2017 MBAs To Watch: Sergey Vishnevskiy, IMD Business School

Sergey Vishnevskiy

IMD Business School

Age: 33

“A family guy and an enthusiastic leader, who treats people with empathy and integrity.”

Hometown: Moscow, Russia

Fun fact about yourself: I used to wear dreadlocks and do breakdance. My first leadership traits such as perseverance and team play I learned from my friends while performing break on the streets. You learn every day everywhere.

Undergraduate School and Degree: BEng Engineering (Major in Automated Systems), Moscow State Textile University, Moscow, Russia

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Ericsson India, Head of Regional Support Center

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? P&G, Geneva Switzerland

Where will you be working after graduation? Ericsson Russia, Head of IT and Cloud

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: I was burning the midnight oil in consulting cluster, helping my peers crack consulting cases. Perhaps, I did more cases than an average student. We even organized several back-to-back carousels to make it real. Although I chose another career path, I was glad to see that many of my classmates had landed jobs at prominent strategy consulting firms. I recommend this preparation work for anyone even if she doesn’t plan to do consulting – it helps structure the everyday business.

I had an underestimated, but vital role in bringing the food and alcohol by car for the student parties.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? We were consulting a billion turnover company on the new product launch. We had one of those meetings during which the executives have only one hour, and you already had spent 20 minutes on the broken projector. Not only did we impress the executive members with our presentation so that they stayed for an extra two hours, but also we were invited to pitch to the CEO and the Chair of the company, and we made a real impact on the firm’s strategy. That made me realize the power of teamwork and the knowledge we acquired during the MBA.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I had delivered on several significant projects, but I am most proud of watching my ex-employees and peers growing personally and professionally. Once, I hired several fresh-grad people and external professionals on the key deal project instead of going to internal experts. I was heavily criticized for that initially because it’s something unheard of for my employer. Our product failed, our design failed, and our partners failed. The local team was the only asset that helped us succeed with the project. Now, that group became worldwide experts, sitting at the core of the product.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? I would express the collective opinion of my class that Nuno Fernandes was the one. He has a great capacity of cutting the clutter and delivering the essence of Finance. His teaching approach is unique. I don’t want to spoil the experience for the future classes, but I wouldn’t exaggerate if I say that his class was the only one for which everyone came prepared. No one used phones or laptops too. His class brought tremendous value for people both with and without a financial background.

What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? For me, it was the Leadership stream. My biggest takeaway was that regardless of how many star performers you have on your team, you can’t ignore group dynamics. It all boils down to interpersonal relationships and group stages. You can’t jump the gun or pretend that the group problem doesn’t exist. You have to deal with it fast. Otherwise, your performance will suffer.

IMD’s approach is very robust. You have a chance to work with 3-4 different groups for several months. That way you can try totally different styles of leadership and cooperation. In my case, I received a lot of feedback from my first group, and I felt awkward to change my core behavior. I was afraid people would see through that, but I tried. My last group was one of the best-performing ones both from faculty and the client’s standpoint, and I got opposite feedback to my initial one. My later peers were saying that I’m solid at things in which my first team saw me feeble. That was a life-transforming experience.

Why did you choose this business school? I had an executive in my company who was an IMD alumnus. Once, I booked a 15-minute meeting with him to learn more about his experience at IMD. To my surprise, he spent one hour with me, and I never saw him speaking with greater passion and love than that day.

Here were my buying criteria:

  • A small class of 90 people. You get a chance to know everyone closer than in a typical business school, and you build many friends for entire life.
  • A leadership experience. IMD structures the program in such a way that the pressure increases with every week. At some point, you are heavily dependent on the team of six people while you have a lot to prioritize, and since the pressure is enormous, you have many clashes and conflicts. You then provide plenty of painful feedback to each other, and the school supports you with the best material on leadership to help you improve. Then you have 20 sessions with psychoanalysts, coaches, and mentors who make sure you developed.
  • Best in class faculty members. IMD is number one in executive education worldwide. As an MBA student, you get exposure to the same professors and material who teach CEO of Nestle or CFO of Shell, for example. Some say at MBA age this knowledge has a less profound impact. But if you want to know what best of breed know, IMD is the place to go.
  • Exclusive startup and consulting experience. You begin the MBA by working with startups, and IMD has a down-to-the-earth approach there. Instead of attending a general entrepreneurship course, your goal is to turn around a real startup company in three months and present your results to the board of venture capitalists and business angels who know the kitchen inside out.

