Meet the MBA Class of 2020: Daniel Skirton, IMD Business School

Daniel Skirton

IMD Business School

“Outdoor-loving submariner leaving the depths to scale new heights.”

Hometown: London, UK

Fun Fact About Yourself: I’ve undertaken one of the world’s highest commercial skydives. Add that to the depths I dived to as a submariner and that’s quite some vertical distance!

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Leeds; Electronic Engineering with Multimedia Tech

What quality best describes your MBA classmates and why? Gregarious: You know you can count on them to come together in both academic and social settings!

Aside from classmates, what part of the school’s MBA programming led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? First, the focus on understanding and modifying one’s leadership was the most crucial aspect of the program. As an Officer in the UK Royal Navy, I had done a lot of leadership development in my career but was aware that it drove me down a particular style. Coming to IMD was an opportunity to understand my strengths and weaknesses further. The second was the fundamental inclusion of entrepreneurship. Whilst I do believe that military engineers are encouraged to develop an entrepreneurial mindset, how to translate this into a commercial setting was a missing link for me.

IMD has reputation for being intense, with heavy reading and assignments. Did the school live up to its reputation? What did you do to get through the workload? Module 1 bears a significant amount of reading and assignments, and it is a reality check if you’ve not been in full-time education for a while. That said, it is fascinating, and the pace of learning that you can achieve is quite extraordinary. Not only are you studying for core modules, but you are also supporting a start-up business that comes with a real-world responsibility too. For me (as for many others in the class), I also had a wife and a 2-year-old child to spend time with, who was a great source of support. I found that decompression was key, setting aside protected time to switch off (literally, for my phone and laptop) and just enjoy being on the shores of Lake Geneva.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Leading the engineering department during the construction of a nuclear submarine was the greatest privilege I have had; seeing how my actions positively impacted schedule and costs on a multi-billion-dollar program was incredibly satisfying. Being out at the front of over 130 men and women and leading by example was an extraordinary responsibility but I find that I thrive in the pressure of expectation.

Describe your biggest accomplishment at IMD so far: My personal accomplishment has been achieving the mindset shift that I aspired to. Having spent my career within the public sector, I wanted to alter my viewpoint to a more commercial one, while at the same time keeping perspective on how business can bring social value. IMD professors such as Knut Haanaes have been instrumental in this, showing us that the biggest problems in the world are solved by the most effective businesses.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I was at a natural inflection point in life, knowing that I had achieved everything I wanted to in the military and seeking to re-balance my family life. The idea of taking a year out from my career to learn, advance and to really set a new baseline for the next 10 years was just a perfect opportunity.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Imperial College London due to its reputation as one of the world’s finest technical institutions with an exceptional business school (IMD’s links to EPFL were also important to me). IMD was always my number one, so once I had the two offers, I didn’t have to think twice. My wife was completely on my side. Her job enables her to work remotely, and my little boy is having his own adventure this year!

What did you do during the application process that enabled you to get accepted into IMD?

1) If you’re confident you have a well-rounded profile, don’t waste time and money perfecting the GMAT.

2) Iterate over the application and essays, ask friends and alumni for feedback.

3) Easier said than done, but enjoy the assessment day! I genuinely enjoyed the rigor of both IMD’s and Imperial’s, and having fun helps you relax and put your best self across.

What is the biggest epiphany you’ve gained about yourself or the world since you started at IMD? I have always ultimately wanted my own business, but never really knew how I would get there. Working at IMD with some of the finest entrepreneurial professors and amongst some seriously ambitious people, I’ve realized that that’s basically how everyone starts; taking the first step is the hardest if you don’t know your destination, but application and tenacity will ensure that you make a success of whatever challenges are ahead.