Meet IMD’s MBA Class Of 2019

Andrea Teja

IMD Business School

Confident, enthusiastic, innovative leader, with 10 years of military experience as a Lieutenant in the Navy.”

Hometown: La Spezia, Italy

Fun Fact About Yourself: In 2017, while I was working, I embarked on the challenge of obtaining a second master’s degree in Strategy Management and Control, at the University of Pisa. Even if the study plan is actually 2 years, I was constrained to pass all exams in only 1 year and, at the same time, keep up with my demanding job. I used to wake up early, every morning to study, before going to work and again in the evening late. After months at this fast pace, I was exhausted. So, in order to wake up, I decided to put my alarm clock in the kitchen: I literally had to stand up and walk to the other side of the house in order to stop it! At that point, I was awake and I could start studying! I believe that this experience expresses a quote that I like very much: “If you can dream it, you can do it!” or even better “If you can turn the alarm off and stop dreaming, you can do it!”

Undergraduate School and Major:

2010 – Bachelor of Science (hons): Maritime & Naval Science (Engineering & Int’l relations), Italian Naval Academy

2012 – Master of Science (hons): Maritime & Naval Science (Engineering & Int’l relations), Italian Naval Academy

2017 – Master (hons): Management, University of Pisa

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Head of Combat and Intelligence Department, Italian Navy

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: In one of my past assignments, I was selected as the Italian Navy representative, as part of a broader diplomatic relations program between Italy and the USA. I was assigned onboard a US warship-destroyer based in Norfolk (Virginia), as a Division Officer, leader of the navigation team, responsible for training 15 officers/petty officers. After one year of operation, as a result of the implementation of my training plan, my team reached a 95% score overall and was lauded as one of the top five navigation teams of all the US Atlantic fleet (more than 180 warships). As a matter of fact, our ship skillfully and safely navigated through 38 restricted water transits and over 10,000 nautical miles of open and coastal waters steaming.

At the end of my assignment, I was honoured by the Secretary of the US Navy with the “Navy and Marine Corp Achievement medal”, an award rarely earned by a foreign officer.

What makes me proud of this award, are the difficulties I met and the way I managed to overcome them. The first one was the cultural gap: the two navies have different operational procedures and traditions. Furthermore, I wore a different uniform and, at the beginning, I was even seen with a little bit of suspicion. Therefore, I had to gain the trust of all the crew and particularly of my team. My ability to build relationships and my character made me gain the confidence, appreciation and respect of all my sailors. Beside the work itself, I was able to build a cohesive and solid team, creating close relationships with my subordinates, without relying on my rank, but rather on respect, trust and personal charisma.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Exceptional. Before applying, I heard the IMD MBA Dean Seán Meehan use this adjective. There is actually no other way to better describe my classmates. Having only 90 seats available makes the selection process to enter this MBA really tough: pre-application, application, one day of full assessment on campus with interviews, team exercises, impromptu presentations… the 90 people that can make it through are really, quoting a friend of mine, “the top gun pilots” (I mean Maverick, Ice Man &Co…!). At lunch in our fabulous restaurant (everyone should come on a campus visit only to try it, really!), out at night during weekends, or exchanging professional experiences at the IMD gym, every time is a great learning moment with my classmates. Their higher average years of work experience make a tremendous difference, especially when multiplied by 90, an enormous contribution to the class and to the first strongest inner circle of your network.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? The key factor I took in consideration is the combination of the program structure and its distinctive core. The real question I asked myself was “What am I looking for?”. All MBA programs give more or less the same package of tools and hard skills (Corporate Finance, Supply Chain, Economics…). For instance, the Harvard Business School Case Study Method is now used in many other schools, including IMD.

What makes the difference is the core of the program from a holistic point of view. The IMD MBA program structure has a global focus: more than 39 nationalities, a global expedition to see the most important tech hubs around the world from Silicon Valley to China. It is oriented towards the digital landscape and furthermore IMD develops an entrepreneurial mindset, always more and more important in the corporate world.

This is only the structure, it is still not the core of the program itself. The core is that the IMD MBA is a personal and leadership development journey. This is possible only because there are 90 people for each batch. Therefore, there is a high perceivable quality, there is space to develop individually each  participant; each participant counts, each participant’s issue is heard.

