Our first month: measurement of time

It’s been a month since most of us moved and started calling Lausanne “home”. A lot has happened in the last 30 days and there are many ways in which we could measure it. If we go by the calendar, most days were filled with an overflow of information, from great classes with a couple of guest speakers to getting our personality test results and looking at ourselves with new eyes. If we go by meeting new people, we went from names on a WhatsApp group to people with wonderful life stories and a lot to learn from, we went from being acquaintances to classmates and are on the road to become great friends. If we go by changing our routines, this month meant going back to being students (something that was long forgotten by most of us) having classes for 8 hours a day and then spending the night reading and doing homework while trying to have a “life”. Either way, it was an overwhelming month in more ways than one, and it only takes one quick glance at the February calendar to know that January was actually just the beginning and things are about to get tough.

One of the things that will make our lives interesting was officially launched this past week. From day one we were talking about the Start-up project when we got the list of the 15 companies that the MBA 2019 class will be working for and were asked to select our favourite four. It also meant that we were being assigned to our study group, the groups of six that will be spending a lot of time together for the next couple of months. We got a few weeks to get to know each other and our work style before we met with our start-up at the end of the month. The day of the meeting you could feel the anxiety in the room, all of us wondering what it will be like, what are they expecting from us and what could we do to help them.

Meeting our start-up turned out to be less stressful than many of us expected, it meant meeting really passionate people working for an idea they really believe in. It also allowed us to bring all our experience to the table and start thinking outside the box, looking at problems from different angles while thinking how are we going to do this on top of all the classes, readings, homework, leadership and career exercises. Time management will for sure be something we are all tested on in the upcoming weeks and as the stress rises, is going to be fun to see how our dynamics change.

I close this post sharing this picture of one of the class speakers we had this month. The reading for the marketing class was about Tag Heuer and we had the pleasant surprise of having the protagonist of the case, Jean-Claude Biver, talk to us about his career. As my classmate Adrian puts it:

Jean-Claude Biver, former CEO of Blancpain, Hublot and most recently Tag Heuer, along with too many accomplishments to list. It was a masterclass in how to be creative in business and how to find your inner entrepreneurial spirit. Incredibly inspiring!

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All in all, it was a great month that flew by and I can only look forward to what is to come!

Helena

Brand Thyself

As MBAs in training and future visionaries looking to make a dent in the world (we hope), we have already had experience with brand management for products, or expect to learn the latter in the months to come. A subject less often discussed is the nebulous, subjective, and frankly tough job of branding ourselves. In a world where everyone and their pet chameleon are on social media, branding is as universal as it is essential to conducting business, be it medicine, manufacturing, or mergers and acquisitions.

Which brings me to our Career Development session yesterday with Arjen Iwema from W-Focus on Personal Branding. Most of us have some idea of who we are, and are perhaps less clear about where and who we want to be in the future. Arjen, IMD MBA Class of 2003, spoke to us about his journey towards a clear individual brand, professional and personal, and urged us to use a comprehensive framework to begin our exploration into our branding statements.

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The most rewarding part of the day for me was drafting our personal statements and then sharing them within our groups (also our start-up teams). It was a wonderful way to get to know each other beyond qualifications and years of work experience. We shared our feedback with each other and marveled at the various hidden aspects of each other’s personalities. All I can say is, wine enthusiasts, serial marathoners, and auto nerds lurk among us 🙂

A significant takeaway from the session was the value in being authentically yourself because this cannot be replicated. It is difficult at times, especially since many of us come from cultures where humility is paramount, and speaking about yourself is just plain awkward. As we step into pre-executive roles, it may not be required or even advised, to harp on about our abilities. But it would do us a world of good if we have a clear sense of who we are and where we are headed. In a dynamic environment where many things will not go our way, we can at least have a strong sense of self to share with those we want to influence, and more importantly, ourselves.

Now onto prep for Operations class tomorrow! Have a good one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MBA 2019 two week warm-up: what was it all about

Second week down.