You end the MBA with a strategy consulting project for an international client. It’s completely nonacademic – the clients, pay for every project. Many of them are recurrent as the quality they get is usually high. For the student, it’s a real test of how good her knowledge is. We call it “Real world. Real learning” at IMD.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I had about ten years of leadership experience in operations, during which I was mainly learning by doing. The business school allowed me to regroup myself AND provided me with the required leadership toolkit and business acumen. The school expanded my international network tremendously and broadened my outlook regarding different industries, geographies, and jobs.

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? Among several other things, I was humbled by the smart people around me. Each of them was unique. For example, we had a guy, who read a book in 40 minutes, absorbing 80% of information or we had a team who won an international Private Equity competition among top business schools. When 89 smarter people surround you, you learn from them more than from the faculty.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? IMD has a notoriously rigid assessment process, maybe one of its kind. It lasts one day during which you will be thoroughly examined by many people, holding different positions and roles. Try to relax as much as you can, because it’s impossible to stay stressed the entire day. Be sharp, but humble. Don’t beat about the bush, because IMD loves the substance in the speech. Since the admission committee will evaluate you together with other candidates simultaneously, don’t overpower your peers. Try to build on the teamwork and help the others. If you succeed, some of your co-applicants will become your classmates and life-long friends. Would you let down your future best friend after all? Finally, use “assess your chances” option and get in touch with previous MBAs. They will be happy to give you extra advice for free.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I guess the only myth I knew about was that IMD is like a military boot camp. You work hard every day and night including weekends, and the pressure keeps increasing every week. You have no time for cooking, doing laundry, working out, or going out. Well, it’s not a myth, it’s true. Somehow, however, everyone managed to survive and find a fulfilling job. Personally, I feel that this kind of experience made us stronger and bounded us deeper.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Due to the family situation, I had a limited capacity to go out with my class. I wish I had spent much more time with my classmates outside of the school dungeons.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? We had a classmate who got a very rare disease when his immune system attacked his cells. It struck him after we passed our final exams and came back from our international discovery trips. His body was completely paralyzed. He had to relearn every small step from scratch: how to swallow, how to bend his leg, etc. Doctors told him that it would take about eight months to recover. In a situation when you quit the job and have a family with a small kid, you re-evaluate your life completely. I will never forget the words of wisdom that he shared with me about the life and real values. I admire his will power and the faith in the Power of God. He recovered two times faster than the doctors had predicted and he was able to attend the final lectures and the graduation. When he appeared on the stage, everyone met him with standing ovation.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I had a big team of people in multiple geographies, I realized that I didn’t know how to lead them in an efficient way, and I had to make strategic decisions. I understood that, in many cases, I faced a dilemma I couldn’t solve. I used to turn to my mentor more and more, and at some point he convinced me to do the MBA.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…trying to close the knowledge gap on my own while building my career further.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? The current education methods are mostly Western-oriented. In our class, there were roughly 30% Asians, and Asian culture is different. For example, a student is not encouraged to speak out immediately in class unless she thoroughly knows the subject. For our Asian colleagues, it was hard to adapt. With growing Asian influence, I would try to address the Asian group’s need more. Then too, I would make sure that the rest of the students learn more about Asian culture in the form of the cases, which today come mainly from the western side.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I had several unsuccessful startup attempts and a successful one. Regardless of the result, I extract an equal amount of useful knowledge from failures and successes. I’m thrilled to be a part of a startup environment, be less formal and more customer-driven, working with similarly-minded people and breaking the rules. Therefore, I see myself working closely with startups, be it running the one or evaluating it from a venture capital side.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? There’s no single person. Of course, my parents were the entry point. Then, I had a set of brilliant managers, each of whom had a profound impact on me. But I think that almost all of my success comes from the great teams I used to work with. I guess I have to thank my teammates in the first place.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Curious, open for feedback, new learning and experience

Favorite book: Resurrection, Leo Tolstoy

Favorite movie or television show: Back to the Future

Favorite musical performer: Nicolas Jaar

Favorite vacation spot: The Great Ocean Road, Australia


  • Composing music whenever possible
  • Riding a snowboard wherever possible
  • Discovering different cultures through local contact, gastronomy, and nature

What made Sergey such an invaluable addition to the class of 2017?

“An enthusiastic and brave entrepreneur with successful startup experience in both IT and retail, Sergey comes with 11 years of experience in the IT and telecom industries in complex multicultural and international environments. Throughout the year, he has shown himself to be an open, proactive and persuasive leader. Proud father to two children, one born during the program, Sergey has expertly managed to balance the heavy workload and family life, showing great empathy and integrity.”

The MBA Office Team



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