On the best part of the MBA so far… and how sometimes you just mess up

Sit tight, this is going to be a long one 🙂

So… as a blogger I have a commitment to keep the readers up to date with what’s going on on the IMD MBA. Weekly if I can. Bi-weekly if I must. Once a month if things are really ugly.

Which makes it almost painful to admit I have not blogged here for almost 3 months.

I could write a long list of perhaps even valid reasons for that – and maybe I would have done that before the IMD experience. But reality is that it doesn’t matter. I failed in this. Some other amazing victories during this time? Yes. But not this one.

Halfway through the MBA and already wishing time went by slower, I can now state that IMD MBA – of course, if you really put yourself into it – will change your life. You won’t know in which way, intensity or angle – but rest assured life won’t be the same after you step your foot in the legendary Lorange Auditorium for the first time.

These past three months were incredible. Also intense. Also hard. Also time consuming. But with a bit of a taste of reward for all the work we’ve put in.

Here are some highlights of the time I was offline:

  • Geneva Class Trip: Professor Carlos Braga was kind enough to invite us to his book launch nowhere less than the main conference room at the WTO (World Trade Organization) Headquarters in Geneva. And since we would be there, he worked his impressive network and took us for a visit to the Red Cross Headquarters hosted by the ICRC president Peter Maurer. The ICRC wrote about our visit here.
  • Speakers: We have had powerful speakers from across industries, markets and functions. Won’t risk listing them all and leaving some behind – the list is long and inspiring. A special mention to Patrick Aebischer, EPFL’s President – and deemed to be the one responsible for EPFL’s remarkable trajectory – hosting us there and sharing his story in a very open and close way.
  • Finance Course: Probably one of the most painful parts of the MBA, Finance classes came to an end in an exciting learning experience that helped us get a sense of how much we’ve learned along the way. I speak for myself: Nuno Fernandes is a miracle maker. I was hopeless – even after a 4-month course in one of Brazil’s most prestigious Finance schools and an executive course in Fontainebleau – and now I finally understand the mechanics (and beauty) of Finance. ❤
  • Alumni reunion and Mock Interviews: For the first time the current MBA class was invited to the all-class MBA Alumni Cocktail. It was a great networking opportunity and our debut into this powerful group of incredibly successful people in all sorts of ways you can interpret success. Building on that, IMD organized for us to have mock interviews with seasoned alumni – which included a full and candid feedback afterwards. Invaluable.
  • Navigating the Future Conference: Ok, I know I’m starting to sound like the positivity freak with all these superlative adjectives… But NtF was just over-the-top AMAZING. We were all so proud of each other. Our classmates delivering killer presentations and an engaged and extremely senior audience. It was rewarding to see how far we’ve come in only 6 months. Please check out some videos here.
  • Movers, Shakers, Preachers, Pragmatists Class Trip: With the sad events happening in Turkey our Istanbul trip had to be adapted and we had a very unique chance to be in one of UNESCO’s world heritage sites for a week. In Santuario di Oropa  we had sessions on character, ethics and ambiguity. Discussing difficult agendas such as preferential treatment, gossip, minority quotas, income inequality, among others. The trip itself called upon ethics and moral judgment of the class and hopefully we all brought back in mind many reflections on top of the beautiful landscape memories.
  • Navigating the Future goes to Europe: In a new project for 2016, Ralf expanded the Navigating the Future conference into some of the most influential cities in Europe.  Before we all split throughout the  world to start our summer company engagement projects, we were split in 3 groups and brought a shorter version of the conference to London, Munich and Zurich simultaneously. Some of the classmates’ blogs on those will be here soon.

As you can see, not a lot going on over here (LOL).

Today I am excitedly one week into my Company Engagement Project and being able to feel the power of the IMD brand every time I present myself to someone new. Impressive. Now it’s up to me and all of us to measure up to and strengthen this unique and powerful brand!

Onto the next challenge… and back here soon.

Warm wishes,

 Sílvia

It just gets better and better!

Life at IMD after the exams just gets better and better!

The knowledge and tools we’ve acquired in the first three months have started to sink in and become part of our “arsenal” to tackle new challenges. Our confidence and ability to perform have climbed and we can now take on bigger challenges with much lower stress levels. And the new classes are amazing!