Monday, January 14th. Snowy dreams of our Villars trip are over. It seems that real study time begins.

Finance, Strategic Thinking, Leadership and Managing Cases were just the few content areas we kicked off this week, next to more soft training around public speaking and team dynamics. It is hard to believe how deep discussions can go around supposedly basic, fundamental topics. How can we evaluate market entry in a structured manner using strategic thinking techniques? What critical strategic decisions can be hidden beyond ‘current liabilities’ figures? What is country competitiveness and why are some nations more competitive? How can the application of a relatively simple toolkit take your presentation skills to the next level? It was impressive.

Nevertheless, while reflecting today about the last two warm-up weeks, one thought hit my mind very quickly. Although we have already learnt a lot, these two weeks were not really about content. The fundamentals we tapped into were just the background music, the first necessary ingredients of our professional toolkit.

These two weeks were about us.

Firstly, about the 90 classmates with 39 nationalities, interacting with each other, broadening each other’s view of this world and pushing us out of the comfort zone to see what else is out there. Whether it was about business or private life, discussions with my international colleagues helped me better understand why things in Portugal, India or China (to name few) happen as they happen. What do people think, feel and believe that makes them act in a certain way? Although I only scratched the surface of a few cultures, it made me so hungry for more.

Secondly, these weeks were about inspiration. Last Friday we visited EPFL Campus Biotech in Geneva to meet top scientific minds working on the Blue Brain project – a Swiss brain initiative aimed at understanding the human brain in order to diagnose and treat brain diseases that are imposing an increasing burden on world’s societies. We learnt about breakthrough technologies under development that at some point would also need business minds to get traction and make a positive impact in our world.

Last, but not least, we also had fun 🙂 On Friday evening, we headed up to the hills above Lausanne, to spend some time building bonds that we will keep for life. Cosy restaurant, delicious snacks and even more delicious Swiss raclette were of great help to keep conversations going 🙂

To all my 89 classmates – thank you for making this experience so rich.

Lukasz

“Magic 90”

The IMD MBA Class of 2019 WhatsApp group was born on a warm June day in 2018. The initial participants were 20 odd folk scattered across time zones. Our initial conversations revolved around polite, formal introductions, mentions of when we had travelled to someone’s country, and program administrative questions. Somewhere along the way, as summer blended into autumn, our comfort levels with each other, and the size of the group, grew. A great indicator of how our equation has evolved over the past months is the name we recently bestowed onto the chat group; “Magic 90”.

There is something magical about a group of people who never knew of each other before, now priming to develop some of the more influential relationships of our lives. The common thread? A shared desire to survive and thrive during the IMD MBA program.

We are different. Sometimes the chat is overcome by conversations in Hindi or Portuguese with the rest of us scrambling to Google Translate. On an average day we motivate each other to finish the pre-reads, discuss who makes the best cocktails, inquire about nannies and babysitting services. Some of us volunteered for a babysitting circle to help out our peers with bambinos. We’ve even discussed wardrobe requirements and shopping sales, a conversation primarily driven by the ladies! And all this shared with people we have not even met yet.

Wait, I stand corrected. Some of us have met. While transiting through Taiwan, Basel, Mumbai and Rio, our peers have met over meals and coffee, and then shared pictures with the rest. It’s almost like a blind date, but set up by IMD, and the big smiles show that a fun time was had by all. It makes
me eager to get on campus and get this show started!

We have also seen a great willingness to help out on the group. Whether someone is sharing pertinent HBR articles or sending across finance reading files that another cannot access, there is a high level of proactive giving happening in “Magic 90”. Our friends currently in Lausanne are generous with their time and wisdom. Swati and Camila, for example, have equipped us with nuggets of knowledge on Swiss door locks, grocery shopping strategies, and insurance and phone plans.

Currently, we are sharing vacation (read: pre-IMD relaxation) pictures and collectively enjoyed the IMD MBA Class of 2018 graduation live stream. As this unity grows, we’re not quite sure where our IMD journeys will take us. But if months of daily chatting are anything to go by, our virtually budding friendships are a prelude to the great times and strong bonds that lie ahead.

