2021 MBAs To Watch: Anthony Wilson, IMD Business School

Anthony Wilson

IMD Business School

“Empathetic big picture thinker who loves getting his hands dirty and is passionate about empowering others.”

Hometown: Johannesburg, Gauteng

Fun fact about yourself: I’m a complete sci-fi nerd who absolutely loves playing and watching all kinds of sports!

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Cape Town – BSc Electrical Engineering, Specializing in Mechatronics

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Agis Holdings: Private Equity and Management Consulting Manager

Where will you be working after graduation? Lightrock: Senior Associate

Lightrock is an impact investing initiative to build a global multi-billion dollar direct investing platform focused on scalable businesses that provide access to improved livelihoods, information and services for underserved consumers around the world, or promote sustainable resource utilization.

Lightrock is part of LGT Group, the private banking and asset management group owned by the Princely House of Liechtenstein.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Scholarship:                           Received the Middle East and African Diversity Scholarship

Social Committee:                     Elected onto the social committee -I chaired multiple events during unprecedented social distancing times. These included; social BBQ’s and parties, pub quizzes, hikes and out of town excursions

Class Valedictorian:               Please see video of speech here

Hepper Award:                      A prize that goes to the most altruistic member of the class, as voted by their peers

Yearbook Awards:                Most Positive

Most Parties Attended (Work hard and Play Hard)

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? As part of the social committee and member of the Mighty90, I made it my mission to promote inclusivity of all my colleagues in a year that was fraught with lockdowns and uncertainty. I did this through continually putting forward a positive attitude and providing a strong pair of shoulders for others to lean on. This was recognized by my colleagues in the form of the Hepper Award; The award is named after Michael Hepper, an IMD MBA participant who passed away in a tragic accident two weeks before graduating from the program in 1997. This was a huge honor and one that I will always treasure.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I was tasked with, and successfully achieved, the rescue of a small juice company from bankruptcy and grew it into the premium cold pressed juice brand in South Africa. I did my best to ensure the ongoing success of the brand by mentoring the newly appointed General Manager and putting in place various protocols to ensure continuity. I did this on an extremely constrained budget and operational timeline. I valued this as a professional achievement in South Africa, which has an unemployment rate of over 35%. The fact that I was able to save the company meant that approximately 20 people who worked there could still be employed and support their own families of five people or more. Saving one company therefore meant food security for employees and dependents who desperately needed a source of income. To me, this was even more meaningful than the professional achievement.

Why did you choose this business school? As I am an engineer with a lot of experience in finance, I believed myself to be relatively academically strong with regards to the MBA curriculum. IMD is known around the world for its commitment to producing incredible leaders. I felt that this part of the course was something that could not be imparted merely through academic knowledge – and I could not have been more right. Throughout the year, we were encouraged at every turn to look both inwardly and outwardly, to discard our old selves and emerge as more confident individuals ready to go out into the world and lead with empathy and confidence.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Arturo Bris: There were, of course, the characteristics that are immediately apparent: his sense of humor, his incredible intellect, and his ability to keep an audience enraptured. Behind the curtain, this is also a man who took it upon himself to do his lectures twice, because he thought that was the best experience we deserved. He organized extra classes for those who stayed behind post lockdown. He is a man who cared so immensely about our class and all of his students. His dedication to the art of teaching makes him truly special in my eyes.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? It was the compulsory expedition up into the Swiss Alps with the whole class on the first week is the most amazing bonding experience. Upon reflection, after a year at IMD, I can see how everything was planned and had a specific purpose. This showed us how much they care about the group, what we need to bond and to really start the year off with a bang.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I wish now that I had taken more notes. I tended to become absorbed in the lectures and drawn into the moment that I would forget to take notes. My professors and classmates said amazing things on a daily basis that I want to look back on now. Of course, I did gain the experience of being completely immersed in a lecture or a class, which is usually my way of retaining the most information.

What is the biggest myth about your school? IMD consists of around 100 students in a class and that this provides a special bonding between the classes.

This is most definitely the case. I believe that the small size allows you to have the objective of getting to know everyone at some deeper level than if the class were huge. Colleagues of mine at other business school effectively gave up trying to know lots of people due to the massive size, whereas I count myself as having 88 new brothers and sisters.

What surprised you the most about business school? The diversity of topics and the wide range of applications were expected, but also extremely surprising at the same time. Finance, operations, and accounting were obvious ones that would be part of a curriculum. However, a whole course on how to negotiate or a digital week dedicated to sifting through millions of Airbnb entries to try and sort the data and draw analysis from it using python were classes and projects that I thought were designed extremely well and diverged from the general method of post graduate learning.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I think the open dialogue between myself and the recruiter, António Magalhães, made a huge amount of difference for me getting an edge on acceptance and scholarship applications. I believe the participants in the MBAs are chosen partly in how they can add to the class’ story by their own story. This dialogue and openness with the admissions team allows you to tell your story in depth giving them ammunition to make your case.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Javier Valy sat next to me on our very first lecture. His purity of spirit and mind was what I most admire. He was an engineer like me, but was also the Argentinian national judo champion, not to mention a person who was extremely well read in philosophy and cared so much about people. On top of this, he had a huge humbleness driven from his sense of who he was that was overwhelming and drove me to look deeper within myself and other around him too.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? IMD really was outstanding in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. This was due to a few, I think unique, factors:

  1. The small class size allowed us to be agile and ensure that we could move things around efficiently. It also allowed us to still be accommodated on campus in multiple rooms which would not be possible in a large cohort.
  2. There was a Swiss precision through which the course is run. At every turn, when making new plans, things were planned to the finest detail. No expense was spared with regards to our safety or us receiving what we had expected.
  3. The leadership of the school was outstanding in dealing with the virus. Extending budgets and ensuring that we were put first and foremost in everyone’s mind. They committed to get us through the year and they achieved it with flying colours.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My father provided me with my biggest inspiration. His professional career turned from being on the technical engineering side to corporate management and eventually out into entrepreneurship. In this last role, he combined his skills to grow a small African company into one of the leading refrigeration companies in the Southern Hemisphere.

That mix of engineering and business is so powerful and I believe is needed in the world we live in today. The problems we are going to face are going to require a mix of business, operations, and technical knowledge to see the bigger picture and solve problems.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

  1. Create a company focusing on the “secondary state.” African governments are continually failing us and creating opportunities in energy, water, health, and education will have a huge social impact and I believe large commercial value. My Private Equity job with LGT Lightstone is a solid pathway to this.
  2. Research and write a book and perhaps do a TED talk focusing on mental health in the workplace. I believe this is something that is so often overlooked by leaders. The world is shifting to a more empathetic workplace and I believe this is having a benefit on productivity. I want to drive this idea forward.

What made Anthony such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2021?

“With 6 years’ global project management and management consulting experience, Anthony is a passionate businessman with a mission – empowering others and leaving a meaningful legacy. We certainly were able to observe this during his time at IMD and we are convinced he will be one of the next generation of changemakers in his beloved South Africa.”

We wish him all the best and look forward to engaging with him as a star alumnus.”

The MBA Team




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