Leadership, Experience and Intensity are some of the words people relate with IMD MBA. Over a month ago, I started my IMD journey expecting a lot of academic rigor, a vastly diverse group of colleagues and world class faculty. However, within 8 weeks, I have come to realize that IMD is not just any school, this is a unique experience that will test and impact every aspect of your personality.
A lot has happened in the last 8 weeks. From Risk models and Cartel Pricing to Snow excursions and Leadership camps, we are being exposed a host of different experiences. Add to this the start up projects, study groups, assignments and essays, and the plate looks quite full, if not brimming. But this is not all. Not even close.
What makes IMD a truly transforming experience is the systematic way in which the course intends to bring behavioral changes in candidates. A key lever to this is diversity within the class. Probably the most “glorified” word in the corporate world in recent times, we all know how organizations are trying to leverage diversity to foster creativity and growth. IMD is doing this and something more. It is harnessing diversity to create world class leaders.
90 people, 39 nationalities. Add to this the differences in age, experience, industries and educational background, and you know it’s a riot of flavors (or maybe just a riot!). But at IMD, diversity is not a poster boy. It is a strategic tool to test and transform personalities. As fancy as it sounds on paper, the fact is that most managers don’t know how to deal with diversity, let alone embrace or harness it. At IMD, candidates are being taught to develop this skill by what I call an EPIC strategy.
It starts with cranking up the pressure levels in a highly diverse environment, which Exposes all aspects of one’s personality. To ensure that you don’t miss on any fault lines, feedback sessions and coach interventions are strategically placed to drive the point home. Following the exposure, comes the Planning phase. Equipped with the knowledge of your blind spots and a better understanding of your unconscious behaviors, you are now required to put in place your own behavioral development plan. However, every good plan has to be put into effect and helping us in Implementation are our PDE analysts. Having deep understanding of subconscious driven behavioral patterns, they are our guides as we enter the realm of grey (matter). And finally, comes the Change of perspective and personality, enabling us to become a truly global leader.
As we embark upon this adventure, I feel exposed, but I also feel strong. I feel lost, but I also feel anchored. I know that with me in this journey are 89 others and they won’t let me fall. They will push me till I reach the finish line. And with them as my secure base, I feel ready to change, more than ever before!
This week was different from the very beginning. It actually started on Sunday afternoon, when the Magic90 reached IMD’s doors to get to know what was awaiting us in the first Leadership experimental – the first of the many elements of the IMD MBA leadership stream – the heart and the backbone of our MBA journey.
It all began so innocently. We met our coaches, got to know the initial exercise and were sent to the dungeons (study rooms!) to start discussions within our six-person study groups. Plain and simple. The magic happened later…
In the evening we lowered our masks and hung up our personas to share a few pages from the books of our lives. Going home few hours later, we knew each other better than we would have thought the day before. And that was just the start, a prelude to the following days. Tired, thankful and excited we were looking forward to the experience.
The next days were full of activities in the beautiful (yet cold 🙂 ) Swiss mountains. Physical and mental challenges to solve, discussions to be held, feedbacks to give and receive. However, that was only the surface, something that a cameraman would record in a documentary movie summarizing ‘student adventures’. The true story lies deeper, invisible to the naked eye.
Emotions. We experienced a lot of them. Positive and negative, mild and extreme. Excitement, passion, frustration, sadness, you name it. We lived through them together and individually. Although uncomfortable at times, they let us be even more who we really are.
Discovery. What is critical is that we have not stopped at living our emotions. It was a challenging learning experience about recognizing and analysing what happens to us, to the others and why, when working together on a joint task. How do we react to certain behaviours? How do our actions influence others? What is the impact of emotions and feelings for the effectiveness of a team?
As an example, I remember the discussions we had while analysing the challenges we solved vs. those we did not manage to cope with. One of the learnings was the importance of communication, giving each other enough space to share ideas and identify the talents and knowledge some of us had that were highly relevant for a given task. Sounds simple, does it not? But so often people think they ‘know better’ instead of listening to others…
Irrespective of how trivial it sounds, we realized and felt how critical the human, soft factor is in everything we do. And that is something you cannot learn in a class. You need to experience it.
Today’s business environment is a world of teams. We may have the brightest minds and most creative ideas in an organization but it will not take us far if we don’t manage to collaborate with and lead others. This week we made a few additional steps to better understand who we are and how we can effectively interact with others. Self-awareness and leadership – two simple words. Mastering them is a difficult and long path, but the award awaits those who dare to walk it persistently.
