US-born Nicholas Saari shares his journey of embarking on an MBA program in Europe, and his learnings so far.

Coming from a small one-square-mile town outside New York City, the most adventure I endured was in the woods behind my house. Little did I know back then that I would embark on an MBA here at IMD in Switzerland. What a journey it has been. After graduating with a B.S. in Business Marketing from the College of Charleston, I joined a small Israeli AdTech start-up called Taboola. Once I joined, I was immediately enthralled by the start-up culture: A fast-paced environment where you learn by doing, testing, failing, and succeeding. It was extremely rewarding, and it had a steep learning curve. I wouldn’t say it was for everyone, but I knew it was for me.

IMD campus in February – one month into the program

During my time at Taboola, I won our annual Sales Club award two years in a row, and I was the youngest in my firm to do so. I then went on to build a corporate venture unit, where we educated start-ups on go-to-market strategy while also analyzing the viability of our firm to invest in them. With the conclusion of that project, I was relocated from our New York City office to London, where I led the thesis, scope, and implementation of a program across all EMEA. It was a mighty task for a 27-year-old to take on at the time after our firm went public as well, so it was a great test of my ability to navigate multiple key stakeholders at scale.

As my 6-year tenure there ended, I began to look for what was next. I started advisory work for start-ups on the side, which kept my mind going, but I was looking for something that could bring on this fast-paced and great learning environment again. I had always considered an MBA, so I decided to hit the books.

On obtaining my certificates to apply, I considered the usual suspects: LBS, INSEAD, and IMD. All amazing business schools, but one thing about IMD that stood out to me was the people. From speaking with alumni, current students, and faculty, you could tell that this community was close, and they were genuine. This, along with the focus on self-reflection and leadership development, was it for me. There are many negativities in this world, and it is tough to navigate at times, so when you find a great community like IMD with kind, ambitious, and dedicated people, you jump right in. And, oh, it was the best decision I have made.

Startup Project team (from left to right) : Beatriz Monreal (Brazil), Sebastian Schulte (Germany), Qiuting Zhong (China), Masha Goel (India), Fairuz Shariff (Malaysia), myself (USA), and Start-up Founder from EPFL

As I have come far away from home, which is the United States, there have been times when I question if I am on the right path or if I made the right decision to pursue an MBA at such a high cost, especially in Europe. And then I remind myself that I am making my own path. Comparison is the thief of joy, and every single day, I not only learn something in the classroom but also check in with myself and acknowledge something positive I can take from the day here.

Ski trip with (from left to right) Frederikke Due Olsen (Denmark), myself (USA), Didrik Simensen (Norway), Jack Davies (UK), Sarah Fuhrmann (Germany), and Sebastian Schulte (Germany)

Now, I am President of our Finance club, an ambassador for admissions, and a part of our social board committee. In parallel, I continue to broaden my lens through the great professors and speakers at IMD in new fields such as digital strategy and venture capital. IMD is a place that not only nurtures intelligence and drive but also helps you look inward and understand who you truly are and what your passions really are. At the end of the day, isn’t that what’s important? From group work and long nights debating with one another to finalize a framework or put a presentation together, I can say for certain I will already call this cohort lifelong friends.

Outside of class, you can catch me road cycling through the vineyards with friends or on a ski trip with classmates in the winter. There is also the advantage of being a block from the largest lake in Switzerland, which offers great swimming, drinks, and great music. I am also an avid traveler who started writing about different cultures and their traditions in fashion production through the lens of slow fashion. Something I will continue to build up here with the help of my classmates. Hey, you never know; maybe even pursue one day.


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