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My Story: From Kenyan Farming to IMD

Ohad Goldberg just graduated with his MBA from IMD.

Flowers led Ohad Goldberg to an MBA. Raised in Ra’anana, Israel, a city nine miles north of Tel Aviv, Israel, Ohad spent five years in the Israeli Army after high school, rising to the level of Officer. After a six-month trip around New Zealand, he went to university to study agricultural engineering.

Then he joined a leadership rotation program at Danziger, a company that breeds new varieties of flowers and biofuels. The company moved him from “down to earth” work in greenhouses to marketing to sales. He watched shipments travel to the airport, shadowed sales people all over the world, and after three months got pulled aside by a manager who told him to pack his bags for Africa. Ohad’s next rotation? Production manager of a 40-hectare farm that the company had just purchased in Kenya. He spent the next three years growing the leading variety of gypsophila flowers, known as “baby’s breath” in the US. “When I was in Kenya, I got interested in things that were happening in marketing and sales,” he says. “I was not built to be confined to a farm.”

Not long after his return to Israel, he paved a track to IMD, an intimate business school near the banks of Lake Geneva in Lausanne, Switzerland. Two of Ohad’s uncles had attended the school in the 1970s and 1980s. In fact, one told Ohad that IMD completely opened the world to him. Ohad wanted that, too.

He graduated with his MBA from IMD on Dec. 3–with his uncles in attendance–and will soon start a new job at AstraZeneca in Brussels, he shares his story.

His Story:

When I returned to Israel, I started doing business development and marketing for Danziger in Colombia, India and Korea. They were totally different cultures. I had to negotiate with people in each country differently. I started thinking about business school.

I initially thought about Cornell, because it has a strong agricultural background. My wife is an equine vet, so we thought about merging these two things together. I flirted with (other schools), but spending two years in the U.S. seemed too much. The other schools in Europe looked too big or too young in terms of class profile, and not interesting enough. When it came to applying, it was IMD or nothing.

IMD’s application was different – they ask you to write quite a bit on your international exposure, as well as on ambiguous issues. Apart from that, it is a pile of about 12 essays, which give quite a comprehensive picture. I found it all very serious and yet very personal from the first minute. The fact that IMD insists on interviewing each and every applicant that passes the first written application stage says a lot.

My first time on campus was for the interview. It felt very special… and lucrative. First, it’s Switzerland, so it’s beautiful! The people looked serious, but everyone was very professional and nice. They were very relaxed. They want to know who you are, where you come from, what your drivers are. This is not a 900-person class. [IMD enrolls 90 students on its MBA.] I left wanting it even more.

If I gave a tip for interview day, from the bottom of my heart, I’d say come as you are. Be natural. It’s better for you and for the class that they see what you can do, and what you aspire to. In such an intense environment, it’s better you fit in, rather than suffer. [As a student], you have to deliver fast. You have to contribute. If you don’t help out, the group will suffer.

Another tip: Try to enjoy the day. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I was with a group of eight people, including a Korean, an Indian, a Japanese, and a Polish guy. Within a few minutes of meeting, we were creating and later delivering a presentation on material we had just seen – and we had two people watching us the whole time. Three of us made it into the class.

The year is a sprint until June. Then, it becomes more of a marathon. May was totally incomprehensible. IMD MBAs are a group of more-than-your-average experienced MBAs in age, and profiles. Faculty tend to assume, rightly so, that you can take it. You study six days a week until May. That same month, you have to deliver a startup project, [and have exams].

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