2019 MBAs To Watch: Lauren Versagli, IMD

Lauren Versagli

IMD Business School

“Dedicated, engaged, active, curious, positive, social.”

Hometown: Temple, Pennsylvania USA

Fun fact about yourself: I don’t eat anything artificially colored blue (at least that I know of!)

Undergraduate School and Degree: Bachelor of Science Mechanical Engineering; The Pennsylvania State University Schreyer Honors College

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? I worked for The Dow Chemical Company as the Regional Business Development Manager in The Netherlands and Belgium (3 years 2015 – 2017)

Where will you be working after graduation? Hach (part of Danaher) as a Business Unit Manager, USA

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Recipient of the Welshe Award given to outstanding female participants of the MBA class
  • Graduated with Honors – top 10% of the class
  • Member of the sports committee where I co-led the IMD MBA class to do the Lausanne triathlon with 40+ people participating!

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am very proud of (together with my classmate and friend Gaspar Gaitan) encouraging and rounding up more than 40 people to participate for IMD in the Lausanne triathlon. We had students, faculty, and partners together forming 13 teams! It was great to see so many people active and taking on new challenges. I remember especially the ones who swam; many had never swum in the open water or 750m before this triathlon, so we had several swimming training sessions! The preparation for the event brought unexpected people from the class together, helped form new friendships, allowed people to reach new goals, and created a lasting memory.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In the Regional Business Development role, I did significant work for Dow on advancing the circular economy. I am very proud of this because it focused on tackling global challenges like reducing carbon dioxide emissions, reusing water, and recycling post-consumer plastics. The team I led received a Sustainability Innovation Award from Dow’s Chief Sustainability Officer and helped to prepare the way for much of the work that is ongoing today in the company.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor – this is tough because I have a top 3! As not to divide the finance front, I would say the first professor we had in strategy, Mikolaj Jan Piskorski, was excellent. I remember in his first class my head hurt trying to abandon my own ways of approaching a problem and learning a new way. He really challenged me to think differently and dig deep to understand and challenge a company’s strategy – why it worked or why it didn’t.

What was your favorite MBA Course? Finance 1 and 2 because I come from an engineering background and have always been intimidated by ‘finance people.’ These classes de-mystified the subject for me. I really learned the basics and feel much more confident about how to understand financial decisions in business.

Why did you choose this business school? IMD was a top choice from when I visited an open house class back in 2015. I was drawn to the small class size, the extremely international profile of the class and faculty, the 1-year length of the program, and that the school had such a strong focus on developing leadership skills in its participants.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Be yourself – and as we were told as a class when we started the first week: “Be coachable, open and curious.” The class is made up of wonderfully diverse backgrounds, profiles, and personalities. The fact that you are together every day, all day for a year is part of what makes it so special.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth about IMD I think is that it is all academic. It does have a rigorous academic program, but there is much more to it than that. There are so many activities we do as a class both as part of the IMD curriculum and outside that really are enriching. One of the most special opportunities we had was to travel as a class around the world to see how business is done. We stopped in Silicon Valley, Singapore, and Bangalore visiting top companies and learning from their leaders.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? Spend more quality time with people from the beginning. The program is only one year and it goes fast.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? I believe the most transformative part of my IMD experience has been the byproduct of the incredibly diverse class and leadership stream that we experienced. The one-to-one coaching we get throughout the year was incredibly helpful to becoming aware of and adjusting behaviors to help me be more effective in working together with others and see different viewpoints.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? There is a long list of classmates I admire for different traits and qualities. If I were talking about the traits of discipline and thoroughness, I would say that I admire my classmate Hans. He was unwavering in his vision for what he wanted to get out the year and was able to do his studies, keep fit, have fun, and enjoy his classmates. He was extremely focused, very well prepared, and I have told him many times I would love to have him as a colleague any day.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? One of my previous bosses had a big influence on me going to business school. I had always wanted to go – at least since 2008 when I bought the GMAT prep book. He encouraged me to keep going after my goal and make it happen, which I did, 10 years later!

What is your favorite movie about business? Secretariat is not a movie about business, but inspiring nonetheless as I think about what is important in business and my career. Particularly admirable is the main character, a strong woman who believed in herself, with a strong vision and clear goal before her. She stayed the course, having to make sacrifices along the way. Ultimately, by surrounding herself with great people, achieved her dreams. It’s a good reminder and inspiration to see men and women throughout different industries and periods in time doing what it takes to reach their goals.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? I think the word that has taken on a new meaning for me this year is ‘Banana’. In a negotiation session we were advised to ask for what we wanted, and then just sit with a calm smile on our face and say to oneself ‘Banana!’ while waiting for the other person to hear the request. So… when I was asking for a big favor many of us in class would give a big smile and say “BANANA!!!”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…probably working for Dow perhaps in their Switzerland location, and still thinking that I should do my MBA.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it? My education was worth every cent I spent to attend IMD and live in Lausanne. I am not sure I could ever put a dollar value on what it will bring as that story is still to be written, and I am hopeful it will be a great one.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  • Earning my Italian citizenship
  • Visit, live, or work in Southeast Asia

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Reliable and dependable, open-minded, generous, willing to take a chance*

*On a side note, I think my peers will remember me for always being the one to have food in our study rooms which we affectionately called the dungeons. I bought so many chocolate bars and snacks to help fuel the IMD study hours!

Hobbies?
I love to cook and bake and have people over for dinner. In fact, in my little 500 square foot (~ 50 m2) apartment in Lausanne I had many dinner get-togethers with as many as 10 people in that tiny space! I also enjoy staying active doing sports or just being outside.

What made Lauren Versagli such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2019?

“With 10 years’ experience and proven track record leading teams and executing projects in manufacturing, sales, and business development, Lauren has shown exemplary leadership, confidence, and devotion to duty. We saw her drive and commitment through her dedication to organizing and supporting all matters relating to Sports events and have jointly chosen her as the best all-around female student, receiving the Welshe award.”

The MBA Team

Are you a friend of Lauren? Leave a comment to congratulate her.