Mike den Hartog | BSc Management with International Business, 2015 | Economic Development and Microfinance, Consultant on the United Nations Development Programme
“My why…is to do everything in my ability to alleviate poverty and contribute towards the economic progress of less economically-developed countries.”
Why did you choose Royal Holloway for your degree?
I chose Royal Holloway for a couple of reasons. Firstly, what really struck me when I visited Royal Holloway before starting was the strong sense of community that comes from being a campus university, which was very important for me. I was also looking for was a university that was very international and on the rise, in terms of rankings. With Royal Holloway continually being recognised as one of the most international universities in the UK I couldn’t have picked a more suitable university. Lastly, I was convinced by the courses provided, the faculty, and the facilities at the School of Management, which gave me confidence that a degree at Royal Holloway would prepare me for my future career.
What was it about the subject that interested you?
Upon commencing my studies I came to realise how broad the study of Management really was, much to my delight. Over the course of three years there were a couple of classes that really stood out. Classes such as Managerial Economics, taught by my mentor Donna Brown, pushed the students to think outside the conventional box and apply economics in new and innovative ways. It was in the third year that I realised just exactly how powerful business management really was in the world we live in today, and with this degree one could change the world for the better.
As a student, what did you hope to achieve in the future?
Initially I started my degree at Royal Holloway with an interest in business but with no real idea what kind of career path I would like to pursue. Fast forward to today, and I realise that it is at Royal Holloway where I really decided what I wanted to do with my life, which was to use business to contribute towards economic development of less economically developed countries and contribute towards poverty alleviation. Having lived in less economically developed countries for the majority of my life I always had the idea in the back of my mind that one day I’d like to help those less fortunate. It was only after I completed my degree that I realised how I could contribute towards economic development and poverty alleviation through business.
Where has your career taken you since university?
After Royal Holloway, I went on to pursue a double Masters degree at the University of Sydney and ESADE Barcelona through the CEMS program. This allowed me to improve my core competencies and learn new skills that would be beneficial to my future career. Along the way I had internships at a start-up in Bangkok, Mastercard, and Deloitte, before taking a short term consultancy contract at the United Nations in Thailand after I graduated. I’m now working in Mbale, in Uganda, with Balloon Ventures, a social capital development company, where I am working with local business to help them grow and become more economically sustainable.
What difference do you think you are making?
I believe that here in Mbale I am making a big impact. The power of my educational background and experience has allowed me to help local business grow which contributes towards the economic development of the country. The way I’m received by the people here and the businesses I work with, highlight just how much they value the time and effort I put in to help their town.
Have you achieved what you wanted to by this point or made the impact you hoped to make?
As an ambitious person I will always seek to make a bigger impact, but with that being said, as a recent graduate I believe I am already creating a direct impact to the livelihoods of hundreds of people. Since coming to Uganda the businesses I have worked with have employed over 50 new employees combined, and over 300 people have indirectly benefitted at some stage of the value chain of the businesses, which is a testament to work I have contributed too.
How do you feel going to Royal Holloway helped you to find your ‘why’?
I went to Royal Holloway as a blank canvas. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, what my purpose in life was, and focused on day-to-day life rather than on the future. I left Royal Holloway with a canvas full of ideas, experiences, and knowledge. My coursemates, team-mates, mentors, lecturers, tutors, even the administration team at the School of Management slowly made me realise what was important to me. This was combined with the subjects I studied, which were all very inspiring. The other aspect of Royal Holloway that helped me find my ‘why’ was the life there in general. The safety of the campus, the sports clubs and societies, the pristine natural landscape in and around the campus, all created a very positive and enjoyable environment that allowed me to find my purpose!
And finally, they say the two most important days of your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why. What’s ‘your why’?
The disparity between the rich and the poor in the world we live today is growing daily, and although some may say this is inevitable I believe that this can change, and that by empowering those at the bottom of the pyramid and giving them opportunities to become financially sustainable, the world can be a better place. I found my ‘why’ at Royal Holloway and it will serve as my core belief for the rest of my life.