Wim Smets

The secrets of the strongest Belgian mountaineer
What managers can learn from alpinism

Wim Smets (1968) climbed the '7 Summits’, the highest mountains on each of the 7 continents. This puts him in a select group with only five other compatriots. He is the only Belgian who ever tried to climb K2, the most difficult mountain in the world. Mountain climbing is putting yourself to the extreme. The experience you gain there, in matters such as planning, teambuilding or risk management, is equally essential in business.

In an intriguing modest way Wim Smets talks about his experience as a climber. Besides lectures for the general public, Wim Smets knows like no other to captivate a management audience. As an experienced project manager in the IT industry, specializing in change management, Wim Smets perfectly places the parallels between business and mountaineering. Because every successful expedition hides a strong dose of management: goal setting, time management and planning, resource management, team building, risk management, ... Wim Smets is the ideal guide to show you how to implement this in the daily functioning of your company.


After completing his MBA at Vlerick Business School Wim started his career as a project and program manager. To support that choice, he obtained a certificate as Project Management Professional with the Project Management Institute. In the meantime, he works as a Global Transformation Director. In this role, Wim reorganizes the IT-departments of multinationals and governments. His transformations influence the work of thousands of employees. Through the years, he has lived in Germany, UK, Ireland and Spain. He has lead transformations in most European countries but also in the US, India, China, Malaysia and the Philippines.

People first

Wim built a reputation as a change manager that works with people, not above. “I’m not afraid to roll up my sleeves to build solutions with the rest of the team. I may be leading IT-transformations, but in the end, it’s always the people that make the difference: people that see the change as a threat or people that see the change as an opportunity. To be successful, I need to guide people on this journey, knowing that the final destination for their personal career may not always be clear. I provide my program managers plenty of personal support and invest a lot of effort in coaching junior project managers.” To better support his teams, Wim took a course in Personal Coaching in 2012 and obtained a certificate in change management from PROSCI in 2016.


But Wim likes ambitious challenges outside the world of IT as well. He is a passionate mountaineer and focuses on extreme altitude. His track record is without any doubt impressive. He is the third Belgian that has completed the “7 Summits”, the highest mountains on each of the 7 continents. In 2007 he climbed Mount Everest (8850 meter), the highest place on earth. In 2011 he was the first Belgian to reach the true summit of Broad Peak (8051 meter) in Pakistan and saved the life of a South-African mountaineer during the descent. He still is the only Belgian that tried to climb K2 (8611 meter), where he reached 7600 meters.

Belgian record

In the mountaineering world, Wim is mostly known as the Belgian that has climbed most 8000-ers. He reached five summits of mountains higher than 8.000 meter. In 2012 he matched the 20 year old Belgian record of Ingrid Baeyens by climbing his fourth 8000-er. During this expedition on Manaslu (8163 meter) Wim showed his extreme persistence by reaching the summit with a broken ankle. 8 months later he broke the same record by becoming the first Belgian to reach the summit of Lhotse (8.516 meter).


His performance attracts media attention. His own website was visited over 300.000 times in 2013, the year of the Lhotse expedition. Wim was also on an expedition in Nepal when the country was hit by a horrible earthquake in the spring of 2015. Wim immediately refocused his efforts from mountaineering to reconnaissance missions to gather information for NGO’s. On his return he collected funding to help the people of Nepal.


Wim Smets as a speaker is in the first place a great source of inspiration. In his own modest way he leaves a deep impression on his public. Although only few climbed a peak of 8000 meters, he manages to captivate his audience with highly recognizable stories on succeeding in challenges, on hard work on a project, adapting to changes and troubleshooting. Besides lectures for a general audience, Wim Smets can inspire a management audience.

Management lesson

Mountaineering is pushing yourself to extremes. The experiences you pick up at extreme altitude are just as essential in business. As experienced program manager, specialized in change, Wim Smets is perfectly suited to clearly explain the parallels between business and mountaineering. Because a successful expedition is built on solid management: setting goals, time management, planning, resource management, team building, risk management, … Wim Smets is the guide for your digital expedition that will show you how to apply this in your company.

Vlerick Business School also sees the potential of their adventurous alumnus and have hired him as a guest lecturer in 2014.

The only way is up

Business & Management, Entrepreneurs, Diversity, HR, Corporate Culture, Leadership, Strategy, Management, Motivation, Inspiring, Sport & Adventure, Adventurers, Individual sportsmen, Group Sportsmen, Travel

Mountaineering is pushing yourself to the extreme and that requires lots of persistence. Wim shares the lessons he has learned in the death zone and explains how he these lessons can be applied at work and in private life.
In the death zone, above 8000 meters, it is lethal to pursue the wrong goals. And holding on to the original plan while the weather circumstances have changed, can mean you will not reach the summit.

Climbing an 8000 meter giant is a team challenge. Your life can depend on the other members of your expedition team. From experience, Wim Smets knows that it is better to build a divers team, in which all necessary skills are represented.
The death zone is a dangerous environment. Every step can be your last one. You can mitigate risks, but a certain amount of risk is an essential part of every challenge. Without risks, you will miss out on a lot of opportunities that life can offer you. On the road to the summit, not all circumstances will be under your control. But how you respond to these circumstances, is your choice.

To become a better mountaineer, you need to be prepared to set out of your comfort zone and learn from the mistakes you have made.

Wim explains how he applies his experience as a transformation manager in mountaineering, and the other way around. Both careers strengthen each other and you will be on the front row to learn from the experiences of this modest speaker. In this fascinating lecture, Wim will offer you lessons in life and new insights.

Life as it is: mountaineering

Business & Management, Entrepreneurs, Diversity, HR, Corporate Culture, Leadership, Strategy, Management, Motivation, Dared, Inspiring, Sport & Adventure, Adventurers, Individual sportsmen, Group Sportsmen, Travel

Mountaineering is more than a walk where the path suddenly goes up. And not every climb is plagued by deadly snow storms on the most dangerous point of the glacier. But every expedition supposes that you work well together in a multicultural team, sometimes in harsh conditions, with two goals: surviving and reaching the summit.

Anyone who does not want to experience his own expedition, can still learn how you function at several thousand meters altitude. How do you start the preparations, camp life, the cold and hardships, unexpected events: as a speaker Wim Smets succeeds in making you feel like you were there. He will put you on your way to the mountain you always wanted to climb

"Impressive keynote from Mountaineer Wim Smets during the Showpad Sales Kickoff. How to bring a team from the basecamp to the top or how to grow a pre-nicorn to a unicorn with a great team. Thanks for the inspiring session!"

Mario Heneca - Showpad
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Languages of the keynote
English, French, Dutch