2021 MBAs To Watch: Hannah Kohrs, IMD Business School

Hannah Kohrs

IMD Business School

A hard-working, adventurous, and kind engineer, now businesswoman with a drive to make a positive difference.”

Hometown: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Fun fact about yourself: I learned to sail in Switzerland in 2016 and won a race where I sailed across Lake Leman on a catamaran! All participants celebrated and camped on the lake shore that night. The next day the wind had died, so we couldn’t make it back to our starting point and had to paddle over an hour till a motorboat offered to tow us back! My sailing skills have not improved much since, but I hope to return to the sport next year once I am back in Switzerland.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Purdue University, Degree in Biomedical Engineering

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Medtronic, Senior Device Engineer, Greater Minneapolis

Where will you be working after graduation? Danaher General Management Development Program, starting as EMEA Marketing Manager for Pall Corporation Biotech division in Switzerland.  

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Graduated with Honors

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? At IMD, I was most proud of my team’s final presentation for the International Consulting Project (ICP) to our client and faculty director after many weeks of group work. All stakeholders were beyond pleased. I felt we made a difference for the company and was blessed to be on a team full of talented hard-working people (All of whom I would work with, work for, or hire in the future). This was my most proud achievement as I felt I was able to shine through a team of superstars with my own insights, applications of learnings from the MBA, and hard work.  Just as important, each of my team members contributed and shone as well. It was one of my most rewarding academic and business assignments, I couldn’t have been prouder of our accomplishment.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In my professional career, I am most proud of my stint as a Product Development Manager. This was a stretch assignment where I was responsible for the development team that prototyped a research idea and qualified it for an in-human implant for a clinical study — all in 12-18 months. It was a transition from pure engineering to managing a budget and a larger group of people outside of engineering where I was no longer the expert. Learning to build and trust the team and be trusted by the team was an extremely rewarding experience –= and one I will never forget.  When this project prototype was approved for in-human clinical trial within the timeline, I was very proud of myself and the team given all the twists and turns along the way. Ultimately this further confirmed my ambition to pursue my MBA.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose this school for the academic challenge of completing an MBA in one year and of doing so amongst a very diverse cohort. In many of the schools I visited prior to choosing IMD, I found the students very accomplished but also quite similar to me: strong Bachelor’s degrees from well-known US schools, a few years’ work experience at big companies where they excelled, and the pursuit of their MBA to learn business tools to take the next step in their careers in the US. When I visited IMD, the diverse educational backgrounds and geographies of my classmates were immediately apparent – their post-MBA goals of wanting to change industries, geographies, and roles were exciting.  Even during the interview, we went through quite an active debate on how to solve a case, as there were so many different interpretations of “success” and how to get there, given the case data. I was used to working with diverse engineers, but we were all trained to solve problems in a similar way and IMD’s cohort brought a whole new meaning to the word for me.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Arturo Bris. Not only is he a great professor, but he really enjoys teaching. He taught us traditional finance which he admitted we may not be using in our daily lives. More importantly, he taught us how to look and compare numbers as working professionals but also as investors. Given a few of his lectures were on Zoom, he offered optional in person lectures later to expand on finance topics discussed online, but also to share new information on topics he enjoyed like block chain, various valuation techniques, and somehow made even monetary policy extremely interesting!

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? For me, it was a home-made tradition born from a year of COVID, which was to appreciate the Swiss mountains. As we were unable to travel to different countries, we embraced traveling around Switzerland.  So once a week, regardless of how swamped we were, we made time with several classmates to explore the Swiss mountains. We went hiking, skiing, or ski mountaineering (A new sport I started this year!). I felt so spoiled to be able to enjoy so many breathtaking views, to get to spend time with classmates off campus and to get some exercise during such an intense academic year.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Speak up sooner. I found a strong voice in the classroom by the end of the program. At the beginning, I was quieter as I suffered from a bit of imposter syndrome. Early on, I made my voice heard in small groups once I got to know people. I soon learned that my questions and opinions, even if different than others, were just as valid. I often found many people in the room who had similar questions or thoughts or felt that my comments led to a good discussion. Looking back, I should have spoken up sooner to initiate discussions with such an international group of people on some of my questions and as practice for the real world where one does not always have time to get to know everyone in the room before sharing their voice.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The main myth for me was that getting an MBA, in general, is about learning hard business skills. Yes the hard skills are there and we have all the traditional classes but my biggest learnings from the year were around leadership, soft skills, and catering those to different teams of people while remaining true to myself. It was as promised: a transformational year for me, not only career wise but in terms of personal development and growth, in and outside of work.

What surprised you the most about business school? My biggest surprise involved the amount of group work. I enjoy being a team player, but it was a different challenge altogether to be on diverse teams with all peers and no defined leader. In addition to that, I was on multiple teams simultaneously with different priorities and working styles. This was sometimes a struggle, but added in a big way to my learning from the year and allowed me to build stronger relationships with a larger group of classmates

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I believe one thing that gave me an edge in the application process was getting references from people who know me well and have worked with me for years. At IMD, you give the contact information of your reference and they are asked to fill out a survey independently.  To this day, I am not sure what my references said about me, but it was brought up several times in the interview process as a strong point.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Agathe Keim. If you met her, you would understand immediately that she is smart, hard-working, honest, and kind to everyone. She has largely contributed to my learnings and growth this year. Given her strong business background, she had a wealth of knowledge of approaches to solve business problems and was more than happy to help others. She is also a wonderful human being outside of work and has become a role model for me. I often seek her advice on problems and opportunities outside the business context. She constantly strives to improve herself both professionally and otherwise, while also helping and having faith in others around her to improve as well. She is optimistic and empathetic; she takes time to mourn any setbacks and takes time to celebrate any successes while always taking the opportunity to learn from both

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? As far as classes and projects go, we were extremely lucky to only be online for a couple months as the school was quickly able to return to campus. I can’t even call this hybrid as we were 100% in person, with many changes to our day to day with the new COVID measures resulting in minimal disruption. Plus, we had the opportunity to take a few extra classes face to face and in a smaller group with some of my favorite professors.

However, missing our discovery expedition trip around the world was the most disruptive. We were all sad in the end when we could not go, despite the best effort of the MBA staff to plan different iterations of the trip.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? This is a tough question as I have supportive parents along with many mentors and champions throughout my life and career who have always supported and challenged me. I feel so lucky to have their support and be surrounded by people who value education and are first-hand examples of the positive impact of it. I grew up seeing that an engineering degree and an MBA was a great combination, so was no surprise to my secure base when I applied to IMD.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? As cheesy as this answer is, I was asked on video at the age of ten: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My answer: “I’m not sure what I want to be, but I want to make a positive difference in the world.” This really hasn’t changed. I would like to look back on my career and my life and feel I have made a positive impact on the world.

As long as I can remember, I have and am passionate about healthcare. I hope I can be in a position not just to innovate in healthcare but to implement meaningful innovation that would improve quality of life or decrease the cost of healthcare for individuals across the world.

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

With seven years of technology integration, development and program management in the healthcare industry, Hannah ‘s energy, her consistent ability to multitask and her positive attitude made her a valuable addition to the class.

Graduating with Honors, we know she will achieve her ten year old self’s dream of making a positive difference in the world.

We wish her all the best with her new position settling soon back here in Switzerland,

The MBA Team




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