Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Juan Perlas, IMD Business School

Juan Perlas

IMD Business School

“A bridge-builder who is making the jump from engineering into business.”

Hometown: Montevideo, Uruguay

Fun Fact About Yourself:  I am a huge fan of board games. Back in Uruguay, I had a collection of around 50 of them. And with the ones that I brought over we have organized several board game nights with the cohort since the beginning of the year.

Undergraduate School and Major: Universidad de la República (Uruguay), Civil Engineering

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Saceem, Site Manager

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? The best part is getting to know people in-depth. This is not a large group where you get lost in the crowd. The campus has a home-like atmosphere where you can always grab lunch or coffee with a classmate (or even a beer or two after classes). Besides the connection, you also broaden your world view; you can get to know the perspectives of someone who comes from the other side of the world.

Also, knowing the level of classmates that we have, you feel the pressure to contribute meaningfully. There is a lot of talent in our class and that helps to bring out everyone’s A-game every day, leading to great results for all of us.

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? For me, the biggest selling point of this MBA is the emphasis on leadership. Almost all assignments are in groups and designed to push you to the limit, both in your individual capabilities as well as how you work in a team.

Already in the first month, we had an experiential lab where we had several exercises that challenged our leadership skills. The experience was hard, but ultimately very rewarding because of the learning we took away from it.

At the end of the day, hard skills can be learned and acquired one way or the other, but these soft skills in which we are being trained are rarer, and hence much more valuable. I believe the knowledge of how to work in groups and exert leadership over myself and others is the best asset that one can take away from an MBA. And IMD delivers in that regard.

IMD is known for academic rigor. What is one strategy you used that would help a future IMD MBA better adapt to the workload early on? I would say that one of the skills that IMD teaches you, without teaching it, is time management. As the first few weeks go by, you start to get a sense of the bigger picture of the things you study and focus on that. The rest comes with it.

It is also important to lean into the group and the school faculty. One of the benefits of being in such a small class is that you can always find a study partner for exams or talk with a professor about that doubt you had during finance class. The doors are always open to get a full understanding of what it is you need to know.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: For my last job before the MBA, I was the site manager in charge of building the civil structures of a part of a pulp mill in Uruguay. It was one of the biggest sites in my country and I was in a very critical project within it.

At its peak, I led a team of 250 people including subcontractors and had to lead with ten different companies, negotiating handovers and working conditions while ensuring production. This meant a lot of long days with tough hours and complex decisions, but it paid off.

One of the good things about construction work is that you get to see the progress you make. When I compared before and after photos on the day I left, I saw the impact of what we had done. We had turned a 4-meter-deep 200m x 100m field into a plant. It was the capstone to all my years in the construction industry and a wonderful way to leave for the MBA.

Describe your biggest accomplishment at IMD so far: I would have to say that my biggest personal accomplishment is in the transformation I have had in the last 6 months. Coming with a non-traditional background, I wasn’t sure if I would fit in or if I had what it takes to succeed in an MBA like this one. I had to work a lot on my abilities and my own mindset to overcome that thinking.

I now have a much better knowledge of myself and what I can contribute. I know the direction in which I want to take my career. And most importantly, I am confident I can apply everything I have learned and experienced in my life and the MBA to continue that journey. For me, that is the best accomplishment.

Where is your favorite hang-out in Lausanne? Why do you (and your classmates) gravitate there? There are several places around the school, but Lacustre takes the top spot for favorite hang-out. It is a bar that is conveniently located right on top of the port of Ouchy. Not only is it close to school, but it also has an amazing view of Lake Geneva. It’s the perfect way to unwind and get a few drinks with friends.

Also noteworthy is the break room in the infamous dungeons (aka MBA study rooms). While we spend lots of hours in the study rooms there, there is always time for a quick game of foosball or ping-pong in between classes.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? While I enjoy engineering and construction, this was the right moment to take on the challenge and prepare myself for the future. I knew I wanted to transition into more general management roles and an MBA seemed like a natural fit for that transition.

Also, being on site and working with people in dynamic situations and through complex tasks, I developed a passion for leading teams. For the last couple of years, I have been training my leadership and people skills and felt that this MBA would be a fantastic opportunity to continue that training.

What has been your best memory at IMD thus far? It is actually not an academic memory. In May of this year, we went to HEC Paris to compete in the sporting event called MBA tournament or MBAT. I competed in Basketball and in Battle of the Bands.

For Battle of the Bands, seven classmates and I formed a band and sang various songs. One of them was a Medley featuring songs from four different countries with one single rhythm. For me, being on-stage with my friends, singing our songs to the crowd, was the best moment in the year (so far). And if that wasn’t enough, we won the gold!


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