MBA Journal: Return to the Real WorldHowie Chan
I’ve gotten a taste of the real world, and now it’s time to join it again.
The International Consulting Project (ICP) is a phase of the IMD MBA program in which we work with large companies on a business challenge for eight weeks. Like a true consulting assignment, we dive into issues the company is experiencing and, at the end, recommend an plan to the management team.
My project was with Nespresso, a company that provides portioned coffee using capsules and a one-touch machine. It was an extraordinary experience, as the company was facing unique challenges, and we were in a position to help shape its future. Throughout the eight weeks, we provided an industry analysis, a company analysis, and finally a recommendation and strategic direction report. Our final presentation was well received by top management, and IMD received a bonus on top of the normal consulting fee.
The ICP integrated everything we have learned in the program so far. By this time, we have gone through all the classes on various business topics and have learned how to manage group dynamics after working intensely with four previous groups. It was amazing to see how far we have come, not only in business fundamentals, but also in the way we organize, interact, and communicate.
JOB HUNTING, TOO
At the same time we were working on our deliverables for the ICP, we were also getting into job-search mode. This was where teamwork and trust were especially important, ensuring that we were able to meet our deadlines despite members of the team occasionally traveling for interviews. This was an emotional roller coaster, as waves of rejection letters and job offers started rolling in. This year seemed to be difficult, because the weak economy prevented many companies from showing up and actively recruiting MBAs. Still, I feel it is not a matter of “if ” we all land a solid career; it is a matter of “when.” This will all depend on timing and, of course, luck.
While the job search continues in the background, the ICPs quickly came and went. Classmates traveled around the world gathering data and learning about company operations. As for the Nespresso team, we took an almost daily walk to the headquarters just 15 minutes away from the IMD campus. I considered it a blessing, because we spent our time analyzing and developing our strategy instead of jetting off to other countries.
The next part of the program consisted of electives, when we focused on topics interesting to us. Based on the interests of the class, the school provided a range of electives, and we were able to put together our own curriculum for the next month. Time flew by as we continued to juggle assignments and job interviews. In the blink of an eye, we faced the last week of classes.
That last week was a time for us to reflect and consider the next steps in our career. In the short week:
• We looked at how we need to position ourselves in the first 90 days in our next job.
• We learned from a stage actor about how to stay in the moment and allow ideas to flow through principles of improvisation.
• We explored team dynamics and wrote and performed a song as a class with a string quartet.
• We meditated and put our logical left brain aside to draw and paint what this year meant for us.
The final week was full of emotions. We celebrated the completion of an intense and incredible year, but we also started to feel sad, preparing to part ways with such remarkable people. The week culminated in a graduation ceremony on Dec. 2, where I had the honor of delivering the graduation speech on behalf of my class. I gave a quick review of the year and urged the class to lead change rather than simply being shaped by it. Writing and preparing for the speech was my last IMD MBA assignment, and I was rewarded with a standing ovation and very appreciative family members. It felt great to share our memories with family and friends who were not in our tiny bubble in Lausanne, Switzerland.
The night of celebrations began at 7 p.m. at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel by the lake and lasted through the early morning. The venue was beautiful and the food fantastic. It was the last time the 90 of us would be in the same place together, and we acknowledged that fact with good-bye hugs and kisses.
I loved my year at IMD. The intensity forced us to learn and grow. It also allowed the class to develop some close bonds with each other. Apart from all the business and leadership skills I gained, it is the relationships that I hold closest to my heart. I look forward to continuing the friendships as we all head to different parts of the world in our new journey. As for me, I will be starting my global career in Europe, specifically as a marketer for Philips Electronics in the Netherlands.
See you later—or rather, Tot zo!
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