Yesterday, the MBAs had their last class together.
A moment of mixed emotions, as the elation at having completed the year combines with the wrench of realising that each classmate is about to embark on a new adventure, in all corners of the globe, and the close bonds formed over the past 11 months are about to be stretched to new limits.
But this is a time to celebrate. To acknowledge different achievements and contributions. So the day ended with champagne, with awards and recognitions, and with the MBA yearbook distribution.
I can vividly recall the beginning of the IMD journey for both of us. It was a luck of the draw, in all senses of the phrase, that determined the IMD journey for us over our comfortable life back home.
Now over a year past that decision, we still can’t believe the roller coaster ride we have been through. From being fearful of moving out of our home country, to both of us moving to two different continents and following our hearts. While my partner spent most of his time at IMD (and as I heard, asking a lot questions in class 😊), I moved to Canada to explore my career option internationally. It was an amazing adventure which words could never do justice to.
It wasn’t our first long distance period, so at least we were prepared for that part. We managed to meet and plan vacations during the year. But what actually changed for us were the topics of conversation during our calls that mostly revolved around giving each other tips on networking and interviewing. I feel I got some good IMD learnings along the way too!
And now it’s time to celebrate our successes. Our separate journeys will merge into our next destination. I can’t wait to plan 2020 and to celebrate graduation week with the beautiful people we have met through IMD.
In cups of coffee … lots of them.
Graduation week is officially here.
I would be lying if I said that I am totally cool with saying, “seeya later” to my 89 compadres. When I arrived in January, on a day as cold as today, but what feels like so long ago, I had a clear purpose for coming to IMD. I knew which job I wanted in which geography, and how it would fit into my planned career path. I had my “secure base” in Dubai with no real need or desire to form close friendships. It was simple in my mind; study, recruit, graduate, explore Switzerland, and move on.
My dormitory landlady in college once told me, “Man plans and God laughs”. Apparently, this applies to women as well. I definitely did not get time to explore Switzerland.
Nothing anyone could have told me would prepare me for the sheer exhaustion and exhilaration this year has brought into my life. What does the journey feel like? Have you seen Harry Potter? It feels like this (start at 0:40 if you are impatient) …
If I have to summarize each month here, it would be as follows.
January: I am so excited to be an IMD MBA student! This is going to change my life!
The arrival of “Magic 90” (as coined by Sebastiano :), laundry system culture shock, snow in Villars, dancing in Villars, accounting and finance, bullwhip
February: This is a lot of work for an MBA program, no? Start-up groups, weekends of finance and accounting study where I look just as clueless as the person next to me, and the one next to him … and yet I live in hope that I have enough time to learn everything
March: My life sucks. I question every decision ever made that led me to this chaos.
Tears … I don’t have enough time to learn everything, start-up project drama really kicks in, integrative Exercise 1 i.e., sleep-deprived smiles … exams … so many tears *My PDE ensured my survival this month. I love you, Natalia.
April: As shocked as everyone else that I did well in Accounting …
Celebrating the completion and passing of exams, jumping into Module 2, running home for Easter break to remind myself I have a life beyond the MBA bubble, running back to the bubble because in some masochistic way I actually missed it, more accounting, more finance, strategy … lots of lonely nights with case studies
May: Spirits rise with the weather, all smiles as recruiting begins Packed my winter jacket away, sunshine all around, gorgeous edited CVs at the ready, brooding over cover letters, naive, happy hellos as on-campus company presentations begin, questioning my original goals, prodding new ideas and roles, the realization that what I planned may not be the best for me … so now what?
June: Discovery Expedition, where I discovered that I would prefer not to do extensive long-haul travel in the future 14 days, 3 cities in different continents, essentially giving Phileas Fogg major existential angst, all 90 of us breathing the same air and living the same existence, wonderful, fun, and ultimately so tiring that your bones are ready for summer break.
