Entrepreneurship and Easter Break!

We are done with our startup presentations and deliverables!

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What a whirlwind it has been for all of us! From sustainable footwear to reframing early-stage education, from innovative crop development to customized orthopedic liners, we’ve seen it all over the last four months. With a single mission on our minds; bringing these novel ideas to consumers.

By challenging market segmentation, conducting customer deep dives, and engaging in debates over value propositions, we have moved the needle for these fledgling companies. I know my team has been so vested in the product and concept, it will be a challenge to move on to the upcoming adventures on our agendas. Or perhaps we’re a bit nostalgic since we bonded, and will now need to recalibrate within a new team and create new friendships and memories. Nevertheless, massive congratulations to my peers on achieving this milestone.

And we are not to fear any lack of intellectual challenge … before we know it, we will be in the thick of Innovation Week! But let’s save that for another post.

Onward to a well-earned break. Wishing everyone at IMD Business School and all blog readers a restful and fun Easter! Soak in some sunshine 🙂

Surbhi

Module 1: Three Months, Three Life Lessons

ecef6521-0386-4d8f-b5c8-e86f5adbb87b.JPGPost-exam Lausanne exploration 🙂

Exams are done! And we have recovered (somewhat).

Tomorrow my group presents our startup project, and so we wrap up the first module.

It has been three months, full of highs, some lows, lots of laughs, and more late-night, caffeine-fueled, impassioned discussions in the dungeons that I would like to admit. And we are just getting started.

Here are 3 learnings from Module 1 that will stay with me in the days to come…

  1. You can never know everything: I can safely say that the majority of our class has had at least one “deer in the headlights” moment. It is particularly uncomfortable when you are used to overcoming hurdles and enjoying success and find yourself thinking “huh” in class as brand new content whizzes past you on a daily basis. This is when you need your peers. And the acceptance that you won’t learn it all, but you will learn how to prioritize and fill knowledge gaps effectively, a skill that allows you to focus on your contribution to the team.
cb002555-5c0a-4335-b8ba-c1167a0bed72In life, as in ping pong, a good team has your back

2. Conflict, not such a bad thing: Culturally, we grow up with the idea that conflict may be considered rude. It leads to tension and friction. But, you put 90 high achievers into groups of six for three months and then how can conflict can be avoided? My team, fortunately, is almost always on board with each other. But we have had our not so congenial days as well. I think we are better for it, mostly because conflict presents us with a fork in the road; how will you move beyond disagreement? Our reptilian brains tell us to defend our turf, that it is personal when it often is not. But we have a choice in our reactions. Are they helpful? Necessary? True? Not always possible to follow, especially after consecutive hours of clicking away on laptops, the next test only a Canvas update away, but a good aspiration nonetheless.

PHOTO-2019-04-11-20-28-45.jpgParis at twilight, by Shriekanth

3. On occasion, leave the bubble: After exams, many left Lausanne for the weekend, or at least the dungeons. Some further out in Europe, others within Switzerland. I jumped on a train to Florence and hung out with a visiting friend from home. Over delectable pizza and while strolling through the Uffizi, I was reminded of a life beyond the MBA, and that it would be a mistake to focus so much on the minutiae that I forget the context of the world that IMD is preparing me for. Work hard, and walk away sometimes. Find those roses or tulips. Perspective never smelt sweeter.

The Uffizi’s Leonardo da Vinci exhibit displayed the Adoration of the Magi, mostly still in sketch state. This unfinished piece, infused with talent, is considered a worthy piece from the master, the center of a famous museum exhibit.

During and after the MBA program we will remain in sketch state, works in progress. As our experiences compound, the lines become clearer and the colors better defined, but never entirely done.

And that is the beauty, is it not?

We are incomplete, a long road lies ahead, and we are yet masterpieces.

Leonardo da Vinci, Adorazione dei Magi 1482 c.

