Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Peter Holt Theisen, IMD Business School

Peter Holt Theisen

IMD Business School

“Exploratory and hungry, but humble and with a desire to see others shine.”

Hometown: Copenhagen, Denmark

Fun Fact About Yourself: After having lived in 4 different countries over the past 5 years, my friends have lived more in my apartment in Copenhagen than I have. They probably feel more at home there than I do

But while they have lived there, I have had many adventures like seeing the sunrise from the Great Wall of China after having hiked up there and camped on it overnight.

Undergraduate School and Major: Copenhagen Business School, B.Sc. International Business

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Google, Accelerated Growth Lead

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? When you have larger classes, then cliques and groups tend to arise, but being in a smaller cohort, you cement in a different way. Here, everyone basically hangs out with everyone, so you get much tighter as a class. You start to realize that as a class, there’s nothing we can’t do.

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? My motivation for choosing IMD is its eminent focus on leadership, digital competencies, entrepreneurship and a strong global outlook as means of equipping future leaders who want to make a difference for the world’s challenges.

When I was born in 1995, climate change was often seen as some future event. The scale of human-made CO2 and its impact on the globe’s temperature were still somewhat debated. Most key scientists understood its urgency, but the general population and politicians were ambivalent at best.

Fast forward to 2022, climate change looks like a misnomer, and we are in a true climate crisis. The climate crisis is happening now and is hurting us. We see historic fires in Greece, Portugal and North America’s entire West Coast; epic floods in Germany; and destroying hurricanes in Southeast Asia. The list truly goes on. Nearly every region in the world has been heavily affected. So, what do we do about it, and how do we allocate our money, time and brainpower to develop solutions?

While the current COVID crisis has not only underlined that systemic risks can affect economic activity quickly and accelerate major social challenges in our world, it has also underlined how important leadership and innovative tech is as an enabler for humanity to solve our world’s wicked problems. Where would we be if COVID had raged 30 years ago without our current tech stack?

Right now – and in the years to come – we are facing a great opportunity; the restart after the COVID crisis. A green restart, a restart of companies, work standards, cultural life, the tourism sector, and much more.

New and innovative solutions are needed to build a future for humanity and the planet. Getting business cases to solve major societal challenges will require business leaders with interdisciplinary knowledge, a strong set of values ​​and broad cultural insight. This is why I chose IMD Business School and is what I want to contribute to the people I work with.

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? Adapt to the mindset of lifting yourself and others and you will soon realize how when you give, you’ll often receive more. What has primed me is that I grew up practicing sailing as an elite sport, where I had a bunch of people from my sailing club who were both my best friends on land and fiercest competitors at sea. So, between each race, we’d stick our boat tips together and share learnings on how to help each other predict the weather conditions to find the advantage on the racecourse.

Helpfulness towards peers was more important than winning over them because you may lose one or two places in the race to your friends, but by helping each other you’d probably win 10x that compared to the rest of the competitive fleet. That’s something I’ve carried with me in life ever since.

And honestly, it’s just more fun to do it with others. If you take on the full pressure of IMD’s academic rigor and intensity yourself, you won’t have what many would recall as one of the best years of their life.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Being 23 years-old and moving to a new country to start my first full-time job at Google without any contacts there right after my undergrad and being able to establish a good life. And then managing to work alone and consistently perform to the highest level despite the mental challenges and ambiguity of being isolated in COVID lockdown for two years. I learned a lot about myself during those years.

Describe your biggest accomplishment at IMD so far: The IMD MBA is without a doubt intense with its program of 90 ECTS credits in 11 months of ups-and-downs. It’s not just developing your ability to prioritize and execute that becomes vital, but to do it in small and highly diverse groups where people have different incentives, opinions and approaches is even more important.

My biggest accomplishment was the learning takeaways that I got during Module 1. It is the first three months – the dark times of January to March – that is the most academically intense time of the year. This really challenges people’s ability to look inwards and be vulnerable towards their peers while challenging them to perform in groups despite internal conflicts and tight clashing deadlines.

To me, that experience solidified that the highest-performing teams were made up of people who genuinely trusted and cared for each other. When they’re emotionally, mentally and physically exhausted, they still have ability to dig down and help the guy next to them, because the people have the willingness to sacrifice for the person next to them.

Where is your favorite hang-out in Lausanne? Why do you (and your classmates) gravitate there? Hanging around the gorgeous Lac Leman is the best – no doubt. Both during summer and winter, it’s like heaven on earth with the beautiful mountains rising up behind the lake. Such a lovely place to meet peers for a sunrise swim, a sunset drink, or to sit alone after your psychoanalyst session and reflect on everything happening during such an intense MBA year.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? After having been in the corporate grind since an early age, I wasn’t entirely sure where I was taking myself and realized that a reflective year was appealing to me. I started scrolling through the IMD MBA blog posts, I realized that I was really looking for an exploratory adventure in every sense – both externally and internally.

I consider IMD to be a transformative experience where MBA skills and knowledge aren’t just for business, but are being set into the perspective of our current economic, social and environmental situation to challenge my own values and beliefs.

In the IMD MBA program, a game-changer for me here was both 1) the ongoing work with early-stage startups and 2) the 7-week International Consulting Project where we are working to help a multinational company or NGO face current challenges.

In that way, I was looking for an MBA that sets a real-world foundation, but with a high inward focus on self-development to empower execution. Here, IMD’s leadership stream stood out to me as I am working to enhance my self-awareness and strengthen my self-confidence. I think the future favors the bold and I want to set my own foundation in the best way to be bold.

What has been your best memory at IMD thus far? Despite the daily food at IMD’s restaurant, which is probably a “best memory” that keeps being updated, then I’ve convinced around 20% of people from the class to join what we’ve dubbed as the Polar Dip: jumping into the freezing lake water over 10 times during January and February.

At first, they thought I was nuts, but somehow, they keep coming back wanting to do it – I think they’re slowly turning Nordic. During summer, it’s probably more turned into a Tropical dip, but the Polar Dip will return later in the year!


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