Anewspring interview with Bart Meerdink

Bart Meerdink | mede-eigenaar Beeckestijn

He doesn’t like to talk about himself but he loves to talk about Beeckestijn Business School of which he has been co-owner of since recently.  The ‘digital marketing talentship’ earned the second prize at The 2022 aNewSpring Awards. ‘It is great to see that this programme leads to promotions, new jobs and great new roles.’

Who is Bart Meerdink?
 1981  lives with his girlfriend and two sons in Amstelveen, the Netherlands  Education: Commercial economy and economic geography  Company: Beeckestijn Business School  Job: Managing Partner  Likes: running (‘one day I want to run a whole marathon’)  LinkedIn 

“ Making time to learn new things is a gift to yourself. ”
Bart Meerdink
Co-owner of Beeckestijn Business School

How did you end up at Beeckestijn?

“I come from a digital marketing background and have always worked in the business world. At Beeckestijn, I once contributed as a guest expert. I taught about subjects such as social media and Google Ads. Gradually, this moved more and more towards digital marketing strategy.”

Are you also trained in this?

“During my studies I didn’t learn what the business world needed in terms of skills. Universities and colleges lag far behind when it comes to online marketing. Many teachers have never seen the inside of a company. Students learn something about online marketing from books, then go to work for a company and there it turns out that they need skills they never acquired. That is still a very big gap.

That is precisely the product and the reason for Beeckestijn’s existence; we do our best to fill that gap with our courses.”

How did you manage to master those skills?

“At the beginning of my career, I really started working in an operational capacity, especially with sales and digital campaign management. Learning every day, optimising and diving into the tools and analyses: learning by doing. I would recommend everyone to go deep into a specific discipline at the beginning of their career. Then you can continue to develop in a broader sense.”

Why is learning important to you?

“Learning is life. Learning is great fun and you never stop learning. This is true in your private life and also as a professional. There is always new knowledge and new inspiration, there are always new insights. I sincerely believe, and this is why I enjoy working at Beeckestijn so much, that as a professional it is extremely valuable to keep developing. To zoom out for a moment and to spar with like-minded people about your professional field.

We don’t do that enough. People are too caught up in their own daily rat race. Taking time out to learn new things is a real gift to yourself.”

“I keep my own expertise up to date in this constantly changing field by coaching many people in digital marketing and helping many larger parties in the Netherlands with their digital strategy.”

“ I get a behind the scenes glimpse in many places. I know the digital strategy of almost every company in the Netherlands. That helps me to keep our own subject matter up to date. 

What would you still like to learn?

“I once studied philosophy for a brief period and I would like to do it again. Philosophy explains a lot of what happens in the world. I still benefit almost every day from the philosophy courses I took in the past, in how I think or how I can put things into perspective. Spinoza is one of my favourites. I would like to delve more into his work.”

Bart Meerdink | mede-eigenaar Beeckestijn

You are now a managing partner at Beeckestijn.

“A year and a half ago I joined as co-owner. I noticed that everything I did for Beeckestijn gave me a lot of positive energy. There are nice and enthusiastic people working here, who have pure intentions and really want to make things better. There is just a good vibe. That really appeals to me.”

What does your company look like?

“Our core team consists of 25 people and we hire experts in addition, people who have their own agencies or work for other companies and who give lectures on behalf of Beeckestijn. That makes a total of 100 to 150 experts that we regularly deploy.

What kind of people are they? They are geeks and industry experts, people with a passion for the profession who enjoy sharing their knowledge with other professionals. Because the developments in this field are so rapid, we only work with people who practise the profession they teach on a daily basis.”

What courses do you offer?

“We have an open offer and a customised offer. Our open range consists of compact education and training courses in the field of digital, data, custom experience and communication, where you can obtain a diploma within a few months. This offer is mainly meant for individuals: employees at a company, self-employed people or jobseekers who want to retrain.

We also work a lot with tailor-made in-company programmes, for example, where we train all digital marketers or cx professionals within a company. We do this for companies like ING, Samsung, Achmea and DPG Media.”

Do you make much use of online learning?

“We have always taught in the classroom, but in recent years – partly driven by COVID – we have increasingly organised our training courses in a blended way. The most successful programmes now have a strong online component. We usually transfer the simple knowledge via e-learning and online tools. Participants then have the basic knowledge and concepts. If we then meet physically, we can immediately go into depth.”

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How to make e-learning interesting for everyone?

“You can make it fun by working with quizzes, literature, exercises: it has to be a bit snackable. It is also important that participants are rewarded for doing well, so we use many gamification elements. Of course, aNewSpring is very suitable for that.”

Why do you like working with aNewSpring?

“We migrated to aNewSpring two years ago. At that time, we consciously chose a SaaS (software as a service) solution with an ambitious product roadmap that is continuously innovating. So that all new developments are pushed to all users at all times. We are very satisfied with it.

The fact that aNewSpring also has many international plans and an increasing number of foreign customers fits in well with the ambitions we have for Beeckestijn. It is very instructive for us to look at how other European trainers build a learning journey.”

Which training course won you the second prize at The 2022 aNewSpring Awards?

“That is our ‘Digital Marketing Talentship’: a programme for young talents who want to develop into digital marketing experts. At university or college, they often learned skills that do not quite match the needs of companies today. We have built a blended learning journey with a good balance between online contacts and physical meetings.

We work with relatively small groups of eight to ten participants. They learn hard skills: how to set up digital campaigns, how to work with Google Analytics, how to improve websites. In addition, we teach them soft skills, such as giving feedback and learning to present.”

What makes this programme so successful?

“The participants are taught by the best experts in the market, which is very valuable for them. Moreover, it is a really fun programme where they build up a bond with each other as a group and make new friends.”

“ We offer a safe environment where they can learn and develop together. That always gives a very nice energy and dynamic. And we use smart learning formats with a good combination of online and offline. ”

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What is your role in this course?

“This is mainly about finding the right experts and setting the right learning goals. But it is more the team that does it. Mirna Chaitram is certainly worth mentioning; she is the spiritual mother behind this entire learning journey.

We also have core teacher Hielko van der Molen who guides the talents. He helps them with the soft skills and with refresher days and talks to them about what they encounter in their work. Hielko is actually a kind of business coach throughout the programme.”

How much time does it take to go through this programme?

“On average, such a programme lasts nine months. The participants spend one day a week on it, and they also work. That is also the great thing about this programme: everything they learn, they can immediately apply in practice. The talent programme is exceptionally practice-oriented and must have an immediate impact on their daily work.

How many people have already completed this talentship?

“This is the second year that we are offering it and about thirty people have now followed the training. Beeckestijn-wide, we train about a thousand professionals per year. We use aNewSpring broadly: in all courses and trainings we use aNewSpring as the central learning journey.”

Do you follow the participants to see if the training actually transfers to the work field?

“Certainly. What is great to see is that this programme leads to promotions, new jobs and more self-confidence and new roles. Companies need people who can use their digital skills immediately. That is what we really train them for: to make an immediate impact within companies and to be able to pick up a lot. That makes them immediately valuable.”

What interesting new projects are you working on?

“We are currently developing several international programmes. We do that for large business-to-business organisations that are located all over the world, such as Air France KLM. We have created a marketing academy in which we train marketers worldwide. There are online interactive sessions and participants complete the e-learning and assignments in aNewSpring. We want to grow internationally with Beeckestijn and explore across borders more and more.”

This interview was previously published on aNewSpring.