Growing up in South Africa, I was a very inquisitive child. I wanted to understand a lot of things and loved watching programs on National Geographic. The world was really intriguing to me. It was of course only natural then that I dreamed of becoming a scientist, someone who can make sense of the environment around them. I chose to study chemical engineering so I could understand the processes that make up the world.
Following my engineering degree, I joined mining company Glencore as a production engineer and was exposed to many different responsibilities as well as strategy, finance and business. Having been in the industry for five years, I decided I wanted to explore these areas more and applied to do an MBA at the age of 27.
Once I’d decided I wanted to do an MBA, choosing IMD was an easy decision. What stood out for me was the intimate size of the cohort. This means that I not only have colleagues but true friends who understand what I am going through. Throughout the program, you also get exposed to outstanding professionals who come into the classroom to share their experiences with you.
Another reason was IMD’s location in Lausanne on the shore of Lake Geneva. It’s a small but vibrant city, providing just enough outside stimulus without being too distracting. Last, but by no means least, IMD is a world-class institution.
I was fortunate enough to be awarded IMD’s Young Leaders Scholarship for applicants aged between 24 and 27-years-old who demonstrate exceptional leadership potential based on my performance during IMD’s first ever Africa and Middle East Assessment Challenge. Getting the scholarship really eased the financial burden before coming to Switzerland and helped me cover the cost of moving and the initial payment for accommodation and the program.
Using one word to explain the past seven months at IMD would be a disservice. From the very beginning it’s been fast paced, but at the same time you receive so much support so that you don’t feel overwhelmed. I’ve also never experienced such a sense of community in a place of learning before. The biggest surprise for me was how close we have gotten as a cohort ad the type of conversations you have with your peers. I was also surprised at how much I can handle every day. The program has really taught me that I can handle much more than I think.
If I were to give advice to future MBA candidates, it would be to get in contact with your future cohort before arriving in Lausanne. If you are lucky enough to have someone who is coming from the same country as you, reach out to them, as it is a lot easier to figure out things like bureaucracy and logistics together. The MBA office are also extremely helpful, kind and responsive.
Secondly, I would suggest doing your research on living expenses to make sure you are prepared for any unforeseen circumstances.
Lastly, come with an open mind. You will be surrounded by very smart people with a vast range of life experiences. Don’t let what people do for a living cloud your judgement. Be prepared to get to know everybody beyond their professional qualifications and to really give and receive. That’s how you will get the most out of this MBA experience.