IMD MBA student profile: Chenlu Li, from China, reflects on what brought her to IMD – and what she has learned after a month in the MBA program.

Seated in my Lausanne apartment, I’ve just realized that it’s been a month since this incredible journey began at IMD. The fact that I’m now part of this esteemed institution is still surreal at times. 

From a young age, curiosity has been my driving force. I have always loved traveling and exploring new things, whether it’s marveling at the starry sky during a road trip to Tibet, appreciating Trecento masterpieces in Florence, Italy, or enjoying plays during the Theater Festival in Avignon, France.  

After graduating from a prestige engineering school in France, I embarked on a career at an audit company (EY France) as a data analyst to explore as many companies as possible. In my three years in that role, I acquired technical skills and industrial knowledge, but I was eager for new challenges. Therefore, I accepted a position at a French boutique consulting firm to hone my business skills. However, when I recognized that a lack of in-depth business knowledge would hinder my career growth in consulting, I asked myself, “Why not pursue an MBA?”  

The pivotal moment arrived in March 2020 with the onset of COVID-19. The pandemic, which led to a long separation from my family in China, forced me to confront an unbalanced work-life dynamic. This challenging period became a turning point in my life, prompting crises about my cultural identity (French and Chinese) and life purpose. Realizing that the fast pace of consultancy would not allow me to address these issues, the desire to shift industries and make a meaningful contribution to society brought the idea of pursuing an MBA to the forefront. 

A friend introduced me to IMD. Its tightly knit cohort, focus on leadership development, and sustainability-centered program immediately won me over. It became my dream school. 

The IMD campus, Lausanne, Switzerland

Despite the daunting GMAT and soul-digging application process, the assistance from IMD’s admission team proved invaluable. Following their suggestion, I participated in the Women Leaders Assessment Challenge in March 2023. The entire process unfolded online, and though initially skeptical about the digital format hindering self-showcasing, I found comfort and authenticity during the exercise. I enjoyed the experience, thanks to the well-organized structure, engaging alumni, and the brilliance of fellow candidates. 

Having completed the first intense month, I can affirm that IMD has lived up to its promises. My double cultural background became my uniqueness and strength. Surrounded by 102 brilliant minds from 44 different nationalities, each day unveils new perspectives during classes and group activities. I created a “French Group” to assist my cohort to learn French and understand the culture.  

Teamwork makes the dream work: Football is just one of many sports on offer for MBA students 

Additionally, the program enables me to explore meaningful contributions through sustainability or responsible leadership. The mountain experience brought us face-to-face with the alarming impact of climate change on the Alps’ snow, and the innovative workshops around social and sustainability issues helped me become more aware of the urgency of the situation and to think about actions we could take as future leaders. 

My previous professional experiences taught me the importance of good leadership. One significant reason I chose IMD was the leadership stream. Living through different exercises, either challenging or funny, in the Leadership Lab, led me to a deeper understanding of my limits in a group setting.  

Outside of the classroom, as a curious person, I participated in various activities such as bouldering and football. I even hosted several yoga classes with other cohorts.  

Climbing to new heights: bouldering for the first time

Looking ahead to the coming year, I look ahead to the future challenges and transformations that IMD will usher into my life. I hope that this enriching year can help me create a lifelong and sustainable relationship with my cohort, gain a better understanding of myself, and acquire the tools and skills to become a future leader and have a positive impact on the environment and society.  

Chenlu Li

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