Mischa Riedo – Winner of IMD MBA Class of 1976 Merit Scholarship

I was born and raised in Berne, Switzerland but have been living and working in Zurich for the past 10 years. I’ve worked in the financial industry for most of my career. I started off in derivatives trading and then moved on to investment specialist roles for large institutional and wealthy private clients.

Prior to IMD, I co-founded and grew my own company for 3 years. We built a software application for businesses to modernize their performance review processes through real-time feedback and dynamic objectives. A lot of the learnings during these 3 years led me to apply at IMD with its focus on leadership in a very intimate and personalized setting.

I’m extremely grateful that the class of 1976 chose me as its candidate and I hope our class will set up a scholarship one day as well to support talents in the future.

Aside from work, I love exploring the world with my fiancé. Whether it’s through travelling or simply discovering new cooking or cocktail recipes, it’s always an adventure that I enjoy like none other.

In terms of IMD, my personal highlight thus far has been the strategy course with Professor Misiek Piskorski. It provided me with a myriad of insights into strategic analysis and decision-making while doing so in an entertaining and engaging manner. On the challenging side I’d note the intensity of the programme which makes it really hard to spend as much time with my fiancé as I’d like.”

Mischa Riedo
MBA 2019

Module 1: Three Months, Three Life Lessons

ecef6521-0386-4d8f-b5c8-e86f5adbb87b.JPGPost-exam Lausanne exploration 🙂

Exams are done! And we have recovered (somewhat).

Tomorrow my group presents our startup project, and so we wrap up the first module.

It has been three months, full of highs, some lows, lots of laughs, and more late-night, caffeine-fueled, impassioned discussions in the dungeons that I would like to admit. And we are just getting started.

Here are 3 learnings from Module 1 that will stay with me in the days to come…

  1. You can never know everything: I can safely say that the majority of our class has had at least one “deer in the headlights” moment. It is particularly uncomfortable when you are used to overcoming hurdles and enjoying success and find yourself thinking “huh” in class as brand new content whizzes past you on a daily basis. This is when you need your peers. And the acceptance that you won’t learn it all, but you will learn how to prioritize and fill knowledge gaps effectively, a skill that allows you to focus on your contribution to the team.
cb002555-5c0a-4335-b8ba-c1167a0bed72In life, as in ping pong, a good team has your back

2. Conflict, not such a bad thing: Culturally, we grow up with the idea that conflict may be considered rude. It leads to tension and friction. But, you put 90 high achievers into groups of six for three months and then how can conflict can be avoided? My team, fortunately, is almost always on board with each other. But we have had our not so congenial days as well. I think we are better for it, mostly because conflict presents us with a fork in the road; how will you move beyond disagreement? Our reptilian brains tell us to defend our turf, that it is personal when it often is not. But we have a choice in our reactions. Are they helpful? Necessary? True? Not always possible to follow, especially after consecutive hours of clicking away on laptops, the next test only a Canvas update away, but a good aspiration nonetheless.

PHOTO-2019-04-11-20-28-45.jpgParis at twilight, by Shriekanth

3. On occasion, leave the bubble: After exams, many left Lausanne for the weekend, or at least the dungeons. Some further out in Europe, others within Switzerland. I jumped on a train to Florence and hung out with a visiting friend from home. Over delectable pizza and while strolling through the Uffizi, I was reminded of a life beyond the MBA, and that it would be a mistake to focus so much on the minutiae that I forget the context of the world that IMD is preparing me for. Work hard, and walk away sometimes. Find those roses or tulips. Perspective never smelt sweeter.

The Uffizi’s Leonardo da Vinci exhibit displayed the Adoration of the Magi, mostly still in sketch state. This unfinished piece, infused with talent, is considered a worthy piece from the master, the center of a famous museum exhibit.

During and after the MBA program we will remain in sketch state, works in progress. As our experiences compound, the lines become clearer and the colors better defined, but never entirely done.

And that is the beauty, is it not?

We are incomplete, a long road lies ahead, and we are yet masterpieces.

Leonardo da Vinci, Adorazione dei Magi 1482 c.

“The recently restored Adoration of the Magi, commissioned by the Augustinians for their Church of San Donato a Scopeto and left unfinished when Leonardo had to move to Milan in 1482. Yet it is this very state that allows to follow Leonardo’s mind’s creative processes, in all his sketches, ideas, second thoughts and reconsiderations.” – Uffizi Museum, Florence, Italy

The mind of a strategist

March. This was a very special month of my IMD MBA journey for multiple reasons: International Women’s Day program with a fascinating panel of three female business leaders; the last miles of Module 1, wrapping up all the knowledge taught so far; and the famous integrative exercise, a 48 hour case study marathon in our teams of six. Last but not least, this was the month when we had our strategy course with Professor Mikolaj Jan Piskorski (‘Misiek’ as he calls himself).

