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 Lewis 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

The Greatest Glory

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“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.” – Nelson Mandela

Madiba had foreseen, perhaps, that those who aspire to shape the world need a reminder, that in the pursuit of intellectual and economic success, we should take our hearts along for the ride.

After Module 1’s rigorous training on frameworks and discounted cash flows, I daresay we felt pretty good about our knowledge on the essential MBA toolkit. But is there value in using tools without a burning mission, or a vision that sees beyond profit?

Nope.

Enter Professor Knut Haanaes, Professor of Strategy at IMD and Dean of the Global Leadership Institute at the World Economic Forum (WEF). Since the first lecture of our Business and Society course, Professor Knut asked us to evaluate cases and ideas through three lenses; systemic change, corporate contribution, and individual responsibility. With this in mind, we dived into the tough conversations about maintaining performance while protecting the environment, ending inequality, and driving accountability for ethical behavior. For me, the striking thing is that despite our cultural and personality differences, and even if we disagree on how to proceed, as a class we have been united in our concern for society at large, and are seeking ways to make a fast and effective impact.

DSC_9135.jpg“Magic 90” with Professor Knut Haanaes at the World Economic Forum

A fresh perspective on vision and intent: Stories are incredibly powerful in their ability to change minds. We benefited from many through a range of guest speakers during the course. Our session on the WWF goals reminded us how much in peril our natural world is. Yves Daccord, Director-General of the Red Cross (ICRC) wowed us with his adventures and learnings in overwhelmingly high-stress and often unfamiliar situations. He is one of our most memorable speakers in the program thus far, and believe me, the bar is set high. He achieved this without slides, his stories so visceral and relatable that we hung onto every word. Our President at IMD, Professor Jean-Francois Manzoni, also did a session with us on navigating corporate culture and even redefining it as we progress in our careers.

Challenging companies to do better: This is where it gets trickier. During a class discussion on palm oil, the narrative drove me to question consumer choices. Do we really need palm oil to be in everything? Can we be weaned off of it? Do the orangutans really need to die because we like Nutella on toast? And the corporate argument against ending palm oil use is that livelihoods of farmers are then being taken away. The “aha” moment here is that even if my heart is in the right place, my mind needs to have a business plan. It is more convincing to show that we can transition farmers to other crops such that a manufacturer can still realize profits, just in a new and different, perhaps even more lucrative way, without causing harm to the planet.

SDGs-GlobalGoalsForSustainableDevelopment-05.jpgSustainable Development Goals (SDG): SDGs are a call to action, comprising of 17 global goals set by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 for completion in the year 2030. Professor Knut assigned each group to a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG). For each SDG we needed to state the current status, challenges, and the role of business in generating solutions. My team worked on SDG 3, Good health and well being, with a focus on Mental Health in the Workplace. Presentations were conducted yesterday, the last day of the course.

We began early with the sunrise to drive over to Geneva. We met with Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of WEF who reminded us that the future will not just be hinging on technology, but also on talent and trust. Furthermore, he urged us to pursue our goals using brain, soul, heart, muscle, and nerves, all our faculties, to make the best decisions for all stakeholders.

After a fascinating afternoon at the United Nations, we arrived at the SDG space. While listening to my peers’ presentations, I realized these issues aren’t unsolvable. As consultants, bankers, and executives, problem-solving is part of our ammo. “Fix it! Create it! Figure a way around it!” The challenge is really the scale of the issues that plague sustainability. And they are of our own making, our miserable track record of individual focus and ignorance of widespread consequences.

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” – Nelson Mandela

Professor Knut asked us if we felt optimistic or pessimistic. When I think of the Great Pacific garbage patch or gender equality being 200 years away, my heart sinks. But my friend and colleague, Mirko, shared a message of hope as evening approached and it was time to head home to Lausanne: “I am more positive about the world’s outlook, because all of us in this room are leaders of tomorrow and this course showed us the importance and urgency to act and bring back the balance between profits society and the environment. My wish is that every one of us will take the big responsibility to take these learnings into the real world by adapting our lifestyles and leadership for a better future on our planet.”

DSC_9189.jpgProfessor Klaus Schwab at the World Economic Forum

I remain an optimist, with good reason.

And I end this post with words of wisdom from Professor Knut. When I asked him about sustainable goal setting and his aspirations for our class, he shared the following …

“Good business is about balancing the short and long-term. If we take a long-term perspective it is clear that sustainability needs to be a top issue for all companies. If we take a short-term perspective, it may look less important, but only until you are attacked in social media. So today any smart company needs to address sustainability for the short and the long-term. That, to me, is great news!

The MBA class will be better leaders that we have seen thus far. In part, because the future will demand more leadership, even put a premium on it. And I think you have it in you. I know you will set higher targets on yourself than even I would have!”

The course has ended, but our contribution to the change has just begun. May we do good, and do well. May we find our greatest glory.

Sustainably yours,

Surbhi

(special thanks to Olivier for the incredible photos!)

IMD Conversations: Mother’s Day Special!

They are our first home.

