How do you measure a year in an IMD MBA life?

In daylights,
In sunsets,
In midnights,
In cups of coffee … lots of them.

Graduation week is officially here.


I would be lying if I said that I am totally cool with saying, “seeya later” to my 89 compadres. When I arrived in January, on a day as cold as today, but what feels like so long ago, I had a clear purpose for coming to IMD. I knew which job I wanted in which geography, and how it would fit into my planned career path. I had my “secure base” in Dubai with no real need or desire to form close friendships. It was simple in my mind; study, recruit, graduate, explore Switzerland, and move on.

My dormitory landlady in college once told me, “Man plans and God laughs”. Apparently, this applies to women as well. I definitely did not get time to explore Switzerland.

Nothing anyone could have told me would prepare me for the sheer exhaustion and exhilaration this year has brought into my life. What does the journey feel like? Have you seen Harry Potter? It feels like this (start at 0:40 if you are impatient) …

If I have to summarize each month here, it would be as follows.

January: I am so excited to be an IMD MBA student! This is going to change my life!
The arrival of “Magic 90” (as coined by Sebastiano :), laundry system culture shock, snow in Villars, dancing in Villars, accounting and finance, bullwhip

February: This is a lot of work for an MBA program, no?
Start-up groups, weekends of finance and accounting study where I look just as clueless as the person next to me, and the one next to him … and yet I live in hope that I have enough time to learn everything

March: My life sucks. I question every decision ever made that led me to this chaos.
Tears … I don’t have enough time to learn everything, start-up project drama really kicks in, integrative Exercise 1 i.e., sleep-deprived smiles … exams … so many tears
*My PDE ensured my survival this month. I love you, Natalia.

April: As shocked as everyone else that I did well in Accounting …
Celebrating the completion and passing of exams, jumping into Module 2, running home for Easter break to remind myself I have a life beyond the MBA bubble, running back to the bubble because in some masochistic way I actually missed it, more accounting, more finance, strategy … lots of lonely nights with case studies

May: Spirits rise with the weather, all smiles as recruiting begins
Packed my winter jacket away, sunshine all around, gorgeous edited CVs at the ready, brooding over cover letters, naive, happy hellos as on-campus company presentations begin, questioning my original goals, prodding new ideas and roles, the realization that what I planned may not be the best for me … so now what?

June: Discovery Expedition, where I discovered that I would prefer not to do extensive long-haul travel in the future
14 days, 3 cities in different continents, essentially giving Phileas Fogg major existential angst, all 90 of us breathing the same air and living the same existence, wonderful, fun, and ultimately so tiring that your bones are ready for summer break.

July: I’m going home and never coming back!
Arriving home so overwhelmed by the breakneck speed of the first half of 2019. Sulking initially on leaving a nice, warm, comfort zone. Realizing later that the magic lies beyond said comfort zone, binge-watch Netflix with cat, finalize cover letters, study, wonder if it would have made sense to stay in Europe and network, as some high achievers have done, decide break is good idea anyway, continue binge-watching Netflix

August: I came back.
Feeling refreshed. Amazing what a month of regular sleep and mental rest can do for the soul. Short-lived. Module 3 + recruiting = Module 1 on steroids. Tired. Worried. Tired. Scouring company presentation lists and highlighting those of interest. Interview practice. Pitch. Pitch. Pitch. Ice-cream truck arrives! My favorite is blueberry cheesecake.

September: Interview practice like your life depends on it
Early selection lists. Joy. Disappointment. Learning. Learning. Learning. PDEs in overdrive. Self-reflection. Pivoting the career search. Baptism under fire as we learn to be agile, accept failure, accept ambiguity, understand that while things don’t go our way externally, we exert control over our reactions and responses. Ice-cream truck leaves. The ICPs begin.

October: Like salmon swimming upstream
ICPs in full swing, job search angst at its peak, tensions flare, empathy grows. Major personal stretch goals. Flying to interviews. Prayers. Some good news. Some not-so-good news. Magic 90 fires on. It’s not the end till we say it is. Meeting alumni who say this is the best year of our lives. Staring at them wondering if the definition of “best” varies across cultures.

November: Time flies when you’re having fun (or drinking from a fire hose)
ICP wrap up. Satisfaction at another project well done. Electives begin. Sitting through “The Future of Marketing” with Professor Frédéric Dalsace and “The Displacement of Pioneer Companies by Scrappy Copycats” with Professor Howard Yu — courses so good they should be core curriculum. Final round interviews. Offers. Satisfaction. Relief. Suspense. Trade-offs. Decisions. Sometimes straightforward. Or holding out for something better. Emails from Regula and Gyopi about wrapping things up. It’s getting real. The end is nigh.

December: Mixed emotions, yet eager to take on the next adventure!
Expecting a whirlwind of tears, Kleenex, happy memories, emotions, and closure. Maybe more. I will miss my peers and the MBA team.

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Celebrating Taiwanese culture last week 🙂

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The last elective of the year with Professor Salvatore Cantale

At the end of this “bumpy ride”, I am not only choosing a career path and location I didn’t consider initially, but I leave this mountain-cuddled sleepy town with friendships you generally only make in school or college, the kind that is rare and thereby more precious in adulthood. I feel sad and elated, a strange sense of gratitude because I unexpectedly found something that will be difficult to walk away from.

So how will I measure this year?

I don’t think I can.

Not everything can, or should, be quantified. I know that I have changed, suffered, grown, triumphed, and all this is taking me towards a brand new chapter.

And this in itself, is priceless.

Wishing my class a fantastic week, and a wonderful visit for all the family and friends attending our graduation.

Chins up, this is just the beginning.


PS: Totally going to explore Switzerland now!

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