinating. It’s not only the mix of nationalities, but there are people from all business areas, too. From air freight and carrier side to legal and insurance as well as those working at ports. We’ve enjoyed different inputs, different points of view, all experienced in the industry and adding value to the discussions. You wouldn’t get that on a regular MBA.

The world is changing all the time, and important developments are noted and discussed regularly in our lectures. If you’re not careful you can get too focussed on what you do, so it’s great to open your mind to new ideas and new things. Blockchain and new technologies, for example, are not things I knew much about, but through mixing with others and listening to the speakers we’ve welcomed, I now have a wider understanding.

Supportive environment

My classmates come from a wide range of companies within the industry, so the course has provided me with a great way to expand my network. Every module has been relevant to my day-to-day work and contributing to my Integrated Strategy Project, which will focus on the transition to renewables within our business. It’s an exciting opportunity to use my new-found knowledge to make a difference in the real world.

Working in the shipping industry is hectic and busy and the faculty at CBS understand that. So while my employers have given me the time and space I need to do the Blue MBA, CBS have understood when things have happened at work that required my full attention. I felt I had the support I needed from the programme to balance my work and my education.

I went into the course knowing my knowledge within shipping was narrow and I’ve learned about different markets that I wasn’t even aware of. The Blue MBA has broadened my knowledge and there is no doubt it is going to help me in my career.