Meet The MBA Class Of 2021: Nicolas de Toledo, IMD Business School

Nicolas de Toledo

IMD Business School

Born and raised in Switzerland, I spent 7 years on an entrepreneurial journey in China.”

Hometown: Geneva, Switzerland

Fun Fact About Yourself: Puerh tea enthusiast: my yearly non-negotiable holiday is a visit to Yunnan during the tea harvest and taste the new vintage!

Undergraduate School and Major: McGill University, BA Political Science

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Mosaiq SA, Founder & Managing Director, China

IMD classes have been dubbed the “Mighty 90” for their talent and versatility. What has been the best part of being in a small class with this group of classmates? 39 nationalities for 97 candidates: Can you think of a more international environment in COVID times? Our physical presence on campus since the start of the program was only made possible thanks to the small size of our class. More importantly, the small size class has facilitated the creation of bonds among us, building links beyond superficiality. This has allowed us all to become authentic and feel part of a secure environment in which we can be ourselves and become conscious of each other’s background.

Also, as part of a small class, there is a unique opportunity to build personal relationships with professors. IMD professors know each participant’s name, expertise, and contribution to the class. They gladly accept 1-1 lunches or dinners and are the bridge between the school and the business community through their global network. They help you to envision where you might fit best in your future career, and personally help you to get there.

Aside from classmates, what part of IMD’s MBA programming led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? 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.

What has been favorite tradition or event at IMD? 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.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Three years after the foundation of my company in China, I was hired by the State of Geneva to organize a 10-day strategic economic delegation to China, led by the Minister of Economy and President of the State and accompanied by 32 key stakeholders, entrepreneurs and executives. I organized, designed the agendas, and actively participated in their meetings with Alibaba, Tencent and DiDi’s VPs, as well as diplomatic events and media engagement. The stakes were high, and the execution of the project exceeded the exigent expectations of the delegation.

Describe your biggest accomplishment at IMD so far: 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.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? COVID was a chance to pause and rethink the learnings of my entrepreneurial experiences in China. I knew I could continue as an entrepreneur, but were there other appealing alternatives? Was there more to explore, more to learn? Stepping back from the daily operations in China and moving back to the geographical center of Western Europe – where time is either spent studying on IMD’s campus, which sits on the picturesque shores of Lake Léman, or contemplating in the enchanting mountain villages of Switzerland – was just ideal to both incubate ideas and find orientation for my future. Halfway through it, there is no doubt, it was a great choice.

What has been your best memory at IMD thus far? Imagine yourself in a large, lake-view study room working on a project with your peers. You are suddenly exposed to an unexpected situation. You have no idea what’s going on, yet you are immediately put on the spot. Our crisis simulation lasted for 7 hours. We were filmed, interviewed, constantly challenged and we felt overwhelmed, tired and did pretty much everything wrong! If before getting into IMD we did not know what handling a crisis felt like, now we do. The next day was spent watching recordings and analyzing how we could have done better. This is one of the many remarkable moments I struggled through and learnt how to overcome. I will remember those for the rest of my life.



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