A mid-year overview of a leadership journey

Ombudsman and Ombudswoman

Sebastiano Pizzinelli and Camila Scaranelo

February 2019: the 90 IMD MBA participants had worked shoulder to shoulder for approximately one month. IMD decided it was time for the class to have two representatives: a male and a female.

IMD took an innovative approach. Our class was simply asked to choose, in an anonymous poll, the people we saw as good class representatives: no popularity contest, no advertisements, no speeches, just true community spirit. The results came shortly after and we had been chosen.

Now, in June, almost half of the program is over and … it was tough! “He who learns must suffer” as Aeschylus would say, but the amazing part has been bonding with our fellow participants and the support we feel.

Here we share what this journey has meant for us so far, and the challenges we have faced.

“Camila, what was the hardest moment for you?”

I believe it was right before the module one exams, when we had so much going on at the same time: meetings with our “start-up” clients, studying for the exam week, and representing all of our class requests. In hindsight, it was a great learning and we could see a clear difference in module two.

“Sebastiano, what was the feeling right after the announcement we had been chosen?”

I was flattered and concerned: representing 88 future leaders is an honor and I knew it would be hard to stand up to their high expectations. I realized not only how much our batch deeply cared about inclusion and bonding, but also how much I cared about it. However, it was all very fast, we immediately had things to do for the class. It has been an amazing journey and a chance to know many of these extraordinary individuals better. I do everything in my power to deserve the trust and responsibilities that were imparted to me.

“Camila, what is the class feeling at the moment?”

I believe the class has come together with its own identity. We are no longer 90 individuals, we actually became the Magic 90. For many, there was this strange sense of relief after the pressure of module one and even when exams were imminent, things were smoother. There’s a lot of excitement for the discovery expedition and the summer break, and we’re using all our spare time to network and investigate the companies we believe will be the best fit for our future.

“Sebastiano, how do you think the class would describe these two modules?”

In the first module, classes are just part of the typical day: a chance to learn and start living the IMD journey together. Then group projects, essays, assignments, presentations, and tons of deadlines drop from everywhere building considerable pressure. But it also creates a tight bond within the groups as a survival response. In Module two the pressure is perceived differently: we are all stretching our limits and comfort zones, and being in groups is an additional push to raise the performance bar. In a way, module two is also about reflection and retrospection, with peaks in the negotiations course and innovation week.

“Camila any final words?”

Overall the experience has been great and the support of our classmates was crucial for this to happen. It’s a better learning opportunity than I could have imagined, and as such, it is presented with many challenges as well. “Learning to lead without hierarchy” seems to be a recurrent motto around here and it is no different for being an ombuds.

Camila and Sebastiano

The IMD MBA Assessment Day, New Delhi

Ruchi Senthil shares her experience of the IMD MBA Assessment Day in New Delhi.

“I attended the IMD Assessment day in New Delhi, India on 14 March 2019 and what an amazing experience it was! Prior to my application to IMD, I had read numerous blog posts and spoken to IMD alumni who could not stop gushing over the Assessment Day. So it was not like I wasn’t prepared for it. But what I saw…. and what I experienced, far exceeded my expectations. While the day was challenging both mentally and physically – it was by far the most inclusive, tailored and personalised approach to MBA participant selection I have witnessed since I started my own MBA journey.

Since IMD was always amongst my top schools to pursue an MBA, travelling to Lausanne for the Assessment Day was something I expected and accepted because it would give me a shot at studying at such a prestigious school. However, I was mildly surprised, and to some extent disappointed, when I realised that IMD was pulling no stops at enrolling the crème de la crème for their MBA program by expanding their interview process to places outside of Lausanne – New Delhi being one of them.

While it saved me quite a lot of money, I wondered if they would be able to replicate the same atmosphere that I would have experienced in Lausanne. Overall, I did miss the whole ‘sit in class and eat lunch with current participants’ bit, and it would have been nice to experience the atmosphere at IMD before actually starting my course, but I guess you can’t have it all. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that not only did they bring the flavour of Lausanne to my literal doorstep, they did so with panache! 

The Assessment Day was brilliantly organised in a 5 star hotel in the heart of Delhi city. IMD reserved the entire floor for just 10 of us, giving us enough space and privacy if we needed it. The order of the day was well organised, each of us got customised folders outlining exactly when we were expected to do what and the day moved more or less exactly on that itinerary. Both Anna Farrus and Paola Eicher were professional yet friendly, putting all of us at ease and trying to bring out the best in each of us. The attention to detail was phenomenal and it reiterated all I had heard. Each task that we were asked to perform that day had a specific function – to highlight qualities of leadership, team work and general competence to successfully undertake a gruelling MBA course.