 I am trying my best not to spoil any surprises for the newcomers here… but let’s say that the last days have been filled with excitement and super interesting topics such as: crisis management, media training, hands-on innovation and leadership frameworks on getting people on board. Unquestionably useful knowledge that will certainly differentiate us – especially in the long run.

The career services team has been super active bringing valuable sessions to help us on career management, interviewing techniques and case interview preparation.

We are also having more and more guest speakers to inspire us with their trajectories and share invaluable lessons. Just this week we’ll have three different executives spending time exclusively with us.

To top it off, last weekend most of our class took our first trip together! Our classmate Dustin Kahler took the brave role to organize rooms, transportation, ski gear exchange, dinner and activities for over 60 people to come to Verbier! It was a great way to have fun together and create some more memories of our Swiss adventures!

I feel like we are living the IMD dream… and I am doing my best to enjoy the present as time is moving fast and tends to move even faster after the June exams.

 Have a great week and stay tuned!

Silvia

Invaluable lessons from Paul Bulcke, Nestlé’s CEO

As Kunal beautifully described in his latest post, life after the exams has been inspiring in many levels!

I find myself in a state where I don’t want time to go by so fast…every day brings new possibilities, ideas and opportunities to use the learnings we had on the first part of the program. The city of Lausanne feels like home now and the IMD family is closer and closer.

All 90 of us are here as a result of so many different stories! We of course want different things out of each subject and have different interests and priorities… That is why when I look around and see all 90 of us completely hypnotized by a speaker, it means we’re living a special moment.

That’s what happened last Thursday with the special visit of Nestlé’s CEO, Paul Bulcke!

It was a night to remember. He was super accessible and down to earth,  and truly created an atmosphere of closeness with our class.

There were so many pearls of wisdom.

To me the most insightful ones were:

Don’t imagine your career as the final destination. Make the decisions today on what you know today. Things are always changing.

  • Never work for your boss. Work for your team.
  • If you have no interests outside your job, you are in trouble.
  • What needs to be done, only gets done by doing.
  • Practice dettached involvement. (Be present and part of the situation but be also able to look at it from a distance)
  • The world is a place full of intelligent people but lacks wisdom.
  • When you have all the answers, that’s management. When you don’t have all the answers, that’s leadership.

And the ultimate lesson to me was given by example. He was asked some difficult questions in delicate subjects such as GMOs and water resources, and the way he openly yet firmly responded them was utmost inspiring.

Another unforgettable moment in the incredibly unique experience that is the IMD journey.

Love,

Sílvia

Motivation, Inspiration and some advise – Just another day at IMD

Entrepreneurship stream formally came to a close today but not without leaving us with some valuable learnings. Over the past many weeks we had the privilege to vicariously live and experience the lives of many entrepreneurs through the case studies. While “Eat me” introduced us to the trials and tribulations of Serena as she successfully persevered to realise her dream of starting a concept restaurant in Lausanne, Govworks.com narrated a tragedy of Shakespearean proportion as we witnessed Kaleil Isaza’s metoric rise to fame and eventual fall from grace.
From Tumi’s take over by Samsonite, to Venkatesh’s LBO of a division of his employer everything was on the menu.
We had the privilege to meet many of these entrepreneurs in flesh and blood as they recounted their journeys to us and patiently answered flurry of our hurried questions.
This morning Professor Benoit orchestrated perhaps the most appropriate conclusion to this stream by sharing with us the remarkable story of WIPHOLD (http://www.wiphold.com/), an example of how Private Equity can be a force for good and not just a source of profits. These stories motivated us to dig deep into our own passions and unearth those great ideas that we have been holding back perhaps a tad bit too long.
After such a motivational start to our day, in the afternoon, we got a chance to talk to a panel of senior HR managers from several companies. In those 4 hours we received some valuable career advice. Engaging with these people helped us to see the world from their perspective. It helped us to understand how best to position ourselves so as to maximize our chances of landing our dream jobs.
The best however was left for the last. We were paid a visit by a friendly neighbour. One of Nestle’s best employees took time out of his busy schedule to come and speak to us. He was none other than Paul Bulcke, the CEO, himself.
There cannot be anything more inspiring for business students, like us, than to be able to meet and learn from the stalwarts of the industry. Paul has spent 8 years at the helm of one of the World’s largest corporations and tonight we had the opportunity to ask him all about the remarkable journey that he has been through. No wonder we were falling over each other in order to ask our questions. Paul took all questions – easy ones, difficult ones, personal ones and professional ones. He answered them with utmost conviction and authenticity.
Much of his advice around careers was simple but profound. He urged us to find happiness in our work and not to see it simply as a means of getting to some future position. Perhaps the most important piece of advise from my point of view was that we should not look to work for our boss rather we should work for our peers and subordinates.
Such advice is often not found in business books or literature but can only be garnered through talking to someone like Paul who has seen it all, made it to the top and has kept the perspective on what is important.
How do you summarize such a rich day at school?
All I can say is this: More motivation, more advise and more inspiration – just another day at IMD.
Kunal