Our first friends. Our fiercest protectors.

They give the best hugs. They help us stand after we fall,  their belief in our abilities unwavering. They teach us how to do our hair, buy furniture, and nourish relationships. They help us get those precious remote controls from our dads.

Mothers. Beautiful. Flawed. All striving to make a better world for their offspring.

This Mother’s Day I caught up with the three moms at the IMD MBA program. I am personally inspired by these women, and how they manage to thrive through this intense year, all while being present and generous in their children’s lives. Let’s learn about Camila (Brazil), Kristina (Russia) and Swati (India) …

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What about IMD influenced your decision to pursue the MBA program here? Which aspects are appealing to you as mothers of young children?

Camila: Switzerland is a place that I find wonderful for kids to grow up in. This environment is super healthy for my son in terms of infrastructure. Also, my family is already based here so that helped me with my decision.

Swati: Agree with Camila. I also feel that IMD has a slightly more mature peer group that understands that you have a family and a life beyond the MBA. This makes all the difference to me, a benefit that I felt only IMD will provide. Also, the partner support services and the work that Marcella does, these aspects make a huge difference for me.

Kristina: I felt that IMD is one of the shortest MBA programs and since my family is in Russia, I felt that I can manage it in a good way and also see my daughter on some weekends. We also have a month off in July which is great. The partners’ program made my husband feel more inclusive and understand the importance of the program for me. It helped him adapt to being a single parent for this year and made our transition easier.

And what has been the role of family support for you?

Camila: This was crucial, and there is the difference between a mother or a father attending the program, with exceptions of course. Usually, a mother can be home taking care of a kid and it is more acceptable and the model that is more widely spread. When a father provides childcare you need some arrangements in place. My husband works so creating a strong support network is critical, and then doing the program is feasible.

Swati: This program is a big decision, especially if a mother is doing it. You do need to be cognizant of the demands of the program, and be realistic and create your infrastructure around it. The IMD community is special. I experienced this last year as a partner and this year as a participant. Last year I needed a nanny urgently and I just didn’t know what to do. So many partners offered help and Marcella called me and told me that she has a nanny available if we needed one. So, the community really makes a difference.

Kristina: For me, there was a commitment from my family to help out, even though they all work. They have helped me much more than I expected. We have planned every weekend throughout the year, who would stay with my daughter and how all the visits would be coordinated. There were unexpected changes. For example, I planned that my daughter would stay in Moscow initially and join me in the summer with the nanny. Now she can’t so I got consents for all my friends who can potentially travel here so that whenever there is an occasion someone can bring her here for a day or two.

PHOTO-2019-05-13-20-06-17.jpgKristina and her daughter, Mia

As future CEOs and change makers, and as moms of future leaders, how do you wish to influence society? What do you think is vital for us to achieve for the next generation?

Kristina: I want to show to my daughter that you don’t have to sacrifice your career or your personal aspirations towards family. You can be successful at both. There is a focus on flexibility in my life which I think is important and I’m teaching to my daughter to be adaptable, to explore, and not to fear change. As a leader, I would want to create in my organization an attitude to dare to change, dare to be flexible, for example going from more bureaucracy in companies to flexible time and allow employees to be with family.

Swati: This is a difficult question. There are individual goals, but as a part of society, we need to think about how we want to transform. As a collective, gender parity is important. We know it will take 200 years before men and women are equal in society. We have studied about bias in class, we know this exists. If we don’t push this issue, it could take us 400 years. If we make enough noise it could take 150 years. I think we have a significant social responsibility in this respect.

Camila: For me, the MBA was an enabler to have a positive impact on the world. I was at a moment in my career where I was thinking, in the future, in 5 or 10 years, how proud will I be with what I do. Motherhood has changed me in that I now think how proud will I be telling my son that I am where I am, making the choices that I did in life. So, this is about role modeling and about thinking deeply on how to make my work more meaningful and impactful.

What would you like female applicants, especially mothers, to know about the IMD MBA program experience?

Camila: Overcome the fear. Honestly, I think as successful women we struggle a lot. And it’s really hard to get where we were before the MBA. I think the biggest fear is what if I leave and I don’t go back to the same level. Or something happens. Or will my husband be able to manage? Just put the fear aside. Put your infrastructure in place. It’s doable and it’s worth it.

Swati: A lot of moms ask me about the MBA program and what I tell all of them is that this is the best thing you can do for your child. Switzerland is a unique experience and children just love it. Lausanne is fantastic for kids. If you plan it well, you can manage a great experience in a cost-effective manner. Do your research and be pro-active. The Partners’ program is so robust at IMD. It can find you jobs, schools, and kindergartens.

Kristina: It is not easy to be on the program and be a mom. But it really is all about how you manage it. I am happy that I am going through it. Even though my daughter does not stay with me full time, even for the short visits that she makes, she’s already made friends with Amaya (Swati’s daughter) and each time I speak to her on the phone she asks for her! This program is not just for me now. It is for her. And this is very precious.

