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

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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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Villars: Of Beautiful Vistas and Good Vibes

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First week down!

The IMD MBA Class of 2019 celebrated completing the first week of classes with a weekend trip to Villars-sur-Ollon in the Canton of Vaud. Known for its top-notch boarding schools and pistes primed for skiing and snowboarding, this beautiful village greeted us with seemingly unending blankets of fresh, white, snow.

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We arrived on Saturday afternoon and explored the local market fair while sampling local drinks and delicacies, including hot wine, crepes, and chocolates. It was a fun way to get to know each other beyond the campus setting, soon to become our second home.

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In the evening we boarded the Red Train reserved for the MBA class that took us up into the mountains where a fondue spread awaited us. Dinner was followed by foosball and then the entire class, including our amazing MBA support team, hit the dance floor and caused much revelry atop an otherwise silent mountain late into the night. All 39 nationalities shimmied it up to Shakira and The Black Eyed Peas. As the next few weeks bring us into the throes of finance and accounting and related academic exercises, I expect this memory of a rousing good time will get us through some late group study sessions in the dungeons.

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This morning, in particularly generous snowfall, we headed out for snowshoeing, a first time for many in the group. Among drifting snowflakes and husky-pulled sleds, we enjoyed a truly Swiss experience before heading back to Lausanne, a bit tired, with our fill of new inside jokes and good vibes.

Tomorrow we begin a new week, with new courses and assignments, and no doubt, new challenges for us to grow as humans and leaders.

But we can leave that for another post. Tonight, we dream of snow-covered fir trees 🙂

Surbhi

 

 

 

 

 

 

The End of a Journey or Is It?

An alum had told me earlier that his IMD year seems almost like a blip now and I had almost refused to believe him.  As we all graduated with our shiny MBA degrees on Friday, I can’t help wondering how quickly it all ended. As my dear friend Andrea said in his Graduation speech, we have reached our last stop and getting off the train is much harder than we could have initially envisaged.  As, I take another train today, I couldn’t help but reminisce about all that I learned here, built here and how desperately I just want to hold on to the nest and the fond memories that I cultivated so lovingly in the last 11 months: Continue reading “The End of a Journey or Is It?”

This is not an MBA

This is a life changing experience, one of those that turn people into who they were supposed to be.
This will be more than an MBA, but only if you let it. Only if you’re willing to put in the effort, if you’re willing to try new things and do what you normally wouldn’t. I’m not talking about the  academic rigorousness and effort required to finish the insurmountable readings, or about the hours needed to deliver all projects on time and the sleepless nights to learn free cash flows, economic theory, strategic positioning, analytics and all that jazz. I’m talking about the resiliency to take no’s, stand back up and dust yourself off, I’m speaking of the courage to have an honest conversation with a teammate, I’m referring to the strength to look into yourself and at your choices, ask why and then change.
This is not an MBA Program and as such it cannot be measured by any regular metrics. It can only be understood through the stories of those who’ve been here, through the lives it changed, the friendships it built, the people it touched.
Thank you, IMD, for taking us in, I feel honored to carry your name.

Joyce

Rugby and Snakes: Digital Lab day2

After the 2 week interview marathon, we have finally come in to the much awaited digital lab. For most of us the introduction has been somewhat opposite to what we have been expecting. After learning about high level digital strategies that companies have been pioneering worldwide, we expected a similar introduction to the newest tools and techniques in play.

What we ended up learning was how teamwork can be reimagined to boost creativity and innovation. Scrum (yes, it comes from rugby), the framework that software teams around the world use nowadays to focus on increasing customer value and momentum within teams. Once you get to know the concept it seems basic yet it’s unbelievable how companies like Spotify and Amazon have developed products based on this methodology.

And … we have been coding … in python. We’ve shut case studies and are now glued to code academy in the evenings as we are required to complete several lessons on python that would serve as building blocks for our experimentation with Scrum and app building later this week.

So the days have been fun with lots of post-it-notes and the evenings have been weary with code academy for company. Meanwhile, we managed to have some fun during the lectures.

Parth

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The Rollercoaster Ride

It starts with anticipation and excitement, plus a bit of dread…

The adrenalin begins to flow – a new country, bonding with classmates, minds stretching with new information and skills, Faculty and guest speakers, off-campus exercises and cases, start-up projects and integrative exercises…

And then comes the peak as realisation hits – this is it! The fast pace, the intensity, the ride is in full swing and suddenly, the swoop towards the first round of exams has arrived.

A mountain of work to revise, three months of finance and accounting, economics and strategy – evening workshops , shared notes, nerves building in anticipation.

And this is where the MBAs are now. Preparing for next week – a week of exams.

Exams

But spring is in the air, the exams will be followed by a long weekend break, new classes will start, new Faculty be met, and spring will turn to summer…

And the roller coaster ride continues – a second round of revision and exams, company visits, the program quickly half way over as the pressure builds.

A trip around the world together, summer vacation.

Another module, career search in full swing, a digital lab, ICPs, electives.

The ride is nearing its end, adrenaline levels calm with a certain surprise that it’s over already, goodbyes approach.

But there’s one final swoop – awards and celebrations, the graduation ceremony and family reunions, the rush of success – yes, you did it ! You are an IMD MBA graduate ready for the next stage of your career with 89 lifelong friends to support you along the way.

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Good luck to the class of 2018 on the first round of exams!

Suzy