An honest letter to the Class of 2020

An MBA alumnus from the class of 2019 shares his tips and advice as the current class starts their journey.

Dear Class of 2020,

Congratulations on getting the admit and beginning what I believe to be a “Transformative year”.

Now that you have dived into the rather interesting world of solving cases, storyboarding, T-accounts (No! I’m kidding here), and meeting humanity from different hemispheres. I thought of putting together a rather non-MECE (you will hear this A LOT!), and unstructured rambling of learnings and observations from my own experience. However I do hope that some of this will be useful to anyone who’s beginning their MBA program.

A General Rule:

A big learning that I have come to appreciate even more is the simple yet not obvious distinction between “Facts” and “Opinions”. What I’m saying below, in unequivocal terms, represent my “Opinions” based on my assessment. I speak on behalf of myself. Period! Over this year you might find yourself in situations where Facts and Opinions will be used with great elasticity and interchangeability. It’s an important skill to develop.

Nonetheless, Let’s truck on.

On Program

1. First & foremost, remember that you have come here for your own professional and personal development. A person once told me that every single day you get 86,400 seconds credited to your account. Use them wisely.

2. The total cost of program is ~120K CHF and duration is 11 months. Every day you enter the building, you amortize ~360CHF. Financial motivation for those “Bad days”.

3. There will be times when Copying & Pasting will appear to be a promising and time saving strategy for assignments and exams. Don’t DO IT! Remember Point 1

4. Normally, Accounting will feel difficult to significant many. Take full use of the resources at your disposal – E-learning (Khan Academy, YouTube), Batch mates, and extra classes.

5. I found “Strategy” class to be the most challenging and rewarding. If there is one class where you need at least 2 hours of pre-class prep to get the maximum out of the discussion, this is the one!

6. The program has a high academic workload frontloaded on Module-1 which begins to taper off progressively. Sometimes with so much work, it’s natural to feel like you’re going through the motions in module-1 but don’t forget Point-1: Find quiet time to think about your future!

7. Over this year, you’re going to get a lot of feedback from a lot of people both harsh and soft. You will also learn about your inherent biases. The program focuses not only on learning new things but unlearning old ones. 

8. You will be writing a lot of new material this year. From analysis of business situations to self-analysis. If you do it properly, you will develop some writing skills which will come in handy during the latter half when drafting your cover letters.

9. An important learning to target this year is being a better “Storyteller”. Make sure you get enough time to practice on the center-stage in front of an audience. The program gives more than enough opportunities and it’s up to you to make the most of it.

On Relationships

1. Initially your colleagues may get “Wow-ed” by your academic, professional, and personal achievements (Maybe you’re an Olympic finalist). However, you will be remembered for your personality, energy, class contributions, eccentricity (applicable to few) and most importantly how you treat others. 

2. You might not be able to make great friends with everyone because of various reasons but you can always maintain good relations. As Stephen Covey said friends are similar to “Emotional bank accounts” – The more you invest the more you can gain. This year you have limited time so choose your accounts well.

3. Having said that, if you maintain good relations with everyone you will have a known at basically every continent in the world (not sure if there are MBAs in Antarctica) when you graduate.

4. You might have few or many awkward conversations, because you don’t understand or can’t relate to the culture, the words and the accent of the other person. However, make the effort to engage and break the ice. These people will be your family for 2020.

On Jobs

1. Job Search is going to be easy, and uneventful for some while difficult, exhausting, and draining for others. You won’t know what category you belong to, so better start the efforts now and not wait until June or beyond.

2. One of the things that I wished I had done better was to talk to more people outside of my industry. Conducting informational interviews with people from different industries gives a chance to explore new things that might translate to future interests.

3. I used LinkedIn Premium A LOT! I got my job through LinkedIn. I recommend LinkedIn for InMails, job recommendations, and LinkedIn Learning Job Interview video series

4. The school network opens doors which were previously not accessible. Start early and talk to as many interesting people as possible. I understood what excites me or dulls me not from job descriptions or HR talks but simple conversations with different people.

5. Don’t forget that you have a previous professional and personal network. Make extensive use of everything at your disposal.

6. I favor taking the summers off unless you have an opportunity which can translate to a role in future. Sometimes interesting opportunities may only be open to work permit holders!

7. I found that the alumni to be quite responsive and helpful. I also learnt that it important to briefly introduce yourself and talk about your interests when connecting with them. What is a strict no-no is assuming that alum is obligated to help you!

On Extracurriculars

1. A lot of social bonding will happen over Friday night parties, house parties, MBAT, discovery expedition, and the spur-of-the-moment visits to Lacustre. Go for it!

2. Three books were always discussed in details on many occasions so might be useful to have a look:

  • “Thinking Fast & Slow” by Daniel Kahneman
  • “How will you measure your life” by Clayton Christensen
  • “Valuation: Measuring and Managing the Value of Companies” by McKinsey

3. Some of you are likely to get addicted to staying in the dungeons after a few months., Make sure you get out of that comfort zone. You can take a walk by the lake, explore the markets or go for one of the hikes (Highly recommend the app Komoot)

As I said, this is by no means an exhaustive list and neither did I intend it to be. Over this year, you will have your own unique experiences and I hope you make the most out of your stay here!

Wish you all the best,

Class of 2019

PS- Feel free to connect with me if you think I’m not all bonkers.

