Alumni in the Spotlight Webster University - Marijke Schreiner

Marijke Schneider, CEO Stayokay and Webster Alumna

After a warm welcome from alumna Marijke Schreiner, we sat down in her office on the top floor of the Stayokay hostel in Amsterdam. As she shared her inspirational story, Marijke reminded us to stay open minded. Other than her ambition and determination, her curiosity has always been an important factor for her career path. She is a truly inspirational leader who currently runs a chain of hostels, where people from all over the world stay during their travels. 

Challenges of a young leader
“I never wanted to become the CEO of a hostel foundation. I have never been a big dreamer; it just happened. When I finished hotel school, I was twenty-four. In the hotel industry, you always start at the bottom and work your way up. If you work hard, though, you can get a promotion every year. At twenty-eight, I became a hotel manager. That is young, but my parents actually owned a hotel when I was ten, which helped me gain the necessary experience managing a team. Still, it was difficult due to a lack of managerial skills. For instance, to instruct an employee in his sixties to change his way of working, you need to look at it from his perspective. This resulted in a period of trial and error, where I bumped my head quite a few times, but learned a lot. In the hotel industry, it is all about working with people.”

“I have always worked in the hotel business. At certain moments during my career, I was interested in challenges in other industries, and I tried to do something else, but I missed the hotel business too much and returned to my first professional love. I became the general manager of a five-star hotel. After that, I was an operations manager for a three-star hotel. In 2008, I was approached by a head-hunter who offered me the chance to take my current position. I was selected on the basis of my extensive hotel experience and my MBA background. Without the MBA that I completed at Webster in 2002, I would not have been offered the job.”

“The flexible study opportunities at Webster are great.”

An intellectual challenge
“I chose to do the MBA because I wanted to be challenged. Being the manager of a five-star hotel was certainly a challenge, but at that time, it did not challenge me enough intellectually. Luckily, my company gave me the opportunity to start an MBA. It was a conscious decision to take an MBA program that offered a multi-culturally diverse population. I looked at Erasmus and Nyenrode, but I realized that their programs were not flexible enough to fit my 60+ hour work week. The flexible study opportunities at Webster gave me the chance to pursue my new challenge. Being able to select courses lasting eight weeks and that I could fit into my agenda worked out great. I even ended up completing two courses in Cha’am, Thailand. A marvelous experience! I’m happy that after so many years, I am still in contact with the friends I met at Webster.”

“The MBA not only helped me secure my current job, it also helped me find out what my strengths and weaknesses are. You learn to work in groups and experience different roles. In one assignment, your fellow classmate can lead the way, and you are expected to follow. In another course, it may be up to you to act as leader and devote more time. Webster is a great place to for personal development. All the courses are very practical. You take your new insights, experience, and knowledge back to your daily work and immediately assess how you can do it differently!”

“You’re never 100% perfect.”

Authentic leadership
“I’m very happy with my job as CEO of Stayokay. Stayokay is the largest hostel organization in the Netherlands. In total, we operate twenty-six properties (880,000 overnights); three are located in Amsterdam. Many young people work at Stayokay while they are studying. It’s really nice to work with the young generation; it keeps me young and open minded. My challenge is to always be open minded and listen to other people, no matter their age. I think it’s important to be aware of the fact that, no matter how much experience you have, you still do not know everything, and you probably never will. I have learned that it is OK to show my team that I, too, make mistakes, just as they do. I like to have people around me who dare to challenge me. In that sense, I believe that you’re never 100 percent perfect. If you get to around 80 percent, and you are doing a great job! The other 20 percent is not that important, but strangely enough, most of the time we focus on that 20 percent in order to improve. It is my opinion that the focus should be placed on the 80 percent; it is more efficient to look for someone else to cover the remaining 20 percent. Working with a complementary team is the best solution around!”