“The recently restored Adoration of the Magi, commissioned by the Augustinians for their Church of San Donato a Scopeto and left unfinished when Leonardo had to move to Milan in 1482. Yet it is this very state that allows to follow Leonardo’s mind’s creative processes, in all his sketches, ideas, second thoughts and reconsiderations.” – Uffizi Museum, Florence, Italy

An Integrative State of Mind

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The sun is out and how.

As warmth pervades through this quirky city of Lausanne, the tranquility of birds chirping and the calm waters of Lac Lamon are a direct foil to the rollercoaster our class of 90 is riding as I write this.
Why?
Today we begin the famous IMD MBA Integrative Exercise. Once we survive (I remain optimistic) and emerge from the dungeons on Saturday, reading week begins, followed by examinations, culminating in startup project presentations. Just another wrap-up to Module 1 at the program that changes your life, but not without first relentlessly testing your acumen and spirit.
There is a lot going on in my mind, some nervousness, a little excitement, marginal homesickness (today is Holi, festival of colors), but mostly the awareness that I will rely on the knowledge given to us over the last two months to get through the next two days. I would relate this to the Hunger Games, except that the school keeps us exceptionally well fed. But you get my drift.
Good vibes and wishes of success to my team, my friends, and my class 🙂
See you on the other side!
Surbhi

IMD Conversations: International Women’s Day Special!

IMD Conversations is a new format to share peer conversations on topics relevant to business and social change. We will cover current implications, personal experiences, and how we aspire to make an impact through our future careers.

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No human is an island. As women make strides in professional and socio-political settings, I was curious to hear what my male MBA peers thought about existing issues and opportunities. I am thrilled to introduce our first IMD Conversations topic with Lukasz (Poland/Germany), Vivek (India), and Jaco (South Africa), in line with Women’s Day …

Female Inclusion in the Workplace, A Male Perspective

blog post.jpegJaco, Vivek, and Lukasz

Surbhi: I’d like to start off with hearing about the influential women in your life. In the spirit of Women’s Day, share their role in your lives and their impact on who you are today.

Vivek: My mother is the reason I am here, and her support has been invaluable especially in leaving home and coming to IMD. She stood against all the odds she faced over the years and she has taught me how to smile even in the worst possible situations. She really has inspired me throughout my life.

Lukasz: I would mention my wife and one of the key things I learned from her: how to better understand people’s emotions. Emotions are important in connecting and communicating with others. Whether in private life or in my consulting career – I can be more impactful and more myself when I clearly understand my own and other people emotional state. And with years I appreciate the value of emotional intelligence even more. In the end, our life is about people. 

Jaco: The lady I want to speak about is my sister. She is 12 years my senior and helped raise me. She was the first in our family to pursue a professional career and did her Masters in Engineering. At that time it was a very male-dominated industry. I remember her saying how challenging it is, how women aren’t taken seriously in that field. So, I came into the workforce being comfortable with women being capable but also conscious that women have a hard time in business. My sister was very successful at a petrochemical company and I followed in her footsteps and studied chemical engineering. 16 years down the line, as a manager at an engineering company, she observed a change; more women were entering the industry.

Surbhi: So, in your career, before IMD, what value have you seen diversity bring to the workplace, in specific, the inclusion of more women

Jaco: The key to diversity lies in being tolerant and embracing differentiation. If you have a whole bunch of the same type of person in the room you don’t have the same learning opportunities as you do if you have a diverse group. I don’t have the best way to do this figured out yet, but I do know that it’s hard if you’re in the minority.

Lukasz: I believe diversity is very important. Working with people who think differently is not always easy, but can lead to more innovative, better solutions. Having more women in the workplace is one of the powerful ways to add this diversity to the corporate environment. It becomes even more important when we look at the upper ranks, as there are still not enough women in top leadership positions. Personally, I was lucky to work with a few women leaders in my career and I have to say I was impressed by their capabilities, both on technical as well as on the more softer, leadership side. 

