Assessing the risk of an MBA

Today’s guest entry is by Dutch/Venezuelan participant, Oliver van der Meer.

Do you know what a big risk looks like? This was different – it wasn’t a new assignment that had been “created” just for me, or my manager offering me a new “opportunity” with milestones. I had a management-level position with a clear career path at a revered British aerospace engineering giant, and enjoyed a nice lifestyle in one of Europe’s most livable and sought-after capitals for millennials. I had 30 days of paid holidays a year. For many of my fellow Berliners, I’d made it. That’s what was going through my head as I saw my friends starting to settle down, buy houses, get married, with some even having children. But something was missing – I’d known it for some time.

I had wanted to do an MBA program since my mid-twenties and had postponed due to career considerations. I had friends who went to another top-European MBA program sponsored by their management consulting firms, and saw their careers develop to the places that I wanted to go. My setup was different though, I’d need to forgo my savings, an excellent salary, and an enviable lifestyle.

I am an aerospace engineer by training, and worked for Rolls-Royce for over 6 years across various functions and had a set of readily transferable skills that I would be able to market within and outside the company. However, the MBA would allow me to reach where I wanted to be faster and hopefully with more credibility.

Having grown up on the U.S., I naturally gravitated toward U.S. programs. Combine that with the fact that generally U.S. exit-salaries are more reliable, and the economic cycle in the U.S. is on an uptick – I set about looking. However, the costs for top one-year U.S. programs was similar to one-year European programs, I already have a Masters degree and the average age of comparable schools put me slightly off.

I looked at another top-European school. Having already worked in Singapore, there was little advantage of living there again, which combined with added expense, and a significantly lower average salary upon exit than elsewhere.

That brought my sights to IMD. I focused on IMD because of its reputation for being powerhouse of Corporate development, across a broad range of skills and disciplines. Development and skills that directly translated to where I was in my career and what I wanted to achieve. Furthermore, its open and honest recruiting information, the class profile, instilled confidence that this wasn’t just marketing. Furthermore, the economic backdrop of Switzerland gave me confidence that upon exit, I’d have a robust, stable, and high-salary labor market to fall back on. IMD also offered scholarships, and proudly proclaimed it had awarded a significant amount of scholarships to its previous incoming class. These factors are clearly what differentiates it from other top-ranked European one-year MBA programs.

I am now in IMD and a candidate for their class of 2017. Was it worth it and what are my initial impressions?

Judging from the first week here at IMD, on many of those fronts my personal gamble has delivered. My 89 fellow classmates stem from 45 different countries, and are all characterized by their smarts, approachability, intellectual curiosity, and impressive resumes. They genuinely come from a broad range of industries, spanning from financial services to the public sector, the vast majority with a depth of experience and international perspectives that make the experience truly unique. I can learn and benefit from the experience of my fellow classmates – that’s what makes this different and make me believe I can draw value from this. What I initially saw as a risk has also delivered on a very personal front – I was fortunate enough that the IMD Alumni Association awarded me a scholarship to be here and take part.

From the initial impressions of the first week, where we covered business policy analysis, IMD leadership development programs (where it was ranked above Harvard and Stanford by Bloomberg) to their approach to Entrepreneurship by embedding you with top Swiss startups – the learning approach and quality of people is second-to-none. The personal attention – a key benefit of having a class size of 90 – ranging from partner support, to social events, mean this year will be truly special and I can get maximum learning from my classmates.

What does that big risk look like now? Those Berliners had their blinders on – I’m off to get a sound night’s sleep – knowing that with this MBA program I’m now firmly in the driver’s seat and my future is in my hands now…

Oliver

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