As a supply coordinator at ExxonMobil, Forrest Collier oversaw the US supply chain of petcoke and sulphur for half of the country which involved managing the logistics of barge, truck and rail movements. The Alabama-native was thrown into the thick of it when a major winter storm hit Texas in early 2021 and froze parts of an oil refinery where he was working.
“Texas refineries aren’t built for freezing,” recalled Collier. “The logistics system I was managing was one of the hardest hit by the storm, and I did not want to be the person holding up the operation for the whole refinery.”
Having overcome that challenge, he moved onto a role as a logistics advisor working on a team managing over 5% of US downstream oil demand.
After three years of experience, Collier decided to apply for an MBA, fulfilling an ambition he had harboured since his first year of college at Auburn University where he studied mechanical engineering. IMD’s focus on reflective leadership and personal development were a major draw as well as the opportunity to study in Europe.
“To lead anybody else you have to lead yourself and understand what your strengths and limitations are,” he said.
When he received the offer from IMD in October 2021, Collier was presented with another major logistical challenge: how to move his life from Houston to Lausanne in two months, all while planning a wedding for 350 guests.
“I was sitting at my desk in late October 2021 thinking how am I going to pull this off?” recalled Collier.
He quit his job at ExxonMobil, moved out of Houston, and planned a wedding in six weeks. The couple even managed to squeeze in a honeymoon to the Caribbean Island of St Thomas. Two days after arriving back, they packed up their belongings and moved to Lausanne. “It was a testament to my logistics skills.”
Coordinating two separate careers is never easy. But Collier is fortunate that his wife is able to continue working remotely as Research and Development Officer for the start-up Books Unbound, which creates contextualized reading resources for refugees.
The youngest and the tallest member of the MBA Class of 2022
A standout program for Collier so far has been the Startup Program which sees teams of MBA participants advise early-stage companies on their value propositions and strategy. Collier’s team was working with global fruit trading marketplace TradeBay whose aim is to cut out the middlemen and make it easier to go from farm to table.
“You get to see the inner workings of a startup and the things they are wrestling through,” said Collier. His team interviewed twenty-five different customers and were able to define the target market and develop a unique selling point for the company. Tradebay has since offered Collier an opportunity to consult for them this summer.
Another highlight was the class with Professor Ralf Boschek who turned Collier’s previous understanding of economics on its head. “What he basically showed us is that macroeconomics is a combination of individual people, so you have to understand how individual people work and that’s going to lead the economics of a nation.”
Collier’s sessions with a psychoanalyst have also helped give him a clearer picture of his life story and how this influences the way he interacts and connects with people.
“The way that leadership has been taught in the past is almost devoid of yourself,” said Collier. “The missing factor is that you have a personal effect on people – you have a way in which you come across, you have a way in which you communicate, and you have things in your past that affect your motivations today.”
At 25, Collier is both the youngest and the tallest member of the 2022 cohort. The latter made him a shoe in for IMD’s basketball team at this year’s MBAT, a three-day event of sport competitions, cultural activities and networking activities for 1,500 MBA students at the HEC campus in Paris.
Being the youngest member of the class also means that he is in the privileged position to learn from the experience of his peers. “They always say that 50% of the learnings come from IMD and 50% come from the other participants and I’ve found that to overwhelmingly be the case.”