The award of truly connecting to inspiring and fascinating people that we onboard onto this journey. Financial and business success will be just by-products.
With warmest thoughts to my team: Anya, Kerry, Surbhi, Mischa and Tiziano.
After submitting my application on 31st March 2018, all I did for the next 26 days was refresh my inbox. On 26th April, I entered an elevator with one of my colleagues. Mobile networks in India rarely work in elevators but that day was different. I read the most awaited email and had to hide my emotions when I saw that I had been accepted for the assessment challenge!
So as anyone would do, I kept reading the email multiple times to live the moment. It didn’t even take a day for a new WhatsApp group to connect most of the candidates. Everyone was proposing a thesis about how IMD was going to make the selection.
On 14th May we received the schedule and pointers about the process. One thing was clear: it was going to be creative and innovative. A day before the assessment challenge there was an alumni panel discussion/networking cocktail. The venue was amazing – 34th Floor, Trident, Mumbai. We all arrived early and started connecting with each other.
The AdCom members, Paola and Jennifer, greeted us and gave us our nametags. Prof. Sean Meehan introduced eight alumni who gave interesting and informative presentations depicting their IMD journey and post IMD career. During the cocktail, interacting with the alumni, I noticed that a few common traits were humility, empathy, and clarity of thought. And we were all impressed that the AdCom members knew everything about us. It takes a lot to know 60 candidates in detail. These things reassured me about my choice of B-School.
The Assessment Day
I could not sleep well. Who can sleep well after meeting 60 brilliant candidates and knowing that only a few would make it to the Magic 90? The facilitator of the assessment started with a snapshot of the day so we all understood what was expected of us. We were clubbed in 9 different teams. I had an amazing team – One Entrepreneur, One Consultant, One NGO activist, and one IT professional. We all thought that this was going to be a walk in the park with our diverse team. But the problem started in first few minutes. All of us had different backgrounds and hence different ways of approaching the same issues. So we stopped and set some ground rules. There were many stages of the assessment day and huge amount of learning involved at each stage. We were so engrossed in the discussion that we totally forgot about the other teams or the jurors. By lunch, we had all become good friends and started knowing the strength areas of each other. Together we were able to finish the assignment in time and we were happy with the results.
The hectic day ended suddenly and none of us wanted to leave. Even now, we are all still in contact. I can assure you that all 56 of us were winners. It must have been tough for the Admission Committee to select just a few of us from that pool.
I did not have to wait for long. Within 24 hours of the assessment I got a call from +41 number. I could not receive the call as I was in a meeting… I called back and the number was unreachable… I was extremely nervous! After half an hour, my mobile flashed +41 number again. This time I picked it up in seconds. It was Paola, IMD MBA Recruitment and Admissions Manager. She asked for my feedback about the process. She gave a detailed feedback about how I performed. Then within a fraction of a second she said, “We are offering you a seat at IMD”. I could not believe it. I started crying (yes, I literally cried!) I got admitted to the only B-school that I applied for.
The journey at
IMD has started now. IMD has exceeded my expectations on all fronts.
Despite being in the throes of the relentless calendar that is Module 1, we find time to bond with and learn about those who seem different from us. I say “seem” because of the learnings from the last few days at our Leadership Experiential. I have learned that if you scratch below the surface of apparent divergence, you find many points to connect on and much common ground. This is a transformational strength of being part of a mind-bogglingly diverse MBA program.
One such experience has been with my peers from Greater China. As I approached them, pen and paper in tow, ready to jot down salient points for a blog post on Chinese New Year, I was greeted with the same joy, excitement, and nostalgia, irrespective of their hometowns. Here are some snippets about their memories and emotions for the Chinese New Year.
