Road to a MBA

After a couple of years of preparation, I finally applied at the beginning of this year to two MBA programs. The reason why I want to study again is that I want to broaden my scope of responsibility beyond only technical relationships and know-how, to learn about business in a structured way and also to challenge myself in an intense academic experience.

The first step I took was to prepare my GMAT. It is a very interesting test: although it does not really require a lot of knowledge, it does, however, definitely test your ability to think both fast and under pressure. The exercises are an excellent brain workout, even outside of an intense preparation. I mainly used the Manhattan GMAT books and the Newton preparation. My advice is: work hard and do not discourage yourself if you get a bad score. Dust yourself off and get back to work !

The second part was to write my essays. These essays are meant to give more depth and another perspective to your professional profile. It really helped me that I have been part of Toastmasters and Round Table. I experienced leadership positions at Toastmasters : I ran the Public Relations for the District 59, which spans all over Continental Europe and serves 6000 members. With Round Table I had the chance to organize a large-scale charity event for impoverished children from East Europe and definitely had a couple of stories to tell about these experiences. If you are applying for a MBA, an advice I can give you is to let as many people as possible read your essays and give you feedback. You will have to share stories with people you would not have thought you would, but I am grateful that I received feedback and suggestions for improvement from friends and family members.

Finally, I also had to ask my previous manager from HP and my current manager at Red Hat to endorse me. In my case, I decided to be very open about my intentions to stop working to go study again and had the chance that they supported me.

I applied to IMD and got the chance to be invited for the famous assessment day, along with 5 other applicants. I was amazed by the quality and diversity of their professional background. And all of them were very nice people. The day was divided in three parts:
The first part was a traditional individual interview that lasted 45 minutes
The second part was a business case, for which each of us had 30 minutes to prepare and to make some business decisions, based on the given case and data. Each of us had to give a 5 minutes presentation about his conclusions. That is when I realized that Toastmasters is an invaluable learning experience. I had to give a somehow impromptu presentation in 4 to 5 minutes in a structured manner to convince my audience: this is pretty much what I have been doing every two weeks in my club for the last 6 years ! Thanks Toastmasters !
The last part was another business case that we had to prepare in advance and discuss together, in order, again to make a business decision.

All these three activities were monitored by three members of the IMD faculty.

This assessment day was both exciting and interesting.
– Exciting because you want to prove how interesting and smart you are, as well as a leader and a team player. You have to be aggressive enough so that others hear you, whilst knowing when to stay quiet and listen to others.
– Interesting (for me) because the two business cases were radically different from the industry I work in on a daily basis. I thought it was very, very refreshing and thought provoking.

My advice if you are accepted to this assessment day is to stay true to yourself. Yes, you need to be heard and to make suggestions, but as I am more an introvert, being too loud would have seemed unnatural.

IMD called me back and I got accepted into their MBA, which I am really proud of, as it is ranked #1 International one-year MBA (i.e. outside the US) program by Forbes. I am going to move to Lausanne in Switzerland in January and will start on January 6th. And of course, I’ll try to keep this blog up to date to share my impressions of the program !

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