Implementing a B2C digital retail strategy, with an international mindset

In my opinion, an ‘International’ MBA program has as much to do with having a diverse cohort, as it does with enhancing a student’s ability to appreciate the nuances at play when interacting with people from different cultures. Furthermore, leveraging this understanding to forge meaningful rapports in both a personal and professional context is imperative.

The robust team dynamics of my International Consulting Project group was testament to the fact that IMD was successfully able to instil a high degree of cultural awareness and emotional quotient in its participants over the course of the year. Given that our ICP is positioned at the latter stages of this intensive program, this gave us an opportunity to showcase the aforementioned capabilities.

Our group comprised of individuals from four countries; China, Brazil, Monaco and India. Throughout the course of the project, we had our fair share of disagreements, arguments, differences and scenarios where I recall the tension in the room being palpable for days on end. A lot of these issues could be attributed to an eclectic set of beliefs and expectations, as a function of group diversity.

Alexis, Isabella, Gavin, Marcelo, Shaunak

What resonated with me most was each individual’s willingness to take critical feedback in their stride and make a relentless effort to work on areas of improvement. I was pleased to observe the tangible progress in the quality of our cooperation, mutual respect and interdependence, amongst other facets of team dynamics. This was validated by our ICP mentor. We also made a conscious decision to give every member an opportunity to lead the team through different phases of the project and this turned out to be an enriching experience for us all.

We had the privilege of traveling to France and the Netherlands for our client interactions and primary consumer research. The subtle variation in the work cultures in these two regions was eye-opening. For most of our team members, elements such as the travel, the primary and secondary research and the client presentations were a unique preview into the world of consulting. Moreover, the scope our project entailed implementing a B2C digital retail strategy; a topic that had us engrossed right at the outset.

We also developed a strong sense of camaraderie outside of the dungeons, courtesy of our very own in-house five-star multi-cuisine Chef Alexis, who took the initiative to get our group to bond over exquisite risotto and wine dinners. I also have a vivid memory of the seventeen-hour Sunday, a day before our second client presentation and the jovial spirit with which we supported each other, given the exigent circumstances, was heart-warming.

To my Professor Stephane Girod, thank you for the tremendous support, the attention to detail, wholesome feedback and for ensuring that the learning was fruitful for us as participants. And to the rest of my teammates, Gavin, Isabella, Alexis and Marcelo, “as always, it’s been an absolute pleasure!”

The full team – including Professor Girod!

Shaunak Grover

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

Reflections on my MBA admission journey

Blog posts are getting a bit irregular as some of you might have noticed- a sign of things to come. As mentioned in my previous post, the honeymoon period is over and now is the time to deliver. Deliver on projects, integrative, start-ups and shortly on exams too. We are fully embedded in IMD now and there has been no better reminder of this fact than all the queries I and my classmates are receiving from potential candidates on our MBA experience.

We are indeed, finally living those “plans” that once seemed eternally futuristic. All the apprehensions, hopes, concerns and expectations we had from an MBA program are unfolding in front of our eyes one after the other and therefore it is only natural that those who aspire to be on this campus next year look to us for counsel. So let me use this post to share some advise I received from my IMD seniors when I was doing my application.

1) Get clarity on why you want to do an MBA – it took me a while to polarize this question. I could always come up with alternative narratives for my career that included and excluded an MBA. There are many different models to think about one’s future career. We can think of our career as a “business venture” in which we make investments and hope to get back financial returns. We can think of it as a continuous learning journey where at each next step we seek new knowledge or as my senior suggested we can think of it as an athelete’s pursuit – where we will do all that it will take to make us perform at our full potential. None of these models are right or wrong but it is worth noting that you have to find the metaphor for your career which will be distinct from others and see how an MBA fits into it.

2) Know your MBA college – It is critical that once you have made your mind to do an MBA you must put in a lot of effort to fully understand which college works best for you. This is important not only because you have to spend 1 or 2 years of your life in that place but also because for the rest of your life that college remains a part of you – what do you want that part to stand for?  My senior advised me that an MBA admission is not a one way selection process. It is in fact a test for compatibility. Use every opportunity to know the school, just as the school is trying to use every opportunity to know you (oh yes!  those casual chats at the end of the assessment day were not so casual after all – be in your element always). Talk to current students, spend a lot of time on the website, talk to alumni and make your own decision. Find your inspiration to join that school.

