Roel Sterken, Bridging life-science and business

Roel Sterken

One of the best ways to learn about the Solvay experience is to talk to a student like Roel Sterken. Your Solvay class will be full of men and women with the same entrepreneurial spirit and drive to succeed. We asked him all the questions we know you’re curious about.

“In the future, wars will no longer be fought with the use of ships and aircraft; they will mostly take place online.”

Roel Sterken, Bridging life-science and business
MBA class of 2013-2015
Project Development Manager at DROIA, with a PhD in
Molecular biology and several years post-doc research
experience in life-science.

How did the Solvay MBA transform you?

The company I work for, DROIA Oncology, is a venture capital group that invests in life science start-ups. During my two years of study, I advanced from a scientific analyst to investment manager because I learned the hard skills of finance and strategy alongside the soft skills of people management and leadership. Without the MBA, this achievement would have taken much longer.

What did the MBA do for you?

What was impossible before is now possible today. Solvay gave me the tools to define a vision for myself and create a strategy that I can confidently execute. I learned to project manage a business plan from initiation to closing. I learned to identify my personal competitive advantages, and build a great team around me that can fill in the gaps.

What is most valuable to you from the MBA?

As a scientist by training, everything I learned about business was valuable. Today, I have the skills and insights needed to start and run any business, which opened up a whole new world of opportunity for me. No aspect of business is completely foreign or intimidating to me now. This is priceless.

What were your classmates like?

Like most Solvay classes, we had a super diverse group of people including corporate directors, diplomats, lawyers, and even a few scientists like me. Some of us were more interested in finance, others in start-ups. Some of us were shy and reserved while others loved the spotlight.
Despite these differences, we had an incredibly strong bond because we all shared the same goal of learning and expanding our horizons. Together, we learned about ourselves, and discovered we could raise our bars and push our boundaries far higher than we ever imagined.

How did you connect with Solvay alumni during your studies?

While I was working in my Solvay Lab on a business plan for a start-up, professors connected me with alumni in the start-up scene. The advice and “real-life” feedback I received was simply invaluable and really inspired me. Now that I’m a graduate myself, I’m planning on paying this forward by taking an active role in the alumni biotech and entrepreneur network.


When did you laugh the most with your classmates?

I had the greatest fun during G-Labs to Silicon Valley and China where I had the down time to really bond with my classmates. I strongly recommend these trips to all future MBA students; it’s an experience of a lifetime.

What advice would you give to perspective students?

Plan ahead and inform your family, close friends and colleagues about the journey you are about to begin. You’ll need their support and understanding to succeed. Be prepared that you’ll need to spend a lot (if not all) of your free time on your studies to get the most from your degree. You’ll need to make tough choices sometimes, but the sacrifices are worth it. My MBA is undoubtedly one of the best decisions I’ve made in life.

How can students prepare for their Solvay MBA?

Dust off your forgotten dreams, write down your most outlandish ambitions, think big and define what you want your legacy to be. Then, get excited because you’re about to gain the tools and insights you need to do it all. Solvay is a journey of a lifetime. Get ready.