Surbhi

The IMD Factor

Welcome to the 2019 IMD MBA Blog!

We’re looking forward to officially welcoming this year’s participants in just a few days. The program starts on Wednesday, but we already have a great team lined up to share their insights throughout the year. Surbhi will be our main blogger, with lots of support from fellow classmates. I’ll let her introduce herself next week, but here’s an insight into the start of her journey to IMD.

Suzy

Transformation literally means going beyond your form.

Wayne Dyer

As I marveled at the pristine perfection and organized calm that is Switzerland, it finally struck me. I was in Lausanne, a bit beleaguered after the journey, anxious and elated in equal measure. Tomorrow I would attend the fabled IMD MBA assessment day, the only admissions event across business schools where candidates are vetted for an entire day, on campus, to understand who they are as people.

My 72 hours in Lausanne forced me to pause, reflect, and walk away changed, with a stronger sense of my place in this world.

“Towards a new horizon”
Photograph taken by Surbhi Puri at Lac Leman

The IMD assessment is an extraordinary experience, unlike any I’ve seen for university interviews. As the day progressed I realized that this process went beyond being just a means to an admissions outcome. The behavioral interview, impromptu case, role play, lunch chat, case review with Dean Meehan (with much animated conversation), and attending Professor Seifert’s operations class; the entire experience is engineered such that, regardless of the final decision, you walk away with new thoughts, ideas, and questions bubbling in your brain that can carry you forward.

When Antonio called to share the invitation, he said that the assessment day would provide an accurate idea of what life at IMD is like. In my excitement I took a mental note but didn’t ponder on this statement much till I was in the thick of interviews. And what a transformative day it was! For those who are selected and choose to attend the program, I can only imagine the impact that a year of this experience can manifest.

Here are 3 mantras that I saw exemplified by the staff and participants of the IMD MBA program during our assessment day:

The magic lies beyond your comfort zone

In our cohort, we had all taken time off from our respective jobs and families to prepare for the assessment, and prepare to excel. This is no small feat. You know you are in esteemed company when you share a meal with individuals in their early thirties, an age when roots of routine and familiarity start taking form, and all of you have chosen to invest time and resources in discovering your greater potential. We are comfortable where we are, educated and gainfully employed. And yet the itch to do more, despite the demands it would place on our relationships and lives, is palpable and cannot be ignored. Stepping outside the comfort zone is preached and written about extensively. To practice it takes a higher level of faith in yourself and the program. This speaks volumes about the kind of people who choose the IMD MBA.

Global citizenship is the way forward

Most introductions during the day and with current participants over lunch went along the lines of, “I’m from Country A, studied in Country B, lived in Country C and D before moving to E.” The global reach represented in a relatively small group of individuals was astounding. Possibly because I have lived almost entirely in cities considered to be ethnic melting pots, the current class mix felt familiar, like home, except with cold winds and mountains as far as the eye could see. Our interview cohort represented both genders, five nationalities, and covered a range of professional roles, from pharmaceutical marketing to military service. As we worked through a case that must have been dissected by many before us, we could breathe new life into the discussion because of the unique experiences that we, quite literally, brought to the table.

The transformation (and struggle) is real

Armed with ten years of experience exclusively in healthcare, I was now required to discuss my views on an airline industry case and share astute insights on company finances. The exercise made me consider new aspects of business practices and evaluate unfamiliar data. After returning home and in the days that followed, as I flipped/swiped through the news I found myself thinking more critically of the sources I was looking at, and I explored topics beyond my usual biomedical interests. Not just because my worldview had expanded, but also because I felt confident that I could understand and question arguments on topics unfamiliar to me.

The change isn’t just cerebral, there was a sense of confidence and pride that stemmed from surviving the assessment, and the knowledge that we are made of tougher stuff than we sometimes give ourselves credit for. An early taste of the IMD program pushed me towards a better version of myself in less than three days. I speak for my peers when I say that we feel honored and excited to embrace the metamorphosis that the coming year will bring. We are ready, with coffee and chocolate on standby. Bring it on!