The Greater China contingent from the IMD MBA Class of 2019
“For me, the Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival – as we call it, means family. It is about traveling thousands of miles or even across the globe to go back to where you belong, be with family, and enjoy together the food that brings back memories of childhood. As a child, during the festival, I was always trying to peek into the kitchen to see what was on the menu today, and even take a bite while the adults were not looking; and I still do that now, so many years later as a grown-up. Every year my mom would experiment new dishes, but some are not changed and are kept as our family “signature” dishes; every year I just can’t wait to go back home and be comforted and surprised by the food made of love. When I am abroad and cannot go back, my mom would send me pictures of the dishes, and I miss being with families that I treasure and share the food that cures me.” -Junyi Wang, China
“My (and I would say most Hong Kong people’s) favorite New Year food is definitely Turnip cake (Chinese: Lo Bak Go). This is a traditional food for Lunar New Year. I like the taste but I also enjoy making the cake with my family. My family never cook together. My mother or my grandmother do most of the cooking. Only when it is Lunar New Year, everybody will gather together to cook – some of us peel the turnip, mix the sauce etc. We also enjoy shrimp for dinner on New Year’s Eve. In Cantonese, it is pronounced, “Ha” which means “hahaha” and lots of laughter in the coming year. Fish is “Yu” which means “having plenty” so we have that too. We play mah-jong and it is good for catching up with family and relatives. I will prepare tea for my mother, father, and brother early in the morning on the first day of the year. I would say thank you for your love, care and support for the year and wish them to have good health for the year.” – Angelina Cho, Hong Kong
“Typically on Chinese New Year, parents and elders who are working give the children and younger family members who are not earning yet, red envelopes with money. It is a bonus to the regular pocket money and is considered good luck and blessings. We visit relatives and at home, there is a constant supply of food. Even if you are not hungry you have to keep eating! In Taiwan, we get to see the Electric-Techno Neon Gods do a traditional dance. One the New Year’s day we usually do a big get-together at home, and on the second day, married women are supposed to visit their families. The celebrations continue for a few days and it brings everyone together.” – Kerry Hsiao, Taiwan
Chinese New Year Hot Pot celebrations!
Finding precious time to reflect and celebrate among the consecutive academic and leadership activities of this week, out peers from Greater China kept their festive spirits high and involved all of us! They gifted us with red envelopes filled with kind messages and sweet treats. The IMD Restaurant is also treating us with special Chinese New Year themed lunches this week, enjoyed by all, with many laughs at the end as we read out our predictions to each other from fortune cookies. In reality, it is hard to predict where we are headed. But with our families just a phone call away, memories of our cultural celebrations, and the company of our MBA friends, we can be sure that good things await ahead.
Wishing the IMD MBA Class of 2019, our professors, MBA support team, all IMD staff and students, and our blog readers a blessed and spectacular Year of the Pig!
It’s been a month since most of us moved and started calling Lausanne “home”. A lot has happened in the last 30 days and there are many ways in which we could measure it. If we go by the calendar, most days were filled with an overflow of information, from great classes with a couple of guest speakers to getting our personality test results and looking at ourselves with new eyes. If we go by meeting new people, we went from names on a WhatsApp group to people with wonderful life stories and a lot to learn from, we went from being acquaintances to classmates and are on the road to become great friends. If we go by changing our routines, this month meant going back to being students (something that was long forgotten by most of us) having classes for 8 hours a day and then spending the night reading and doing homework while trying to have a “life”. Either way, it was an overwhelming month in more ways than one, and it only takes one quick glance at the February calendar to know that January was actually just the beginning and things are about to get tough.
One of the things that will make our lives interesting was officially launched this past week. From day one we were talking about the Start-up project when we got the list of the 15 companies that the MBA 2019 class will be working for and were asked to select our favourite four. It also meant that we were being assigned to our study group, the groups of six that will be spending a lot of time together for the next couple of months. We got a few weeks to get to know each other and our work style before we met with our start-up at the end of the month. The day of the meeting you could feel the anxiety in the room, all of us wondering what it will be like, what are they expecting from us and what could we do to help them.
Meeting our start-up turned out to be less stressful than many of us expected, it meant meeting really passionate people working for an idea they really believe in. It also allowed us to bring all our experience to the table and start thinking outside the box, looking at problems from different angles while thinking how are we going to do this on top of all the classes, readings, homework, leadership and career exercises. Time management will for sure be something we are all tested on in the upcoming weeks and as the stress rises, is going to be fun to see how our dynamics change.
I close this post sharing this picture of one of the class speakers we had this month. The reading for the marketing class was about Tag Heuer and we had the pleasant surprise of having the protagonist of the case, Jean-Claude Biver, talk to us about his career. As my classmate Adrian puts it:
Jean-Claude Biver, former CEO of Blancpain, Hublot and most recently Tag Heuer, along with too many accomplishments to list. It was a masterclass in how to be creative in business and how to find your inner entrepreneurial spirit. Incredibly inspiring!
All in all, it was a great month that flew by and I can only look forward to what is to come!
