Meet IMD Business School’s MBA Class Of 2021

IMD students hiking in the snow

P&Q: Give us some examples of the International Consulting projects the Class of 2021 is doing this year. What have students told you are the best parts of this experience?

AF: “During the International Consulting Projects, we split the class up into teams of multicultural, multi-disciplinary MBA “consultants”, with each team supported by an IMD Faculty member, for a seven-week consulting assignment with a company. During this time, the MBAs are 100% focused on finding solutions to clients’ strategic issues. This year, some of the companies that the MBAs are working with in include: Shell, Medtronic, OCP, Debiopharm, Bystronic, Danfoss, Egon Zehnder, Romande Energie and Takkt. 

IMD graduation

Students from 2020 gave us the following feedback on these projects:

“Excellent opportunity to put into practice all our learnings from IMD. Really invaluable.”

“Work as real consultant, experience the team dynamic and learn the company culture. Very helpful in the long term.”

“When I see the framework taught in the class was working in the real world, I realized we were learning how to make an impact on the world.”

“This is real learning.”

“The International Consulting Project truly lives up to IMD’s professed mantra of ‘Real learning, real impact’.”

“The ICP is the pinnacle of the IMD MBA where all our learnings are put into practice in a real-world environment and most notably our Leadership training where our team is tested in front of demanding clients.”

“The ICP is a roller coaster ride where you learn not only to take projects from conceptualization to final execution but also get the invaluable experience of stakeholder management while interacting with your clients. For people looking to change industries, the experience becomes a blueprint for the future by proving that you can cultivate transferable skills and contribute without having expertise of subject matter.”

“The ICP for me was an incredible experience of putting all the learnings of the year at use, building on each other’s strengths to help the client with some of their most challenging issues.”

“The ICP allows for a truly immersive experience into a project that matters for the company. It’s an experience which allows for a big impact to be made in a short amount of time.”

“The full range of IMD learnings – from leadership to accounting to strategy – are leveraged to help clients clarify their needs and to help them choose optimal pathways.”

Hiking in Switzerland


1) Leadership Stream: “It was undoubtedly the Leadership Stream that made IMD my top priority while applying. The stream is comprised not only of learning about leadership—it includes a week of experiential activities, mentoring, coaching, sessions with a Jungian psychoanalyst, continuous feedback, and an opportunity to apply the learnings in the massive amounts of group work every candidate participates in. I was expecting to have a chance to reinvent myself, to understand patterns of my behavior, develop presentation, communication, and soft skills; and gain the toolset required to be an effective leader of tomorrow. The stream did not disappoint.”
Dmitry Makarov (’21)

“The Leadership Lab was transformative. I thought that I knew a lot about myself before starting the program. But after a month on campus, the three-day leadership lab proved me wrong. Under pressure to collaborate with a small group of multi-cultural individuals, I discovered aspects of my personality that I wasn’t aware of. I had to watch videos of myself in a professional context, both failing and succeeding at complex challenges where the human factor is fundamental. Facilitated by professors and coaches, I left these three days aware of some of my strengths and my weaknesses; a necessary base to start my personal growth journey throughout IMD’s transformative leadership track.”
Nicolas de Toledo (’21)

Startup Final Presentation team

2) Startup Project: “IMD’s Module 1 is characterized by the so-called “startup project”. For 3 months, small groups of five spend most of their time working for a leading early-stage startup from the incredibly innovative ecosystem of Lausanne. This was an unbelievably instructive and memorable challenge. In just three months, my group supported a company that, we believe, will become a leading actor in solving the global plastic pollution challenge. We helped them to adjust their unique selling proposition, their revenue model, and their pitch, while obtaining letters of intent from local investors through company pitches and PR campaigns. All in all, it was a dense and comprehensive experience of the entrepreneurial reality of the founders who, very satisfied from our contribution, hired us as business advisors as of the end of the project.”
Nicolas de Toledo (’21)

3) Diversity: “Before I joined IMD, IMD’s diversity was just the number of nationalities on the brochure. The reality of studying, working, and having fun with 37 different nationalities without a dominant culture is astonishing. Our differences came up in small things like how punctual one should be when attending a party or big things like geopolitical issues. Depending on the topic, it could be a friendly discussion, or it could trigger a heated debate. It is eye-opening when a stereotype is broken, or a mutual understanding based on cultural backgrounds is formed. Despite all the differences, we have one thing in common: we agree to disagree.”
Haichen Liu (’20)