I was very curious about this course a long time before I started the MBA in January. After several years of professional experience at BCG I was wondering how I would find this part of the program. Would it still be eye opening? Would I learn much or rather refresh the long-known concepts I used to apply in my consulting career? I remembered well some of my older colleagues who claimed strategy is what we practice in strategy consulting, not what we learn at business school.

Finally, I was curious about the professor too. Misiek spent the majority of his professional career teaching strategy at Harvard, well known for its strength in this field. My expectations were high.

Misiek took us on an absolute intellectual roller coaster. Although the majority of the concepts were not new (who has not heard about Porter’s Five Forces?), the way we applied and discussed them was a masterpiece. The professor made sure we all went much below the surface and challenged the way we used to think of the companies we know. Personally, I will never look at Walmart the same way as I used to … 🙂

Some of you may wonder what exactly we have done, what exactly we have learnt but… I will not tell you. Not that I do not want to. I do agree with my colleagues that strategy is something you have to practice. But contrary to their view this is exactly what you do at IMD – you practice strategy, not read about it. Apply to IMD MBA, do it yourself and I can assure you it will be a fascinating endeavor and a time well spent.

Thank you, Professor, for this inspiring journey!

Another building block in our MBA journey

Our first integrative exercise is done! And even though exams are looming in the horizon we literally saw the light on Saturday after our second presentations were done and we were freed from the dungeons.

I knew the basics of the exercise before coming here: we will be given 48 hours for an assignment that will require using all the knowledge of our module 1 classes. I knew we will need to present and defend our proposal in front of a jury. I knew it would test our team dynamics and really take us to the next level. But I also knew that knowing all of the above was not going to help prepare for it, so I chose to follow Sean wise words at the beginning of the program and just “trust the process”.

The experience was different for everyone so I can only speak for myself when I say that the exercise as a whole was so enriching that it will be a memorable moment of this year. It is one of those things that you can only understand once you live through it and if I had to choose the best part, it was the way the feedback was given by the jury during both presentations.  It was then when it clicked in to place that this exercise was just preparation for the next part of the program, especially the start-up presentation and the ICPs during module 3.

I leave you with some really nice pictures shared by my classmates

The dungeons became home for two nights

After!

Notice the happy smiles because we know it is over! (for now!)

An Integrative State of Mind

c7e9f7e8-9953-4765-b2f5-516bf6ec437b

The sun is out and how.

As warmth pervades through this quirky city of Lausanne, the tranquility of birds chirping and the calm waters of Lac Lamon are a direct foil to the rollercoaster our class of 90 is riding as I write this.
Why?
Today we begin the famous IMD MBA Integrative Exercise. Once we survive (I remain optimistic) and emerge from the dungeons on Saturday, reading week begins, followed by examinations, culminating in startup project presentations. Just another wrap-up to Module 1 at the program that changes your life, but not without first relentlessly testing your acumen and spirit.
There is a lot going on in my mind, some nervousness, a little excitement, marginal homesickness (today is Holi, festival of colors), but mostly the awareness that I will rely on the knowledge given to us over the last two months to get through the next two days. I would relate this to the Hunger Games, except that the school keeps us exceptionally well fed. But you get my drift.
Good vibes and wishes of success to my team, my friends, and my class 🙂
See you on the other side!
Surbhi

International Women’s Assessment Day

International Women’s Day last Friday is hopefully indicative of a world that is ready to accept and adapt to ensure there are more women leaders in business and society. Not only will this deliver positive performance outcomes, it just doesn’t makes sense to do anything less than be fully inclusive.

But while this day sends out a clear signal, to really encourage a genuine future impact on society, education needs to play a key role. Here, we want to play our part in creating a future where equality and diversity is the norm.  The IMD MBA, with our successful history of delivering Leadership Development in an extremely collaborative and diverse program, has set ambitious goals with regard to gender balance. We seek parity. We think we can get there because our class, being one section with such a high faculty to student ratio, creates a powerful and supportive community. A great context: participants know one another well, respect and trust is high, and support is endless.

This year we have partnered with the Forté Foundation for women and added new scholarships specifically targeting female applicants. In honour of the International Women’s Day, we also hosted our first exclusive women’s MBA assessment day on Friday. Experienced women, from different countries, with diverse professional backgrounds, spent the day on the IMD campus meeting the admissions team, faculty and some members of the class of 2019, sampling class and, importantly, participating in our assessment routines. As I said to them, they would not have been invited to campus if we had any doubts about their ability to get through the course. The point of our assessments is not to test basic ability but rather to test for fit and help us identify who will thrive in our special environment. It isn’t for everyone. They should be testing us as much as we are testing them. 

It was a pleasure to spend a little time with such highly motivated and talented people. We wish them, and all women with the ambition to lead, the courage and determination to persevere. We are committed to working with them all to pave the way to a more balanced future.  