Everybody in the class of 2019 knew that entrepreneurship forms a core part of the MBA programme here at IMD, but our first lecture on the subject wasted no time in revealing the reality of what today has become almost a mythologised pursuit.
The subject of our first case was Eat Me, a very popular restaurant here in Lausanne and winner of the coveted Best Swiss Gastro Award for 2018. This was the only time a restaurant from the French-speaking part of Switzerland had won the award. As it happens, I was already very familiar with Eat Me, having visited the restaurant numerous times over previous travels to Lausanne. Eat Me offers a novel concept, best described as international tapas. Guests choose multiple dishes to share, each coming from a different region of the world and country within that region. I can vouch that this format makes for a unique evening of exploring and discussing new tastes, with the added bonus that the food is delicious!
Despite Lausanne’s restaurant scene offering a lot more in the way of variety in recent years vs 7-10 years ago (so I’m told), I found myself going back to Eat Me again and again. So imagine my curiosity at learning how this amazing place came about and indeed who better to hear from than the founders themselves, Serena Shamash and her husband Mark Brownell, who put in a surprise visit towards the end of our lecture. To describe in full the many insights Serena and Mark shared with us would fail to do them justice, not to mention make this post a little lengthy, but some key messages resonated with us.
Do not live the Deferred Life Plan
The deferred life plan (all creative rights to Mr Randy Komissar) is simple and, not surprisingly, signs up not-so-enthusiastic participants everywhere. It goes:
Step 1 – do what you have to do Step 2 – do what you want to do
…..or so they tell you. But Serena Shamash had no such intention after completing her MBA at IMD in 2007 and knew her real passion lay in building things. Specifically Serena had a passion for creating and developing concepts. She also had a passion for travel and food. During a stint at BCG in Zurich, Serena realised that those two passions could be united to address what she assessed to be a significant problem in Switzerland – a lack of restaurant variety and uninteresting customer experience at most restaurants of that time. She decided to do something about it.
I think this message resonated with all of us. It is easy to fall into the trap, often neatly camouflaged by societal norms, of believing that in order to pursue our passions, we must first pay dues in the form of a reliable job that we may not like. We are here at IMD precisely because we do not intend to fall into that trap.
Do what you love, even if it’s not quite where you expected
Serena admitted that opening a restaurant was not the exact entrepreneurial endeavour she had imagined when thinking where to apply her passion for concept development, but the landscape of the Swiss restaurant market offered a problem that needed solving. This was also a major lesson for us in understanding entrepreneurship: Opportunities may present themselves in forms and places that you never expect, but you nevertheless have the ability to recognise and take advantage of them. Serena believed that her love of travel and international upbringing placed her perfectly for designing small international plates that would allow her customers not simply to consume food, but to discover it. She had gathered evidence from her network in Switzerland that there was a real desire and need for a restaurant format like this and she decided to make it a reality. I, for one, am glad she did…
Starting a business is not hard work, it’s really hard work
After finalising her concept and developing a working financial model for Eat Me, it took Serena two years to find a location. Rather a long time. Over the period Serena learned to become a hardened negotiator and not to let emotion get the better of her logic in pressured situations. Any would-be entrepreneurs would be wise to heed that lesson, for it is in the most highly charged emotional situations that the biggest mistakes are made.
It took two years to find a location, because it took that long to find a price that made sense. Serena might easily have succumbed to a desire to get going and have paid whatever, but I suspect we wouldn’t have heard from her during our lecture if she had. The dedication required to keep going and stay committed to her vision, despite setback after setback, is awe inspiring.
Serena also shared that, after finding a location in Lausanne and successfully opening Eat Me, she worked 9am to 4am, 7 days a week for a year or so. Creating something is difficult, very difficult, and it requires courage and unparalleled work ethic. Anyone who might have believed in the popular portrayal of entrepreneurship as a teenager creating an app in his bedroom and selling it to Google for $30m a couple of months later would have been rudely awoken by the reality described by Serena that entrepreneurship is about being all-in all of the time and taking knocks on the chin as they come…and they will come.
You need support
Everyone needs the support of those close to them, especially entrepreneurs! Eat Me was the creation of both Serena and Mark. Indeed Mark has now joined Eat Me full-time, having supported Serena and helped build the business hitherto while working a demanding job as an executive. This part of the story of Eat Me resonated strongly, for arguably without Mark’s support over the years, Serena would not have been able to become the entrepreneur she has and we wouldn’t have Eat Me. I think the wider point is that people around entrepreneurs and the support networks entrepreneurs have are often overlooked in popular accounts. We all need support to have courage. Mark and Serena now run Eat Me together, which is in itself an admirable feat for a married couple (I’m not sure I could work with my wife…!).