July: I’m going home and never coming back! Arriving home so overwhelmed by the breakneck speed of the first half of 2019. Sulking initially on leaving a nice, warm, comfort zone. Realizing later that the magic lies beyond said comfort zone, binge-watch Netflix with cat, finalize cover letters, study, wonder if it would have made sense to stay in Europe and network, as some high achievers have done, decide break is good idea anyway, continue binge-watching Netflix
August: I came back. Feeling refreshed. Amazing what a month of regular sleep and mental rest can do for the soul. Short-lived. Module 3 + recruiting = Module 1 on steroids. Tired. Worried. Tired. Scouring company presentation lists and highlighting those of interest. Interview practice. Pitch. Pitch. Pitch. Ice-cream truck arrives! My favorite is blueberry cheesecake.
September: Interview practice like your life depends on it Early selection lists. Joy. Disappointment. Learning. Learning. Learning. PDEs in overdrive. Self-reflection. Pivoting the career search. Baptism under fire as we learn to be agile, accept failure, accept ambiguity, understand that while things don’t go our way externally, we exert control over our reactions and responses. Ice-cream truck leaves. The ICPs begin.
October: Like salmon swimming upstream ICPs in full swing, job search angst at its peak, tensions flare, empathy grows. Major personal stretch goals. Flying to interviews. Prayers. Some good news. Some not-so-good news. Magic 90 fires on. It’s not the end till we say it is. Meeting alumni who say this is the best year of our lives. Staring at them wondering if the definition of “best” varies across cultures.
November: Time flies when you’re having fun (or drinking from a fire hose) ICP wrap up. Satisfaction at another project well done. Electives begin. Sitting through “The Future of Marketing” with Professor Frédéric Dalsace and “The Displacement of Pioneer Companies by Scrappy Copycats” with Professor Howard Yu — courses so good they should be core curriculum. Final round interviews. Offers. Satisfaction. Relief. Suspense. Trade-offs. Decisions. Sometimes straightforward. Or holding out for something better. Emails from Regula and Gyopi about wrapping things up. It’s getting real. The end is nigh.
December: Mixed emotions, yet eager to take on the next adventure! Expecting a whirlwind of tears, Kleenex, happy memories, emotions, and closure. Maybe more. I will miss my peers and the MBA team.
At the end of this “bumpy ride”, I am not only choosing a career path and location I didn’t consider initially, but I leave this mountain-cuddled sleepy town with friendships you generally only make in school or college, the kind that is rare and thereby more precious in adulthood. I feel sad and elated, a strange sense of gratitude because I unexpectedly found something that will be difficult to walk away from.
So how will I measure this year?
I don’t think I can.
Not everything can, or should, be quantified. I know that I have changed, suffered, grown, triumphed, and all this is taking me towards a brand new chapter.
And this in itself, is priceless.
Wishing my class a fantastic week, and a wonderful visit for all the family and friends attending our graduation.
As temperatures dip, I find myself curled up with a bowl of hot soup at lunchtime at the IMD Restaurant. Some days ago we enjoyed an aromatic tagine and slices of thick walnut baklava on Morocco Day. And who can forget those glorious summer days of unlimited, and I mean, unlimited, Movenpick ice cream?! And as we hurtle towards graduation, it would be a mistake to not profile and thank the incredible novae team who keep us nourished and quite frankly, alive, during what may well be one of the most challenging years of our careers.
Anyone who has considered IMD, or made it to Assessment Day, or has given a lecture to students here, has heard of and likely dined at the IMD Restaurant. And then told friends and family of its multi culinary lore. It is literally that epic. I have personally overheard at an alumni reunion, a former IMD MBA in line for lunch saying, “Oh gosh, I’ve missed this so much!”
Nestled between the MBA buildings, the Executive Learning Center, Bignami, and a lush green park sits the Restaurant, appropriately at the heart of IMD social life. It is a large space with ground and first floors and an outdoor patio that opens up in the warmer months. Through the glass windows, you can see groups of people breaking bread, engrossed in conversation. On a given day when I walk across the hall, I can hear chatter on new business articles, potential projects, an upcoming lecture series, new parents aspiring for a good night’s sleep and my peers discussing Lacustre shenanigans from last evening.