Professor Seán Meehan, Dean of MBA Program

IMD Conversations: International Women’s Day Special!

IMD Conversations is a new format to share peer conversations on topics relevant to business and social change. We will cover current implications, personal experiences, and how we aspire to make an impact through our future careers.

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No human is an island. As women make strides in professional and socio-political settings, I was curious to hear what my male MBA peers thought about existing issues and opportunities. I am thrilled to introduce our first IMD Conversations topic with Lukasz (Poland/Germany), Vivek (India), and Jaco (South Africa), in line with Women’s Day …

Female Inclusion in the Workplace, A Male Perspective

blog post.jpegJaco, Vivek, and Lukasz

Surbhi: I’d like to start off with hearing about the influential women in your life. In the spirit of Women’s Day, share their role in your lives and their impact on who you are today.

Vivek: My mother is the reason I am here, and her support has been invaluable especially in leaving home and coming to IMD. She stood against all the odds she faced over the years and she has taught me how to smile even in the worst possible situations. She really has inspired me throughout my life.

Lukasz: I would mention my wife and one of the key things I learned from her: how to better understand people’s emotions. Emotions are important in connecting and communicating with others. Whether in private life or in my consulting career – I can be more impactful and more myself when I clearly understand my own and other people emotional state. And with years I appreciate the value of emotional intelligence even more. In the end, our life is about people. 

Jaco: The lady I want to speak about is my sister. She is 12 years my senior and helped raise me. She was the first in our family to pursue a professional career and did her Masters in Engineering. At that time it was a very male-dominated industry. I remember her saying how challenging it is, how women aren’t taken seriously in that field. So, I came into the workforce being comfortable with women being capable but also conscious that women have a hard time in business. My sister was very successful at a petrochemical company and I followed in her footsteps and studied chemical engineering. 16 years down the line, as a manager at an engineering company, she observed a change; more women were entering the industry.

Surbhi: So, in your career, before IMD, what value have you seen diversity bring to the workplace, in specific, the inclusion of more women

Jaco: The key to diversity lies in being tolerant and embracing differentiation. If you have a whole bunch of the same type of person in the room you don’t have the same learning opportunities as you do if you have a diverse group. I don’t have the best way to do this figured out yet, but I do know that it’s hard if you’re in the minority.

Lukasz: I believe diversity is very important. Working with people who think differently is not always easy, but can lead to more innovative, better solutions. Having more women in the workplace is one of the powerful ways to add this diversity to the corporate environment. It becomes even more important when we look at the upper ranks, as there are still not enough women in top leadership positions. Personally, I was lucky to work with a few women leaders in my career and I have to say I was impressed by their capabilities, both on technical as well as on the more softer, leadership side. 

Vivek: I agree completely. I come from a manufacturing company with relatively few women. I hired two women for project management positions and it proved to be a very good decision. The perspectives and compassion they brought to the team resolved people-challenges that we never realized existed and were impacting our business. We were completely focused on the process and execution and they introduced a more empathetic approach to problem-solving. The success of the project is due to how they involved different stakeholders and made them comfortable with the work that we were doing.

Surbhi: While I think many more women are entering the workforce, boardrooms still have a long way to go before we see equal representation. As future senior executives and CEOs, what are actions and initiatives you would lead to improving female inclusion in the workplace?

Vivek: The question is how many of the women entering the workforce in starting positions will be able to sustain. Are they feeling safe at work? Do they feel they can grow to higher positions? Or is their only choice to leave after a certain point due to family obligations? I think flexible working hours, work safety, and professional development support will help smart, ambitious women climb up the ladder.

Lukasz: I share most of Vivek’s views on what the corporate world can do.  What I would add to that is the necessity to work here and now on cultural beliefs. I still see many women who don’t believe they can succeed despite their capabilities. Mentoring and showing women successful stories can help change their perspective. Additionally, I think that giving women opportunities and vocally trusting their abilities could also play an important role.

Jaco: Along with a conducive environment and long-term goals that Vivek and Lukasz mentioned, I can say in my experience when I have had to recruit, I saw a lack of female applicants, which limits my ability in a managerial capacity. Which makes me wonder why? Why is that? My starting point as a future executive will be to understand, what are the barriers women face when entering the workplace, from getting a job application in, to where women in the workplace have previously been excluded due to barriers, and then I could formulate a strategy to address these issues.

My heartfelt thanks to Jaco, Vivek, and Lukasz, for a meaningful discussion. While we have a long way to go, it is heartening to know that the next generation of senior management will foster greater inclusion and diversity.

With one of my favorite TED Talks by MacArthur Fellow and fabulously dressed feminist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie,  “We Should All Be Feminists”, I wish all the ladies, and all the men who care about and celebrate us, a Happy Women’s Day!!

Surbhi

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