We are deeply grateful to Serena and Mark for sharing their story with us and imparting just some of the passion and dedication required to create a business. This was a fascinating introduction to entrepreneurship and, looking ahead, our start-up projects will be kicking off imminently. The 90 of us are looking forward to getting stuck in.
For anyone in Lausanne or Geneva, my advice would be try out this place called Eat Me.
The IMD blog helped me, and many of my peers, during the application process to the MBA program. Shout outs to the 2018 blog team; thank you for sharing your experiences with candor and humor!
Picking up the baton and upholding class tradition to share meaningful, hilarious, and sometimes trying experiences, we, the blog team of the Class of 2019, are thrilled to introduce ourselves in this post. Helena, Lukasz, Uzair and myself will helm the regular blog posts, while Adrian and Olivier are our skilled photobloggers.
We look forward to being the voice of our class and having many of our peers guest blog in the coming months.
In alphabetical order …
Having spent the last year in Western Australia working as an engineer I believe I’ve possibly come from furthest away for the programme. In my spare time, you would find me kitesurfing, sailing, flying my drone or taking photos. Trying to keep an open eye about new angles and perspectives, through the MBA and through my camera lens. Coming to Switzerland proved to be my 6th country of residence and am very much looking forward to seeing where post-MBA life will take me.
Hi everyone! I am Helena from Bogota, Colombia. For the past 8 years, I have been living abroad because of my work in the oil and gas industry. It started back in 2010 when I moved to Kuwait, in 2013 I was moved to Aberdeen, Scotland where I was until 2015 when I went to Trinidad and Tobago. In 2017 I moved to Sahara Algeria up until last year before moving to Switzerland. I obviously enjoy traveling and also cooking: wherever I go I try to learn at least one recipe of local food so I can recreate at home. I’ve been living in Lausanne for almost a month and so far, I am loving my time at IMD, everything from my classmates to the incredible professors have been up to my expectations. I look forward to sharing here my experiences this year as it was through this blog and the past classes that I fell in love with IMD.
Polish citizen by birth, long-term Swiss resident by choice and strategy consultant… also by choice ☺ Although educated in finance, spent last years helping global life sciences companies tackle their strategic challenges. ‘Staying active’ is his middle name. Hiker, biker, and jogger in summer, skier in winter. Passionate about the history of 20th century and classical guitar. Loves dogs. A lot ☺
I’m Olivier and feel rather representative of the average IMD MBA candidate, except that I come from Belgium. I just turned 30, got 7.5 years work experience (for the rest, refer to IMD brochure). In life, I enjoy curiosity, humor, open-mindedness, tackling challenges and killing monkey-businesses. I’m also a great fan of outdoor activities in general and more particularly trekking off-the-beaten-tracks. In the past years, I had the chance to explore Patagonia, Lapland, Nepal, and Greenland just to name a few. Last but not least, I have been a photo enthusiast for about a decade now, which is what brings me here. I particularly enjoy simple shots with pure lines, candid portraits and travel photography.
Hello everyone! I am Surbhi, proud Indian and third culture kid, born and raised in Dubai (I know where to find the world’s best shawarma). During my pre-MBA career over the last ten years, I was a life-sciences strategy consultant in the USA before working on patient-centricity programs focused on Africa and the Middle East. Professionally, I am passionate about bringing innovative medicines to patients and creating efficiencies in the lab-to-bedside process. I am an ardent traveler and most recently went hiking in Bhutan. I enjoy postcolonial fiction, movies, yoga, and love spending time in nature 🙂
I’m Uzair (Uzi) & I come from the highly scenic lands of Jaipur & Hyderabad in India. Previously I was a consultant to an international NGO working in public healthcare and I have also worked for 7 years with a global pharma company. I consider myself an outdoor enthusiast who likes to experiment with new things. I have cycled the Atlantic Ocean road in Norway, Skydived in the Swiss Alps, backpacked through Cambodia, ridden a 5-trotted Icelandic horse through lava fields and traveled across 13 countries. I also train for long distance running & have participated in HM & 10K runs.
Thank you for reading our stories and for supporting us through this journey!