What we rarely see, or think about, is the effort behind the production house that feeds hundreds of people on a daily basis, including 90 MBAs with appetites as vast as their professional ambitions. I could imagine an accounting line item just for us, “MBA variable costs = 1.5*Regular diner variable costs” #mbahumor
The novae team begins their day at 6AM. They spend the morning chopping, sauteing, and preparing all the dishes in the interconnected kitchens behind and above the dining areas. Olivier, who generously took all these fantastic pictures, and I took a sneak peek to prepare for this post and were amazed at this labyrinth of cooking stations where the team works in planned unison, churning out copious amounts of greek salad, daal, sweet potato fries, cannelloni, and grilled fish, so streamlined and efficient. No surprise then that when the cream puffs are almost over, we see a tray of freshly prepared plump cream-filled pastry goodness appear within minutes.
Stressed spelled backward is desserts, and the novae team has spoilt us for choice. International sweets aren’t uncommon. Seen below are the aforementioned cream puffs, and “basbousa”, an Egyptian sweet cake. For those healthy living days, there is a supply of fruit and yogurt 🙂
Lunch is typically followed by an expresso at the Bignami cafe we know as Mireille’s. How she remembers our orders I will never know. It is an experience that makes IMD special to us and can brighten up even the dullest day.
I wish you all the opportunity to dine at the IMD Restaurant. It provides so much more than a meal. It is where you find some kindness and camaraderie, where we eat at the same table, regardless of our differences. In fact, between trying dishes from Tunisia and Sri Lanka, we’ve expanded our palates and even given vegetarian burgers a shot (for the record, they were pretty good)! The Restaurant also has made us think about not wasting food, where our food comes from, and you can sometimes see locally sourced labels at the lunch buffet. In a world that is becoming alarmingly polarized, food remains a common denominator of humanity, and in our tiny Alpine corner of the universe, this industrious establishment has all of us covered, and how.
On behalf of the Class of 2019, thank you, dear novae team: Frédéric, Arnaud, Nicolas, Jérome, Aloïs, Philippe, Malick, Cedric, Arno, Luis, Kumarasamy, Sébastien, José, Jean-Jacques, Carlos, Emanuel, Gatien, Guillaume, Mireille, Jorge, Antonio, Zahra, Maëwen
The MBA International Consulting Projects are well under way, with participants travelling around the globe, working as teams to find solutions to an issue faced by the top mangement of the company they are working for. They have another four weeks to complete their projects and make an impact. But at the same time, the clock is ticking as graduation approaches and the pressure to secure the next phase of their career is also at the forefront of their minds.
Here are some words of encouragement from one of the MBA partners:
“An overwhelming time of the year has come for our MBA’s who might feel a bit submerged. They’re spending all their time looking for jobs, reaching out and making connections networking, interviewing for jobs, supporting one another and juggling big ICP projects.
It’s honestly a trialing time for the best of us. Not achieving what they wanted may have some of the participants discouraged at this point, but we, as partners send this message:
We are proud of you all, we stand behind you, and we believe in you.
Dear participants, I hope you find some inspiration in the words below.
Some periods of our growth are so confusing that we don’t even recognize that growth is happening. We may feel hostile or angry, weepy and hysterical or we may feel utterly hopeless. It would never occur to us, unless we stumbled upon a book or a person who explained to us, that we were in fact in the process of change, of actually becoming larger that we were before.
Whenever we grow, we tend to feel it, as a young seed must feel the weight and inertia of the earth as it seeks to break out of its shell on the way to becoming a plant. Often the feeling is anything but pleasant. But what is most unpleasant is the not knowing. Those long periods when something inside ourselves seems to be waiting, holding its breath, unsure about what the next step should be eventually become the periods we wait for. For it is in these periods that we realize we are being prepared for the next phase of our life and that, in all probability a new level of your being is about to be revealed.
Hold tight… all will happen at the exact moment you are waiting for.
I have always wanted to write a blog, but I haven’t so far. Stating petty reasons like, ‘I don’t have the time’ or ‘It’s not the right time for that thought’ or ‘I am not sure if I want my weird thoughts published’!
Today was different.
Like every other night, I was lying on my bed reminiscing about the interesting conversations I had and the interesting events that unfolded today. One train of thought led to another and I started wondering why every IMD alumni that I have spoken to has always exclaimed how life-changing their year at IMD has been and how much they treasure their IMD memories. What makes this experience so special? The place. The faculty. The sessions. The MBA program team. The food. The coffee.