All in all, I think the IMD Assessment Day at New Delhi worked like a well-oiled machine – no glitches!

Ruchi

The IMD MBA Assessment Day, Lausanne

Tyler shares his experience of the IMD MBA Assessment Day in Lausanne.

“It was definitely a risk traveling to Lausanne for my assessment day, not just because of the time and money spent that might not have resulted in an acceptance, but also because my wife was 37 weeks pregnant and I ran the risk of missing the birth of our second child! But ultimately the risk paid off. I got to know 8 other fabulous candidates from around the world, got to see inside the campus and how the school works, got a feel for Lausanne, and got a good sense of what my year at IMD would look like. And I didn’t miss the birth of my daughter!

Investing a year of my family’s life, moving to a new city (and in this case, continent), and spending a large amount of money warranted that I visit every school to which I applied or was even thinking about applying to. I visited eight schools in my MBA search. Every single visit was a valuable use of time and money, because in the end I felt confident in all the schools that I applied to.

Of all the school visits, none was as insightful as my assessment day at IMD. The experience actually started a few weeks before, when the school put me in touch with other candidates that were going to be attending the same assessment. We started a group chat and ended up making plans to meet for dinner in Lausanne the night before the assessment. I don’t know about you, but I don’t usually get to make dinner reservations with a group of strangers in a foreign country. The dinner was great, and we all got to know each other. It made the next day flow more smoothly, as there was a general sense of camaraderie and amiability that might not have been there otherwise.

The day showed us all about the character of IMD: intense, intentional, and intimate. Naturally, the tasks were complex and high-stakes, but rather than intimidating, the whole day was energizing. The busy schedule gave us a taste for the expectation of future participants. The fact that the school set aside a whole day to interview candidates shows that it has an eye for detail and an intentionality that goes into everything it does. Finally, the group-work nature of the challenges was very personal. IMD was the only school that I walked away from with the feeling that I’d made new friends.

And of course, traveling to Lausanne gave me the opportunity to see the city firsthand. What really sealed the deal for me was the breathtaking view on a gorgeous, sunny day while we all shared a post-assessment beer by the lake. You just can’t beat Lausanne for beauty. I wish I could have spent more time exploring the city, but every moment away increased the chances that I’d miss my daughter’s birth! It’s ok, because I now have a whole year to get to know Lausanne, which we are thrilled, anxious, and excited about.

Tyler with his wife, son and new baby daughter!

Tyler

Global Assessment Impressions

Anna Farrus, Director of MBA Recruitment and Admissions at IMD, shares her impressions of the new global approach to our Assessment Days:

“Assessment Days are designed to get to know our candidates better, and for candidates to get to know IMD better. Besides the admissions interview, candidates are asked to participate in a number of individual and group activities. It is an intense day, for both candidates and Admissions! It also allows candidates to start developing their network. They spend the whole day with other candidates, and many of them already create friendships during the event.

For the first time, the MBA Recruitment and Admissions team have travelled all over the world to carry out our famous assessment days. We have visited Dubai, Sao Paulo, Mexico DF, New Delhi and Singapore, and assessed more than 40 candidates during these international assessment days.

I personally travelled to three of those cities, and it was a great experience. And yet, not very different from the assessment days in Lausanne. Everyone is nervous, with a look of anticipation in their faces. Most of the candidates meet before the event, and so there is always a sense of camaraderie amongst them.

While the groups that we met at the international events were less diverse, we were still able to see some of the same behaviours: the candidate(s) who would try to take the lead, the candidate who tried to involve everyone in the discussion, the one who remained quiet for most of the time yet had great insights,… Discussions were lively and interesting and, in some cases, quite loud!!

By the end of the day, we were all exhausted but happy. For us, the difficult part started a few days later, when the Admissions Committee had to make some difficult decisions!

For more insights into these days, read the posts later this week from Tyler, who took part in an Assessment day in Lausanne, and Ruchi, who did hers in New Delhi.

Anna Farrus

Practice makes Perfect at IMD

When I started my company to scale early-stage tech projects, I was convinced that my exposure to Europe and my tech background would be sufficient to take me through my career. Dealing with ambiguity head on, I realised that there are so many other pieces to the puzzle. While I knew that technology was my forte, I wanted to know how everything fits together to drive positive impact. It was then that I decided to aim for a leadership program that would not only help me go outward, but really help me understand what makes me tick. That’s when I joined the IMD MBA.

Me with Professor Knut Haanaes

Having lived and worked in 9 countries in Europe and Asia, I was very happy when I met my class for the first time. It was a great feeling to join a bunch of diverse people, who were in the same boat as me, pushing their boundaries to understand what drives them. I was very curious about how we would work as a group. And that’s where I have been having the most fun.