PHOTO-2019-05-13-20-06-08.jpgWhile mums study the little ones play! Mia (Kristina’s daughter) and Amaya (Swati’s daughter) enjoying some sunshine

Massive thanks to Camila, Kristina, and Swati for your time and thoughts!

To all moms, those with us and those watching over us, thank you for all that you have done, and for all that you do. Happy Mother’s Day!

Surbhi

The Mumbai Challenge

A scholar visiting Mumbai randomly meets a former student in the hotel lobby. The conversation goes something like this:

Professor: Hey Anshul, great to see you.

Anshul: Likewise, this is a nice surprise. When did you arrive?

Professor: Yesterday.

Anshul: And you are here until….?

Professor: Tomorrow

Anshul: Wow, that short. What are you doing here?

Professor: I’m writing a book which I’m calling “Mumbai. Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”.

Well, that is how I experienced Mumbai a few days ago. A whirlwind. 3 days cannot do it justice on any dimension. Mumbai is an amazing city full of wonder, so vibrant and diverse. Always energising. Although I was unable to immerse myself in all Mumbai has to offer, I experienced it through the participants in our Mumbai Challenge.

Now in its second year, the Challenge is one way we assess candidates’ suitability for our MBA program. It is essentially a hackathon focussed on rapid ideation in response to some of society’s most pressing challenges. I’ll not reveal too much about the process, or how we use it to evaluate candidates, because it is competitive and there is a substantial scholarship at stake. No point in spoiling it by giving an edge to those keen future participants already with an eye on the 2020 challenge.

What I am happy to say though is that the 50 young men and women we selected from a much larger pool were engaged throughout the day, stayed cool, calm and constructive throughout and seemed to learn lots about the innovation process. The hack was expertly facilitated by Eric Saint-Andre, Innovation Architect.

I love this format because it gives us the chance to see how analytical, creative, collaborative, focussed and driven the candidates are. How they approach problem solving is always revealing. Egos are, mostly, kept in check. And through the apparent chaos some truly compelling ideas emerged. Three of these were well explained and professionally presented in the final pitch-off.

Members of all nine teams deserve great credit for their insights and contributions, as do the alumni, Ishwinder Bawa (2017), Janak Kumar (2017) and Anish Singhvi (2018) who shared their IMD MBA experiences and then joined us on the jury to determine who should be offered a place in the 2020 program. Let’s just say that as a jury we had a lot to discuss and debate as there were many well qualified and truly impressive candidates. We’ll announce the outcome soon.

From the time we gathered on Friday evening to hear the opening remarks made by ÌMD MBA Alumnus Harsh Goenka, Chairman of RPG Enterprises, all the way to our closing on Saturday afternoon, the mood was positive, the energy was impressive and the climate for surfacing amazing insights was ideal.    

Our thanks to Harsh, Eric, Ishwinder, Janak, Anish and all the wonderful participants who made the 2019 Mumbai Challenge great.      

Seán Meehan
Dean of MBA Program

Kristina Mityaeva, IMD MBA Diversity Scholarship winner

I have traveled extensively since my childhood and have visited nearly 40 countries. From an early age, I recognised that globalisation would become a dominant characteristic of modernity, and consequently, I learned the Latin, English, French and Chinese languages to enhance both my communication skills and understanding of the world.

A Lithuania-born Russian, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to live in the US and Kenya as an adult, developing the experience of becoming a “local” abroad and learning how others live, work, and think. Additionally, I have visited China and Hong Kong approximately 10 times over the last year and have established a deeper understanding of the uniqueness of Asian culture and its business environment.

After I graduated from the Russian State University for Humanities as a Lawyer, I spent 8 years in international FMCG companies like P&G and Herbalife building their in-house legal functions across CIS, Baltics, Mongolia and Israel.

For the last two years, I supported the international e-commerce business of the Alibaba Group, and became the first Legal counsel of the Group based outside of China and Hong Kong.

However, my career demands that I refine my global experience and mindset to ensure that I will be well-positioned to serve in roles anywhere in the world, so I decided to do an MBA to broaden my understanding of business and build some new skills for the future.

The best thing so far at IMD is definitely the academic staff. The professors are all super charismatic and engaging during the sessions. I never laughed so much during my years in Law School! Although some of the subjects are not so easy for me to crack– indeed Accounting and Finance gave me some really hard times even after tens of hours spent on extra tutorials and out of class preparation.  

Another great experience was the startup project. My group consulted Little Green House childcare centers on their growing strategies. As I have a 4-year-old daughter, and I also had some teaching experience with kids during my one year stay in Kenya, I was very glad to join this project, get more insights on the educational system of Switzerland and create impact for the generation of my daughter.

My daughter running across the water in Oregon, US where I travel for work and friends.

The IMD MBA journey is very dynamic, diverse, multi-layered and comprehensive. It fully reflects my life aspirations and attitude, and maybe that’s one of the reasons why I received IMD’s Diversity Scholarship – I strongly believe that globalisation and diverse collaboration are among the best tools to achieve sustainable results.

Kristina Mityaeva

Banner image: Sakhalin island where I lived as a kid