4) Family Support: “The IMD program office puts a lot of effort into supporting partners and families who make the move over to Switzerland, and then makes them feel involved and included. The MBA is tough and puts a lot of strain on the class, and having this support system in place for my partner was really important when I made my choice.”
David Roe (’21)

Sports Challenge Team

5) Faculty: “I have worked in executive education for a few years. I have partnered with multiple business schools, and I have heard very eloquent speakers sharing their expertise in various industries. My expectations from lectures, both in terms of content and delivery, were high. I looked for the best possible faculty. At IMD, I found one that is inspiring, eloquent, accessible and more importantly, one that spends significant amount of time interacting with company’s top executives to bring back to the auditorium real world insights and challenges that go beyond theory and academic literature.”
Nicolas de Toledo (’21)

6) International Consulting Project: “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.”
Hannah Kohrs (’20)

7) Small Class Size: “Being in such a small class has given me the experience of diverse thinking, as well as a chance to form real friendships and an opportunity to interact with everyone. It is an intense year of learning. With this small class, I have never felt alone but rather that I am on a journey we are all taking together. There is camaraderie in the class and the small size allows us to be there for one another.”
Harita Byluppala (’21)

8) Jefferson Dinners: “At IMD, I was introduced to the concept of ‘Jefferson Dinners’ by fellow students, which is essentially a dinner with a small group of people where there is a single topic of discussion. When one person speaks, the whole table must listen and there is no interrupting allowed! It provides a great forum for intellectual discussion. Most surprisingly, I found in one evening that I got to know some of my fellow classmates far better than I had after months of working together!”
David Roe (’21)

The IMD campus in Lausanne, Switzerland

The IMD campus in Lausanne, Switzerland

9) The Mountain Experience: “At the beginning of the year, the school mobilizes all of the students to the snowy Swiss Alps. With the well-designed activities, we reset our mindset and open ourselves to the class. It is the beginning of the bonding process, and it is a wonderful moment to think of afterwards.

The MBA Participants at IMD are generally older than those of other top MBA programs. Each of my colleagues has had unique and successful professional and personal experiences. The Mountain Experience is to remind us to put aside our egos and our past achievements and be open to the present and all the different perspectives.”
Haichen Liu (’20)

10) Polar Jump: “My favourite MBA tradition at IMD is the ‘Polar Jump’ – jumping in the freezing waters of Lake Leman in peak winter. Coming from a warm country like India, just the thought of jumping into freezing waters was very unwelcome. However, seeing so many of my colleagues undertaking the challenge to keep the tradition alive gave me the courage to do the same as a show of solidarity and I did! Thankfully, all my memories from that day are happy ones because I was also the designated doctor on duty to save people if things went south.

It is a crazy idea, but it is also an IMD tradition. It makes me believe that while an MBA is hard work and IMD is a  tough curriculum that prepares us to be accomplished professionals ready to conquer the world, there is an element of daredevilry and adventure attached to the course and that’s what makes IMD super special.”
Ruchi Senthil, IMD Business School

Click on the student links below for in-depth profiles of some of this year’s most promising IMD MBA students.

MBA Student Hometown Undergrad Alma Mater Last Employer
Harita Byluppala Hyderabad, India S.V University Nestlé
Caroline Burrus Lausanne, Switzerland École Hôtelière de Lausanne Groupe Burrus
Nicolas de Toledo Geneva, Switzerland McGill University Mosaiq SA
Simone Grancini Pavia, Italy Politecnico di Milano Vorwerk International & Co KmG
Setika Gupta Jammu, India National Institute of Technology, Srinagar Indian Oil Corporation Limited
Yukari Hayasaka Kobe, Japan Osaka University Nestlé
Marly Levene Kitchener, Canada McGill University TAS
Dmitry Makarov Helsinki, Finland KTH Royal Institute of Technology ABB
Santiago Restrepo Lisbon, Portugal Bentley University Roland Berger
Jessica Roberts Johannesburg, South Africa University of Cape Town Nedbank Limited
David Roe Cambridge, United Kingdom Durham University Better Origin
Carla Venter Bloemfontein, South Africa University of the Free State, Bloemfontein Geneva Management Group

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