Unusual careers: an interview with alumn Robbie Servais
UM alumnus Robbie Servais works as a football coach at K.R.C. Genk, one of the five most prominent football clubs in Belgium. An unusual career considering that he studied International Business at Maastricht University. Although Robbie's profession may seem like an unusual career choice, his studies at the School of Business and Economics did have a great influence on his professional career.
What did your studies in Maastricht look like?
During my studies, I was still playing football at M.V.V. Maastricht at a professional level. Next to that I was studying International Business, which looked a whole lot different back then than it does now. It took a lot of discipline to combine a professional football career with studying, so I did not really have time to experience the busy student nightlife in Maastricht. However, I was doing things that I liked, so I had no difficulty with that. After a few years of studying, I chose to go on an exchange to Hong Kong, which opened up a whole new world for me and allowed me to gain my first international experience. Since I was still playing at M.V.V. during my exchange, I could not just sit still for 6 months and took on football opportunities in Hong Kong as well.
How did your first international experience influence your future decisions?
After my exchange I returned to Maastricht and realised that I wanted more, I got obsessed with other cultures and countries. More specifically, I got obsessed with Asia. It did not take me too long to move to Japan (after my second study abroad exchange in Grenoble) and pursue my football career there. During this period, I played football in Singapore, Vietnam and Japan. What I enjoyed most in those countries were the different people, and their different views and mindsets. I got the opportunity to combine doing what I love -playing soccer- with experiencing new cultures, this was one of the best things for me.
What would you advise anyone that thinks about pursuing a similar career path?
Knowing where your passion is, is worth more than anything! For me, my passion became clear when I turned five years old. And although it is evident that the contents of the International Business programme do not always align with my job as a football coach, it's the soft skills that I learned at Maastricht University that really made a difference: presenting in front of large groups, working with different cultures and analysing different situations. I did not always realise that I was training these skills during my studies, but now that I look back, I value them greatly. Nevertheless, there are things that I would do differently if I had to do it all over again. Ultimately, my advice would be to invest in what you enjoy doing most. Don't make decisions based on assumptions or other people's expectations, do it because you want to.
It's the soft skills that I learned at Maastricht University that really made a difference: presenting in front of large groups, working with different cultures and analysing different situations. I did not always realise that I was training these skills during my studies, but now that I look back, I value them greatly.
Now that the Dutch national team is preparing for some tough matches, who do you support as a Belgian coach and Dutch citizen?
Of course, I support the Dutch team, but given my career path, I also support the Japanese, Australian and Belgian teams. Those teams will always be high on my list since they all crossed my path during my career at some point. So, the next few weeks will be very interesting to me.
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