In a small school, you can’t hide or get lost. You can’t drift along or linger on the periphery. In a small school, you matter – and you have to commit. You are part of a unit. There is no getting around it: you have a role and a purpose. That means, to paraphrase one IMD student, you bring your A-game every day.
IMD Business School classes have traditionally been called “The Mighty 90” – a nod to their impeccable credentials and talents, not to mention their ability to coalesce. That comes in handy at a one-year MBA program that is fast-paced, intense, and demanding. It is an approach that works. That’s why IMD’s class size has grown, leaving the Class of 2022 to dub themselves “Centum Forte.” Here, students operate out of 5-6 member teams, often including 3-4 different cultures according to that Yu Lin, who comes to Lausanne from China and the renewable energy industry. As a result, says classmate Parco ChanIMD students naturally absorb “bits and pieces of different cultures.”
And that’s not all, adds Shivam Chandra.
“With a class of 104 from 40 different nations with backgrounds ranging from a Sportswear designer to a doctor, the word “diversity” takes on a whole new meaning; the term “diversity of thought” would describe it more accurately. Whether it’s working on group projects or going on discovery expeditions organized by the school, it is always a learning experience.”
ALWAYS SOMEONE WHO CAN HELP
That learning is only deepened by the IMD community, which acts as a safety net when workloads become heavy and concepts grow increasingly complex. For Amanda Tan, a lead at a strategy consulting firm, the best part of IMD is how students get to know everyone in their class. Hence, they have, in her words, “103 specialist sources of advice.” That can be helpful for MBAs, who are stepping out of their comfort zones academically.
“You can always find a study partner for exams or talk with a professor about that doubt you had during finance class,” he notes Juan Perlas, an engineer from Uruguay. “The doors are always open to get a full understanding of what it is you need to know.”
More than that, IMD students rally around each other as a community. After six months in the program, Peter Holt Theisen has observed that IMD isn’t riddled with cliques like larger institutions. Instead, it is more like a shared home – a place where you can grab coffee, lunch, or beers with anyone in the class.
“We all know each other’s names and, by now, we have all shared different classes or experiences at some point or the other,” adds Maureen Pellicer, a strategy manager at Paramount. “All of this truly allows us to feel part of a unit, where we all bring out our different individual backgrounds and expertise while still feeling like we belong in this one group that will stay connected long after the MBA is over.”
SMALL BUT SPIRITED
Of course, classmates and faculty haven’t been the only sources of support for the Class of 2022, notes Ayesha Fariz, a senior M&A analyst. “The IMD MBA alumni network is also smaller compared to other schools, but to me they’ve been incredibly responsive, open and helpful. In a way, it probably becomes more important to look out for each other when there’s only a handful of us.”
That means celebrating their successes too, adds Fariz. For her, the big moment came at MBAT – the MBA Tournament held at HEC Paris this spring. At the gala dinner, they showed the real difference between an IMD MBA and everyone else.
“When the organizers announced the winners of each competition, our class cheered so passionately whenever IMD won a medal because we weren’t merely cheering as fellow classmates, but also as friends,” Fariz recalls. “We were definitely the smallest crowd there but also the loudest and most invested, like I’d say there was a 100% participation rate. I think it’s one of the most IMD things I’ve experienced.”
COMPANY’S YOUNGEST AIRLINE CAPTAIN
Before coming to IMD, the Class of 2022 had done it all. They worked in fields like engineering, healthcare, and fashion – and their roles ran the gamut from analyst to c-suite. And some, like Shivam Chandra, were even pioneers in their fields.
“My biggest achievement has been achieving the post of an Airline Captain/Commander at the age of 27, the youngest on the fleet on the state-of-the-art Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft,” Chandra tells P&Q. “This task required immense preparation both on mental and academic levels for over a year. Once selected through the interview process, our skills were assessed over a period of six months and then the final verdict is given. I am incredibly proud to have achieved this milestone at such a young age.”
In Canada, Parco Chan built a business case that eventually led to a new cancer treatment. Across the Atlantic, Oghosa Evbuomwan founded casenote, a cloud-based platform that has decreased medical errors by 20% among its 5,000 clients. At the same time, Juan Perlas managed the construction of a pulp plant that ranks among the largest structures in Uruguay – a role that required him to manage a team of 250 people.