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


28th November 2008 

Martin Schmidt, German, is the author of today’s diary entry. He shares with us his experience and pleasure of having become a father whilst completing his MBA at IMD.

What were you guys doing last January?“ This was the question that Benoit Leleux, our Program Director, asked after congratulating me on the birth of my son Leonard. With three “MBA babies” born in October, this was indeed a fair question to ask. So if next year’s MBA program gets even more demanding and stressful during its first month, I fear I might be partly to blame.

That said, the support we had from the IMD community was fantastic. Mareike, my partner, moved to Lausanne when she was already six months pregnant, and without the help of IMD staff, other participants and partners, things would have been a lot more difficult.

I know that some Diary readers are prospective MBAs who may be considering starting a family during their time at IMD. Having gone through the experience myself, I can wholeheartedly recommend it, so let me try to resolve some of your doubts*:

  • You think that becoming a father while doing an MBA adds more stress to an already stressful period of your life? Maybe so, but the joy that a baby can bring by far outweighs everything else. It also puts things into perspective: The company you’ve just applied to announces mass redundancies and experiences a 50% drop in its share price? Things like that do not seem to matter so much if you have a wonderful little baby son waiting for you at home.
  • You are worried about your wife giving birth in a foreign country? I had my doubts too, but as it turned out, hospital staff in Lausanne are very much used to catering to an international clientele. Also, language was much less of an issue than I expected: Most doctors and many midwives speak perfect English, and in any case, during birth language becomes secondary; in fact, if you understand the French verbs “pousser” [push] and “souffler” [breathe], you have already covered 90% of the required vocabulary.
  • You fear that you will be the odd one out as an IMD father? The following picture, showing only the parents with babies that were born during the year, should prove you wrong:

Looking at this picture now, I can’t believe how much Leonard [the one in the front, dressed in light blue] has grown already! But before I start boring my audience with stories about all the little miracles Leonard performs already [he just started smiling], I will stop writing and spend some more time with our son…

Good night to you all,


*I don’t want to be sexist, but I’m afraid my advice applies only to male participants – for obvious reasons, things would be a little different for female participants.

Kicking off- Around the world in 14 days!!

So, we are in San Fransisco as part of our whirlwind Discovery Expedition around the world. And we’ve been bombarded with all the superlatives about Silicon Valley. For the first two days in the Valley, I personally could not associate these superlatives to what I saw. It wasn’t so obvious when we visited big campuses, looked at big sales figures or gawked at the various philosophies for success of these tech giants. The real spirit of the valley came alive when a small group of us visited a nondescript startup operating in the  hardware memory industry. The CEO , a man possibly in his fifties, dressed in a dull striped shirt and plain black trousers, explained the 10 principles of his company. At the very bottom of the list he had etched his own motivating principle in the hope that it resonated with the employees of the startup and it read “I want to win”. You couldn’t tell by the way he behaved with his staff often giving them credit and really being their supporter throughout the presentation. But there he was, turning around his company and making it the top startup in the hardware memory industry. Observing this behaviour, I felt an extreme commonality with the caring and daring principles taught at IMD.

The last week saw us dressed up, running around, completing tasks, listening to companies and meeting alumni before embracing the madness of the discovery expedition. We had insightful presentations from the top firms in consulting and industry. I was wowed by the gravitas  and responsibilities of some roles and the promise of rapid learning from some other. We saw both the traditional companies with defined space for MBAs and the high growth companies with more fluid opportunities. I look forward to interacting with these companies on a more personal level after these impressive presentations.

The Alumni of the school also left an indelible impression on me last week. The All MBA Alumni event on the 15th had all the ingredients of a giant family reunion. Familiar faces were there acknowledging the established connections. But more impressive were the unfamiliar faces. Everywhere I turned and introduced myself, I was greeted with a smile and an offer of help or a connection to my area of interest.

Waking up the next day and facing some other alumni, this time as part of simulated interviews was a completely different experience altogether. The test of my preparedness was persistent and as a result, my learning was exponential. It was an immensely fulfilling experience that thoroughly tested my preparedness. This was extremely helpful given the fact that some alumni had to sacrifice time at the ongoing alumni event and faced problems with transportation and scheduling in order to attend these interviews.

We are well on our way to finish the San Fransisco leg of the trip and fly to Singapore tomorrow. The trip has been amazing in several ways but I can’t help but think about the incredible experience that we had with the various alumni on campus. They’ve been caring enough to introduce us to broad network of opportunities but have also dared us to be prepared to meet those opportunities when they show up. It’s this tribe spirit that keeps IMD alive.

Off to bed to get ready for tomorrow’s madness.


Featured image, the jump group picture with Golden Gate Bridge in the background. 

Anna’s intake on women in leadership


Anna is an executive leadership coach for women. Originally from New Zealand, she holds an MSc in Occupational Psychology and started her career in HR at Shell in both European and Global roles. She graduated from IMD in 2007 and was recipient of the Award for the best all-round female. Following her MBA she joined Mars Chocolate in the UK and worked in a range of senior sales & marketing roles, most recently as their Commercial Strategy Director. She now combines her psychological insight with her commerciality as an executive coach, inspiring women at all career stages to achieve their potential at work. She lives in London with her husband and is a Mum to three very energetic boys.Anna_2007 Continue reading “Anna’s intake on women in leadership”