Vivek: I agree completely. I come from a manufacturing company with relatively few women. I hired two women for project management positions and it proved to be a very good decision. The perspectives and compassion they brought to the team resolved people-challenges that we never realized existed and were impacting our business. We were completely focused on the process and execution and they introduced a more empathetic approach to problem-solving. The success of the project is due to how they involved different stakeholders and made them comfortable with the work that we were doing.

Surbhi: While I think many more women are entering the workforce, boardrooms still have a long way to go before we see equal representation. As future senior executives and CEOs, what are actions and initiatives you would lead to improving female inclusion in the workplace?

Vivek: The question is how many of the women entering the workforce in starting positions will be able to sustain. Are they feeling safe at work? Do they feel they can grow to higher positions? Or is their only choice to leave after a certain point due to family obligations? I think flexible working hours, work safety, and professional development support will help smart, ambitious women climb up the ladder.

Lukasz: I share most of Vivek’s views on what the corporate world can do.  What I would add to that is the necessity to work here and now on cultural beliefs. I still see many women who don’t believe they can succeed despite their capabilities. Mentoring and showing women successful stories can help change their perspective. Additionally, I think that giving women opportunities and vocally trusting their abilities could also play an important role.

Jaco: Along with a conducive environment and long-term goals that Vivek and Lukasz mentioned, I can say in my experience when I have had to recruit, I saw a lack of female applicants, which limits my ability in a managerial capacity. Which makes me wonder why? Why is that? My starting point as a future executive will be to understand, what are the barriers women face when entering the workplace, from getting a job application in, to where women in the workplace have previously been excluded due to barriers, and then I could formulate a strategy to address these issues.

My heartfelt thanks to Jaco, Vivek, and Lukasz, for a meaningful discussion. While we have a long way to go, it is heartening to know that the next generation of senior management will foster greater inclusion and diversity.

With one of my favorite TED Talks by MacArthur Fellow and fabulously dressed feminist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie,  “We Should All Be Feminists”, I wish all the ladies, and all the men who care about and celebrate us, a Happy Women’s Day!!

Surbhi

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Everything Is Going To Be Fine

It is one thing to write about transformation. It is a completely different keg of wasps to experience it.

March is here. Temperatures have risen but the forecast says a spell of cold rain is headed our way. I hope not! As we proceed into what legend says the most intense month of the IMD MBA program, we need sunshine to keep our spirits and Vitamin D levels up.

Last week we had a guest speaker session in our Operations class with Erik Winberg, Vice President of Strategic Planning at Tetra Pak. We spent the day learning about Tetra Pak’s Digitally-Enabled Supply Chain transformation project. It stemmed from visible unmet needs in a demanding market. As the team designed and implemented their strategy, they had to overcome challenges to achieve a strong, reliable, and effective structure. We discussed Industry 4.0 and how digital tools can be applied to the supply chain, and the dynamic and critical nature of operations became all too clear. This is reflected in the process we’re going through at IMD, through supply chain simulations and peer CV reviews. In iterative motions, we’re learning, improving, and accepting the discomfort that precedes a better version of ourselves.

thumbnail (1)Erik Winberg and Professor Seifert in discussion with IMD MBA students on digital transformation in the corporate world

If inner transformation is difficult then it is good that we begin work with our Personal Development Elective (PDE) analysts in the coming days. The PDE optional stream is one of the reasons IMD was my school of choice for an MBA program. Of course, I wanted to develop an understanding of the subjects that make up business fundamentals. But all programs offer this at the very least. PDE work stems from the idea that while managing a challenging course load and life transition, students would (and should) have dedicated time for individual reflection with a qualified professional. We may all have different pain points and issues to work on, but the goal is common, to get comfortable with ourselves, and thrive while we are at it.

During the Leadership Experiential almost a month ago (has it really been that long?!) I said “Everything is going to be fine” to my start-up group each time a new challenge arose. We had a good laugh and the line stuck. Yesterday, in the dungeons, I was not smiling as much as I usually do, preoccupied with swirling thoughts of assignments and my python-like to-do list. My teammate and fellow blogger, Lukasz @lukaszkaczynski13, took a second out of his workload and said, “Surbhi! Everything is going to be fine!”