“One of the good things about construction work is that you get to see the progress you make. When I compared before and after photos on the day I left, I saw the impact of what we had done. We had turned a 4-meter-deep 200m x 100m field into a plant. It was the capstone to all my years in the construction industry and a wonderful way to leave for the MBA.”
FROM IMPACT INVESTING TO ENTERTAINMENT
Sarah Mumbi Ndegwa says her big career moment came when she transitioned careers. Two years ago, she tells P&Q, she was working on multimillion dollar transactions. However, she decided to follow her passion, moving from M&A to impact investing. Soon enough, Ndegwa was managing transactions from Ghana to Jordan.
“I had worked in Kenya and Sweden and the disparity was apparent; there was work to be done to further build developing countries, and financing would be my role to play. I therefore moved to Finland, committing my career to deliver impact in LDC and LMIC countries – I put my career where my heart was.”
In the entertainment industry, Maureen Pellicer actually had a position created for her by Paramount’s COO. “This position included taking over, as lead project manager, one of the most challenging live events that the company had recently acquired. I believe it is my greatest accomplishment because that position allowed me to work with cross-functional multinational teams across the Americas, expanding my pan regional experience while giving me the opportunity to work directly under and learn from C-level executives.”
COACHING AND REFLECTION
Indeed, ‘executive leadership training’ is a term synonymous with IMD. That starts with the year-round Leadership Stream, which includes regular coaching, role plays, labs, classwork, and introspection. At its core, the Leadership Stream is designed for students to gain self-awareness, not only in how others perceive them but also how they see others – and the fallout from both. In addition, MBAs can take a Personal Development elective, which includes up to 20 sessions with a Jungian psychoanalyst. Oghosa Evbuomwan has been part of both the Leadership Stream and Personal Development elective during his first six months in the IMD program. Here is his takeaway so far:
“Together, [they] serve as an incubator to develop soft skills like emotional intelligence, conflict resolution, and relationship building, by guiding participants on a self-discovery journey that outputs ethical, empathetic, and reflective leaders.”
How does this work in practice? For Bavly Obaid, an engineer-turned-consultant, the best example happened during a High-Performance Leadership session, led by Professor George Kohlrieser. “We discovered the impact that unresolved grief has on day-to-day interactions. It was truly eye-opening to learn about how subtle and often unnoticeable the impact of unresolved grief can be, regardless of how long ago the loss may have been, but also about how much potential can be unlocked in people once they’re given a chance to find closure. This experiential learning at IMD has truly been a transformative journey and will allow me to build impactful bonds with people at work, people in my community, and people in my family.”
STARTING WITH LEADERSHIP AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP
The end result is growth – both professional and personal. Parco Chan, for one, has noticed how he has learned to be more flexible, adapting to team needs by listening and suggesting over simply dictating. By the same token, Amanda Tan has gained greater mastery over her reactions by better understanding what made her who she is during sessions with her leadership coach and psychoanalyst.
“I’ve learned not only to recognize triggers but also to understand the underlying reasons behind them, so that I can be more in control of my reactions instead of allowing my emotions to take over,” Tan tells P&Q. “I’ve actually already seen the improvements this has had on my personal relationships and I can see how this will make me a better leader and team member once I return into the working world.”
Still, the Class of 2022 has notched some tangible achievements at IMD too. Yu Lin partnered with his classmates to organize the class’s first LGBTQ+ Experience, which students could discuss “the topic more openly.” Shivam Chandra gained confidence – and leadership experience – by running for student office. By the same token, in IMD’s first module, students partner with startups to expose them to every facet of business. Let’s just say the module also provided Oghosa Evbuomwan with an impressive bullet to add to his resume.
I was part of the team that developed a market entry strategy, built a financial model, and proposed entry points for a Swiss-based MedTech start-up, which was focused on optimizing breast cancer diagnosis from breast imaging using Artificial Intelligence. It has now raised over $4m in Series A.”
Next Page: Exclusive Interview with Dean Omar Toulan
Page 3: Profiles of 12 IMD MBA Candidates