Yes, all these factors and a special element that ties all these together – You – the people whom I share this year with. I am not exaggerating when I say that I am incredibly lucky to have had the pleasure of knowing you. And, it all started here in the Lorange auditorium!
As I mentioned earlier, today was different.
Today, I wanted to write my thoughts down because I simply couldn’t brush off the significance of this day. The last day we will be seated in the Lorange auditorium ‘together’ for a session. The place where we discovered each other, learnt from each other, critiqued each other and pushed each other to be better. A place where we shared tons of laughter, glances, pictures (of each other; often ending up as memes) and inside jokes!
A place we can proudly call ‘Our Safe Space’!
I started wondering how Lorange got its name. It is a pity that this thought crossed my mind only now because my curiosity led me to discover Mr. Peter Lorange, former President of IMD. As I browsed through his work and his articles, I came across this thought that could have potentially gone into the design of Lorange:
Typically, all classrooms and study rooms should have high ceilings, with windows to allow natural light in. Even though it has not been scientifically proven, it seems plausible that good learning is associated with high ceilings, i.e. no heavy structure from above “hanging in one’s face,” potentially cluttering one’s mind. Daylight, as well, is probably associated with good learning – we feel that light stimulates a positive mindset and prevents feelings of sluggishness after a day in the classroom.
History is fascinating, isn’t it.
Well, it is 2:30 am now. Too many thoughts are running in the back of my mind – career plan, presentation for the digital lab and the fact that I might regret it if I don’t go to sleep soon!
What is front and center is the amount of time (3 months!) that is remaining between today and graduation.
I am going to make every single day count! And today, I choose to simply enjoy our last day ‘together’ at Lorange.
What happens when you hurtle ahead from January through June at breakneck speed, and then suddenly pull those screeching brakes?
You catch up on your “do-absolutely-nothing” debt.
During glorious July, the much-needed month off in the IMD MBA program, I, and most of the class, purposefully did nothing of obvious value, unless you consider puttering around the house and meandering through glistening malls, frigid with air conditioning, in the middle of a desert nation, productive. I do. My best ideas arise in sloth.
Sea view from the Arabian Gulf on a hot, lazy day in Dubai
And now we are back in lovely, sunkissed Lausanne. Whizzing through Finance, Negotiations, Structured Thinking, and most recently, Leadership sessions on distinguishing between truth and lies. With my peers, Takashi and Jia, I’ll be doing project work with IMD alumni looking to bring precision agriculture to East Africa. Plus, International Consulting Project (ICP) prep is underway. Also, recruiting is officially ramping up! In just two weeks!
This immense trove of knowledge is valuable when we are in the right state to use it. An overarching lesson is the acceptance of uncontrollable factors. You can read and test as many frameworks as you like, test a million scenarios and have all manner of analytics and research at your disposal. The outcome of it all, our efforts, the risks we take, remains unknown. And maybe being at peace with darkness is an answer. Maybe as we cross the chasm, from being frantic about output versus serene and focused on the process, we evolve from our former selves to impactful leaders. So, there is power in just this, being okay with the unknown.
Lac Léman tranquility
Whether we look at the time value of money, understanding our position versus who we are negotiating with, grasping the emotions behind the misgivings of a disgruntled colleague, or structuring options to approach an abstract problem, the present moment is all that matters. The past can cloud judgment, in finance and feelings, and the future sits on so many variables beyond our influence. Suddenly the concept of mindfulness doesn’t seem as restricted to yoga-studio, crunchy granola stereotypes as it previously did. It applies to our everyday dealings, especially in business.
I am grateful to our wonderful Sports Committee for organizing yoga classes. Simple things like deep breathing and self-awareness are gold when navigating the rest of this program, which has made a marked shift from the first academically focused half, to now, when we’re practicing cases and feverishly writing cover letters.
One thing is for sure, I will schedule “aimless time” on a weekly basis, even if for a few minutes. Because when the world is still and your calendar isn’t pinging in nagging anticipation for your next commitment, you can reconnect with the person who brought you here in the first place, “pre-IMD you”. You can remember her dreams, recharge, and redirect your efforts, so that, in spite of the unpredictable nature of all things external, you can be sure of one thing, your sense of self.
Signing off with this tribute to Toni Morrison, the first African-American writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, who passed on last week.