Connecting the dots

History is happening right now – this is my strong impression from today. During the couple of last days, we have discussed incredibly real and stunning cases in entrepreneurship class. “I want to rule my life and manage my business” imperative can have absolutely different sequences. So many factors, predictable and sometimes completely unforeseen, good or bad luck may play a critical role. But to what extend actually luck is random? Several weeks ago a guest speaker told us that luck might be considered an attitude. How do people make choices and what is truly important in our decision-making? We’ve seen some case heroes, making transition from the corporate to entrepreneurial world, changing industries or locations within or outside their countries, also balancing their personal lives. Those dilemmas and decisions seem so compelling to me. On the other side, business cases are in a way similar to fairy tales from my childhood – captivative, teaching and touching something important inside. I admire efforts of our professors and other case writers, who “hunt” to create those masterpieces. Those stories represent contemporary business traditions, eternal individual dramas and successes and the way we think – towards a given or imagined. And are we that conscious in our decisions or can we be objective, looking back and “connecting the dots”?

Today after classes we had a very interesting speaker from the travel industry. We heard a story on growing a new business by creating a new market segment in Europe. It is another fantastic story on transferring technology, but tailoring it to the needs of a different market. A technology-driven service, significant capital investment, digital challenges, customer expectations and what not. And the biggest challenge and privilege is… a team work. I am always inspired to see successful women leaders, smart and charming, strong and humble.

Another beautiful day at IMD.

Till soon,

Aysylu

The Power of Authenticity

As we approach the finish line of the first part of the program (and the dreaded exams) the overall energy of the class is much more on the lower side than before… The exhaustion starts to pile up and what I see is not a change in the attitude, is really that people are too tired, overworked and worried to be able to “shine” through.

I believe it’s all part of the process…. But the reason I bring that up is because I’ve witnessed the power of authenticity and leadership with a speaker last week:

Imagine that tired, overworked class mentioned above. Add to that a full day of Accounting. Can you feel the energy?

Yes… we were pretty much dead when a 1994 IMD MBA Alumni bursted into the case discussion. No introductions, he just shows up and takes the lead of the discussion. He was actually the manager of the case we were studying and we started to discuss and question his decisions openly. Everyone was hypnotized and fully tuned in. He completely owned the room with his consistent confidence on not necessarily unanimous statements and decisions.

The Balanced ScoreCard case turned into a session on Leadership, Life and Values. It was so authentic and powerful that his lessons still echo in our coffee breaks and dungeons.

Here are some of the lessons that caught my attention:

SUCCESS – Be very good at something specific and only then start to broaden out. Have 1 or 2 mentors that you can rely on for candid unbiased guidance. Be happy with your family/loved ones.

TIME MANAGEMENT – Be present wherever you are and really connect with whoever is with you. Best way to be productive is to use your time fully and well.

LUCK – Is about attitude and how you deal with things in your life. Being open and positive will “attract” luck or transform situations.

DECISION MAKING – Assess what you can assess, but then make a decision and move forward. Don’t look back.

GIVING BACK – Always do something outside of yourself. Do things for other people in their best interests. “You learn, You earn and You return!”

And the advice for us during the MBA year?

  • Use this year to make a change
  • Take personal risk, don’t overprotect
  • Experiment with yourself/your facets
  • Refigure out who you want to be and what you want to do
  • Hone yourself to be the best person you can be

Thanks Leif for bringing him and giving us that energizing session!

Now back to the studies… and good luck to all of us on the exams!

Silvia