I certainly hope so, for all of us 🙂

Surbhi

新年快乐: Celebrating Chinese New Year, IMD style!

Despite being in the throes of the relentless calendar that is Module 1, we find time to bond with and learn about those who seem different from us. I say “seem” because of the learnings from the last few days at our Leadership Experiential. I have learned that if you scratch below the surface of apparent divergence, you find many points to connect on and much common ground. This is a transformational strength of being part of a mind-bogglingly diverse MBA program.

One such experience has been with my peers from Greater China. As I approached them, pen and paper in tow, ready to jot down salient points for a blog post on Chinese New Year, I was greeted with the same joy, excitement, and nostalgia, irrespective of their hometowns. Here are some snippets about their memories and emotions for the Chinese New Year.

China.jpegThe Greater China contingent from the IMD MBA Class of 2019

“For me, the Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival – as we call it, means family. It is about traveling thousands of miles or even across the globe to go back to where you belong, be with family, and enjoy together the food that brings back memories of childhood. As a child, during the festival, I was always trying to peek into the kitchen to see what was on the menu today, and even take a bite while the adults were not looking; and I still do that now, so many years later as a grown-up. Every year my mom would experiment new dishes, but some are not changed and are kept as our family “signature” dishes; every year I just can’t wait to go back home and be comforted and surprised by the food made of love. When I am abroad and cannot go back, my mom would send me pictures of the dishes, and I miss being with families that I treasure and share the food that cures me.” -Junyi Wang, China

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“My (and I would say most Hong Kong people’s) favorite New Year food is definitely Turnip cake (Chinese: Lo Bak Go). This is a traditional food for Lunar New Year. I like the taste but I also enjoy making the cake with my family. My family never cook together. My mother or my grandmother do most of the cooking. Only when it is Lunar New Year, everybody will gather together to cook – some of us peel the turnip, mix the sauce etc. We also enjoy shrimp for dinner on New Year’s Eve. In Cantonese, it is pronounced, “Ha” which means “hahaha” and lots of laughter in the coming year. Fish is “Yu” which means “having plenty” so we have that too. We play mah-jong and it is good for catching up with family and relatives. I will prepare tea for my mother, father, and brother early in the morning on the first day of the year. I would say thank you for your love, care and support for the year and wish them to have good health for the year.” – Angelina Cho, Hong Kong

Related image“Typically on Chinese New Year, parents and elders who are working give the children and younger family members who are not earning yet, red envelopes with money. It is a bonus to the regular pocket money and is considered good luck and blessings. We visit relatives and at home, there is a constant supply of food. Even if you are not hungry you have to keep eating! In Taiwan, we get to see the Electric-Techno Neon Gods do a traditional dance. One the New Year’s day we usually do a big get-together at home, and on the second day, married women are supposed to visit their families. The celebrations continue for a few days and it brings everyone together.” – Kerry Hsiao, Taiwan

a92c2bc0-30a9-46e1-a4e8-24b1201642a1.JPGChinese New Year Hot Pot celebrations!

IMG_8366.jpgFinding precious time to reflect and celebrate among the consecutive academic and leadership activities of this week, out peers from Greater China kept their festive spirits high and involved all of us! They gifted us with red envelopes filled with kind messages and sweet treats. The IMD Restaurant is also treating us with special Chinese New Year themed lunches this week, enjoyed by all, with many laughs at the end as we read out our predictions to each other from fortune cookies. In reality, it is hard to predict where we are headed. But with our families just a phone call away, memories of our cultural celebrations, and the company of our MBA friends, we can be sure that good things await ahead.

Wishing the IMD MBA Class of 2019, our professors, MBA support team, all IMD staff and students, and our blog readers a blessed and spectacular Year of the Pig!

Surbhi

 

 

 

 

Blog Team 2019: The Write Stuff

The IMD blog helped me, and many of my peers, during the application process to the MBA program. Shout outs to the 2018 blog team; thank you for sharing your experiences with candor and humor!