In my start up project, we helped a day-care center build a corporate sales channel from scratch in 8 weeks. Before this, I had no idea how powerful surveys could be! In our innovation challenge, we built a prototype in the form of a gift box in one week to help UEFA bring more fans to the Euro 2024 fan festival. We were placed top 2 out of a group of 18 and got featured in CNN Switzerland.

There is a different kind of energy here in Lausanne and the learning itself, it’s multi-layered. After every IMD Project, we are prompted to look within, as individuals and as groups. And that’s where I feel I get my biggest learning from. I had always struggled with being able to provide early feedback but, with practice, I am slowly learning how to do so properly. This gives me confidence.  

I am looking forward to translating this confidence into action in our upcoming International Consulting Project, where my team and I will be looking to add value to a really innovative Cyber-security company with a legacy in Media.

Warmly,

Arjun
IMD MBA European Diversity Scholarship Winner

The MBA alumni network: a glimpse of an inspirational and effective community

One of the reasons I chose the IMD MBA was its strong, active, and supportive alumni network. I am convinced that such a network will be invaluable both for my career and for my private life, providing an open platform to exchange challenges, experiences and ideas in an informal way. Therefore, I was looking forward to the on-campus reunion last Friday, when our class met MBA alumni from the last few years here in Lausanne.

Let me first share a few words about the IMD alumni community, which is structured around three axis: clubs (50 clubs with 230+ events per year), program communities (e.g. the MBA community), and expert communities (8 chapters with 37+ events per year). Expert communities include the Alumni Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE), which organizes events to connect IMD MBAs with entrepreneurs. A number of my MBA colleagues have already participated in these events this year.

Last Friday was one of the yearly reunions of the MBA community. Not only a chance for the recent graduates, who have spent an intense and possibly life-changing year together, to reconnect, but also an opportunity for the 2019 class to interact with a large crowd of MBA alumni in an informal and friendly atmosphere. I was impressed by the number of people who came to Lausanne and attended the event, which proved that the spirit of sharing and networking from the MBA is alive far beyond this one year.

I personally enjoyed many insightful and fun conversations with alumni from all kinds of industries. Whether they are currently in senior roles at Nestlé, Roche, or Honeywell, all of them were curious about our year as well as enthusiastic to offer their support and share their experiences with me. For instance, I got to know Georg from 2017, who directly introduced me to one of the alumnae of 2016, who works in an area that is highly interesting to me.

Similarly, my classmate Tamil spoke to Roy from 2016 who, after he understood her background and interests, introduced her to various relevant people from the MBA alumni network. She was extremely glad the event took place at this point in time, as it helps us prepare for the job search by understanding companies’ challenges better and what they may be looking for.

I only regret that I did not manage to talk with all the people I really wanted to. One of my classmates suggested VR-enabled networking, so I’d be able to better navigate the crowd – in the sea of alumni it was not always easy to quickly find out who is who.

Overall, the first encounter with the IMD MBA community exceeded my expectations; the people’s curiosity, openness, and support, was outstanding. I am proud that our Magic 90 will be part of this powerful community by the end of this year, and I already look forward to meeting the IMD MBA class of 2020 in one year’s time 🙂

Daniel Leutenegger

Lausanne Alumni Club Merit Scholarship Winner

Shweta Mukesh was recently selected as the best all-round applicant from the first application deadline and was subsequently awarded the Lausanne Alumni Club Merit Scholarship. Here’s a bit more about her:

“I wear two professional hats. The first is as a founder of a for-purpose organization called KidsWhoKode. The second is as a VP of Solutioning and International Business at an HR Technology company called Belong. I consider my greatest professional achievement so far to be buiding Belong’s two largest growth engines from ground zero. Both were strategic pivots for the organization and transformed the DNA from customer acquisition to customer lifetime value and from pure products to bundled solutions.

At the same time, I am very proud and humbled by the work we do at KidsWhoKode. Over the last one and a half years, we have built computer literacy and coding skills in over 5,000 students. More importantly, we have increased our student’s exposure to technology and have created pathways for them to realize their dreams/unique talents.  

I believe that ability is evenly distributed. Opportunity is not. I want to use my career and the different roles I play, in either the corporate or the non-profit world, as a platform to create a more equitable society. 

I am honoured to have been selected as the first winner of the Lausanne Alumni Club Merit Scholarship and am grateful to them for creating this opportunity. Knowing that a part of the financial burden of the program will be taken care off, ensures that I can keep an open mind to all possibilities. I hope to use my education and experiences to contribute back in a meaningful way.   

Shweta Mukesh