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.
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.
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.
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 🙂
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.
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.
Transformation literally means going beyond your form.
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.
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!
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?”→
I have been at IMD for 18 years, and yet I never fail to be surprised at how quickly we seem to move from welcoming a new group of 90 to wishing this same group of friends luck on the next step of their journey.
Friday was graduation day. We (all members of the MBA team) clapped as they received their well-deserved diplomas and we partied with them to celebrate the end of this chapter.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has contributed to the blog this year. Not only Parth, Neharika, Martina, Joyce, Hassan and our image king, Raj, but so many others have taken the time out of busy schedules to share with us a part of their experience, to give us a glimpse into what makes this year so special.
For 2018, I leave you with a short video
We know this is not goodbye. We look forward to hearing how the journey continues.
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.
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.