Picking up the baton and upholding class tradition to share meaningful, hilarious, and sometimes trying experiences, we, the blog team of the Class of 2019, are thrilled to introduce ourselves in this post. Helena, Lukasz, Uzair and myself will helm the regular blog posts, while Adrian and Olivier are our skilled photobloggers.

We look forward to being the voice of our class and having many of our peers guest blog in the coming months.

In alphabetical order …


Adrian

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Having spent the last year in Western Australia working as an engineer I believe I’ve possibly come from furthest away for the programme. In my spare time, you would find me kitesurfing, sailing, flying my drone or taking photos. Trying to keep an open eye about new angles and perspectives, through the MBA and through my camera lens. Coming to Switzerland proved to be my 6th country of residence and am very much looking forward to seeing where post-MBA life will take me.

Helena

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Hi everyone! I am Helena from Bogota, Colombia. For the past 8 years, I have been living abroad because of my work in the oil and gas industry. It started back in 2010 when I moved to Kuwait, in 2013 I was moved to Aberdeen, Scotland where I was until 2015 when I went to Trinidad and Tobago. In 2017 I moved to Sahara Algeria up until last year before moving to Switzerland. I obviously enjoy traveling and also cooking: wherever I go I try to learn at least one recipe of local food so I can recreate at home. I’ve been living in Lausanne for almost a month and so far, I am loving my time at IMD, everything from my classmates to the incredible professors have been up to my expectations. I look forward to sharing here my experiences this year as it was through this blog and the past classes that I fell in love with IMD.

Lukasz

Screen Shot 2019-01-28 at 8.54.05 PM.pngPolish citizen by birth, long-term Swiss resident by choice and strategy consultant… also by choice ☺ Although educated in finance, spent last years helping global life sciences companies tackle their strategic challenges. ‘Staying active’ is his middle name. Hiker, biker, and jogger in summer, skier in winter. Passionate about the history of 20th century and classical guitar. Loves dogs. A lot ☺

Olivier

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I’m Olivier and feel rather representative of the average IMD MBA candidate, except that I come from Belgium. I just turned 30, got 7.5 years work experience (for the rest, refer to IMD brochure). In life, I enjoy curiosity, humor, open-mindedness, tackling challenges and killing monkey-businesses. I’m also a great fan of outdoor activities in general and more particularly trekking off-the-beaten-tracks. In the past years, I had the chance to explore Patagonia, Lapland, Nepal, and Greenland just to name a few. Last but not least, I have been a photo enthusiast for about a decade now, which is what brings me here. I particularly enjoy simple shots with pure lines, candid portraits and travel photography.

Surbhi

IMG_8276 copy.jpgHello everyone! I am Surbhi, proud Indian and third culture kid, born and raised in Dubai (I know where to find the world’s best shawarma). During my pre-MBA career over the last ten years, I was a life-sciences strategy consultant in the USA before working on patient-centricity programs focused on Africa and the Middle East. Professionally, I am passionate about bringing innovative medicines to patients and creating efficiencies in the lab-to-bedside process. I am an ardent traveler and most recently went hiking in Bhutan. I enjoy postcolonial fiction, movies, yoga, and love spending time in nature 🙂

Uzair

765e88e9-b7a9-4625-88e9-2528374124ae.JPGI’m Uzair (Uzi) & I come from the highly scenic lands of Jaipur & Hyderabad in India. Previously I was a consultant to an international NGO working in public healthcare and I have also worked for 7 years with a global pharma company. I consider myself an outdoor enthusiast who likes to experiment with new things. I have cycled the Atlantic Ocean road in Norway, Skydived in the Swiss Alps, backpacked through Cambodia, ridden a 5-trotted Icelandic horse through lava fields and traveled across 13 countries. I also train for long distance running & have participated in HM & 10K runs.

Thank you for reading our stories and for supporting us through this journey!

Surbhi