3) Stop second guessing the admission officer’s mind – One question I seem to be getting quite often these days is “Kunal, I have a poor GPA but my GMAT is high, do you think the admission officer will overlook my grades?” or something similar. The honest answer to all such questions is – I dont know. And in fact I can bet you no one knows what is going through the admission officer’s mind and it shouldnt be your concern at all, simply because you cannot influence it. You can only spend your valuable energy worrying about it. What you can influence though is your application. You can put up for consideration your best self as reflected in the application and that is where you must focus your energy.

4) Take pride in yourself – This last piece of advise I received from my senior was quite critical. Often when we read sample essays etc. we tend to walk away with a feeling that we must put up a story that is completely ironed, spotless and smells of prodigious talent. We tend to find ways to hide our failures and amplify our successes. But in fact we must take pride in our failures and successes alike. We must spend time thinking what have we learnt from our experiences and showcase the learning journey. Taking pride in our journey does not mean being arrogant rather having a silent confidence that we are better off for “all” our experiences.

I hope some of this is useful and in passing on this advise, I have done justice to the message of my senior. It is worthwhile to highlight though that these were the things I personally found valuable in my journey and not all of this will be applicable to every future candidate. But the point is to know what really matters and focus your energies on that. Continue your quest that will hopefully guide you to your decisions. And lastly, dont forget to find your inspiration.

 

Kunal

Depending on a viewpoint

The last days were tough: studies, projects, essays, emotions, challenges, and just a couple of hours for sleep… Can I endure more? A great training for perfectionistsJ! Some say that life is stripy, if you move across, or, if lengthwise, just an endless, black stripe. I disagree – from now on my days are either good or perfect. I can’t structure yet what IMD gives me, but definitely I am enjoying changing.

 

We had guests speakers. One is an IMD MBA alumnus, a successful entrepreneur, who gives an impression of a happy person. He seems to get drive from all his incredible ups-and-downs in business. He is looking for change and change is looking for him. His enthusiasm and desire to make the world better are contagious. And I feel proud of belonging to the IMD community. Another guest speaker is a business angel. According to him, there is nothing to be afraid of in uncertainty – it’s everywhere. People and organizations approach it differently: some structure it slowly unless they get a comfortable result, which by that time becomes obsolete. The others just jump in, but those who have a secure base, reduce risk and stress. And another valuable observation is that change itself is useless – it can bring added value when it relies on values of people and organizations. If you want to make change, devote yourself completely, partial trial worths nothing.

Like a Jerome K. Jerome’s medical student, who found in himself symptoms of all known diseases (MDs know that well), except for a housemaid’s knee, I started dreaming “what would I be if I worked in operations, in finance, in accounting or as a CEO?”. We get a very hands-on education, in which school-reality boundaries are squeezed and erased.

Till soon,

Aysylu

Comments

Goli  commented on  Friday, February 19, 2016  2:03 PM 

Nice article, Aysylu !

International Consulting Project (Nicholas Toubkin)

My team and I had a fantastic trip to Oslo last week – we presented our findings to our clients, who seemed very happy with the work that we had done; they then gave us some other topics to work on for the final stretch of our international consulting project.  We even had time to fit in a quick tour of Oslo before we caught our flight back to Geneva.  The only issue that we’ve had so far on the ICP is that every time we travel, someone’s bag has been lost by the baggage handlers – this time it was me on the way!  Annoying, but thankfully retrieved – I didn’t fancy making a presentation to our clients in jeans!!!!   Since we got back to Lausanne on last Wednesday, it’s been hectic trying to fit in all of the work that we need to do before we go back to Oslo for our final presentation on Monday.

At the same time as finalising the ICP projects, it’s been incredibly busy on the job front too for the class – the offers have been coming in from all the consulting firms amongst others, and it’s fantastic news – we’ve got a number of classmates with multiple offers, and in general the tally seems to be well ahead of last year – a great result!  From my side, I’m off to London shortly for a few really interesting interviews, so fingers crossed…  I didn’t anticipate that getting the ball rolling looking for a job would take so long, but there are many interesting opportunities popping up now – so here’s hoping for a good result!

After the ICP finishes, it’s time for the electives to kick in – and these are so interesting – from Islamic Finance to corporate governance, and everything in between – more updates on that soon!

And winter is really here now – I went running with a classmate last night along the lake, and the way back was a little slow – it was pitch black with no moonlight, so a great challenge not to run into the lake!

Until next time,

Nick.