The leadership development stream is a unique milestone compared to every other MBA program. For a military officer, leadership is the most important skill to develop and, in the past 10 years, I learned how to lead not relaying on the gold rank on my shoulders but especially using other means.  Did I manage to do it? Did I really learn everything or can I become even more effective as a leader? How can can I transfer my experience as a military leader in the business world? Well, the core of the IMD MBA program is exactly this: increasing your leadership skills alongside a deep personal development path that at the end will make you a better business leader.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? As an Italian and as a Navy Officer, it was quite natural for me to enroll in the soccer club and in the sailing club! These are leisure clubs created inside the class to have fun during the year. But competition is our daily bread, so we are all looking forward for the MBAT this year – we want to make it on the podium!!

As far as the program activities are concerned, I look forward to the start-up project and the International Consulting Project (ICP).

I started working with a team of 6 classmates, side by side with an amazing digital start-up called “Privately” (we actually re-called our team “Pirately”!). They developed a really efficient AI technology in order to educate kids on the use of social media and internet. Digital, AI, and innovation are some of the aspects that I am passionate about and it’s awesome how IMD gave me the chance to work on them hands-on during the program in a real-world situation. My team is incredibly diverse: I am a former military Lieutenant and I work with a doctor, an engineer, an investment banker, a former CFO and a private equity manager. Everyone brings a different point of view on the table and it’s amazing how, when we put everything together, we come up with remarkable ideas.

The other project later on the program is the ICP. For 8 weeks, we will support a company on a real issue. Firms actually pay a fee to have IMD MBA participants as consultants, and this says everything on the importance of this project and the value that IMD MBA participants bring (and the esteem these firms have for IMD). The ICP will be for me a learning opportunity and I will try to get a consulting project in the digital industry again. Consulting is one of my key post MBA goals, with many similarities to the military world: flexibility, continuous change in projects working in stressful situations, and working with limited data or tons of it and usually under time pressure… yes, that’s pretty much the same as in the military world!.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? The military service was a family tradition. My father and some of my relatives have been officers in the Navy and in the Air force. This environment influenced me, and the choice to enter the Navy was natural: I felt that I wanted to be part of this tradition. After the Master at the Naval Academy, I went through all the required steps for a young officer: on-board assignments, ashore assignments, specializations, and three promotions. I have been the Italian Navy representative on-board a USS ship, the Division officer on board ITS Bergamini, a Project Manager at the Naval Academy and then a Department head. I always perceived my job as a commitment towards the community and overall towards my nation. The different and heterogeneous assignments always forced me to start over again and pull out the best from myself.

On the other hand, the military career is very cadenced and structured, bound to rigid, practically non-compressible schemes. I wanted to grow faster. I decided that it was time for a radical career switch. I applied to an international MBA because I came to a crossroad in my career. I have completed my ten years of duty, collecting many professional achievements. Now I want to start a new challenging path in business and I was looking for a bridge to reach higher executive roles. IMD, through the accelerated program, represented a natural choice that would help me become a business leader with a global mindset.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? INSEAD, LBS and Columbia.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I started with rankings: Forbes and Bloomberg put IMD as nr.1 one year MBA program with the highest ROI. FT rankings penalized IMD too much, I guess because IMD is quite unique as a business school and it doesn’t for instance offer PhD programs. But I rapidly understood that rankings are sometimes overrated.

I took in consideration other soft factors such as geography, the strong executive networks, the program structure, the starting period (January vs September).

I reached out to alumni or current participants and I really perceived a connection between all of them: they all made me sense the overall IMD top quality and distinctive environment. That’s what made the difference!

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? A factor that had a significant impact in my life is my military education. At the Naval Academy I ranked in the top 4% of my class and first overall as a Surface Warfare Officer.

Since the beginning of my career, in view of my very good achievements, I have consistently been assigned prestigious and challenging positions, eventually coordinating and leading teams not only in Italy but also abroad), either on board or ashore. Leadership, determination and tenacity are key features of my character, but being a leader is a privilege you have to deserve. You lead a team, but, at the same time, you are part of the team; you must lead by example, motivate your personnel, share goals, and involve your personnel. I learned to be masterful and influential but, at the same time, I learned to listen and observe others. Furthermore, I believe that the military environment, where challenges and stressful situations are always on the agenda, has taught me how to be flexible, but at the same time how to quickly prioritize, act and take decisions.

Where do you see yourself in five years? It is not easy to predict your own professional future, but at the beginning of a new experience I feel it is very important to be ambitious. In just five years from now, my career aspiration is to advance further to a senior level management position. I want to be a managerial figure, valued for human qualities and character, professionally prepared to always contribute to the growth of my company’s value, either in consulting or in the corporate world.

My emotional answer, though, is that in 5 years I see myself happy, enjoying life, but most of all I am sure I will miss this extraordinary transformational year at IMD!

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