Surbhi Puri

Sailing Santa Margherita

A few days ago, 11 of my MBA classmates, 4 alumni and I had the chance to participate in the MBA Bocconi Regatta in Santa Margherita Italy, one of the top MBA sports meetings of the year, and an opportunity to meet people from other prestigious business schools.

Most importantly, it was a true stretching teamwork and leadership experience that could not have been “taught in a classroom nor induced through group assignments in an MBA class setting”, as Hassan, one of my crew members, highlights it. “There’s something about being on a sail boat with 6 of your classmates and an alumni in the middle of the Ligurian Sea, competing for Regatta glory by carefully pulling ropes and forcing tight maneuvers to get ahead of the competition, that brings home what teamwork is all about. It’s observing your crew, anticipating issues, being available to them, reinforcing communication, and giving your best that matters when the horn sounds and the boats set sail.”

What was particular about our setup was the lack of sailing experience of most of us MBAs. This was a real challenge given that safety, on top of performance, was at stake.  Martina, recalls that, “Every wrong maneuverer was immediately visible, no mistake was forgiven.”

So how did it play out for us? The truth is that Daniel and Claude, our skippers and IMD’s alumni from 2014 and 2017, played a pivotal role in our success. In less than 3 days, we managed to pull two crews together, get up to speed and perform.

“Daniel and Claude were not “only” skippers, they were leaders who gained our respect by leveraging the talent which each single individual brought in, by staying calm in tense situations and by focusing on our learning experience and development. Martina.

From our skippers perspective, the Regatta was also a stretch, as Daniel Emeka (MBA 2014) highlights:

” I had to bear in mind that since we didn’t have time to practice much I would be relying on people taking initiative within prescribed limits and a framework. Both Claude and myself made sure we held an initial briefing, and sought to reassign where we thought roles weren’t aligned with requirements and break the entire sailing experience into phases such as getting in and out of the harbor versus racing (third phase) which had a different set of roles. The team then only had to think one phase at a time and focus on those tasks.

The team had heightened IQ and EQ, so they quickly picked up on concepts like wind direction and tacking/gybing (it helped that there were quite a few engineers) as well as self-motivation, team dynamics management, …and waiting for the right moments to bring up issues. This really added to the morale and kept us focused on important things for prolonged periods. As for the usual rookie mistakes, we got the course wrong once, misjudged weather patterns, sometimes didn’t notice some problems early enough. But these were all corrected for and no mistake was made twice”

From Claude’s (MBA 2017) perspective:

“For the second time in two years, I had the chance to be on the IMD racing boat for the MBA Bocconi regatta as skipper. Unlike last year, I was not familiar with most of the crew members who were current MBA students. Getting a crew of seven to perform coordinated specialized activities in the limited space of a boat with the pressure of competitors like Harvard, MIT, INSEAD, HEC, and Chicago is a thrilling and sensational challenge. For the boat to move, turn, and accelerate, everyone needs to know his/her role and objectives, communicate effectively, and understand how to react to unexpected events. The learning curve is steep, and the crew needs to take risks and dare to make decisions with a limited amount of information and time. After a few initial adjustments, we were able to improve our maneuvers, increase speed, and reduce reaction time. And after the first race, I had already forgotten that I wasn’t part of this class: it felt like we were one team and that I knew the crew as well as I knew my classmates last year. Unfortunately, we did not win the regatta, but we don’t need to be on top of rankings to be successful. And for me success, was creating meaningful human bonds with 2018 class, enjoying the time together and leaving in some of them a bit of my passion for sailing.”

This Regatta remains one of the most symbolic, memorable and sensational events of our MBA experience, and a great sports tradition I would like to help future classes maintain and improve. On behalf of the sailing team and the MBA sports committee, I would like to say a BIG THANK YOU to our dean Sean Meehan, and the MBA staff for their support in making this happen!

Sara, for the MBA Sports Committee