Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Sarah Mumbi Ndegwa, IMD Business School

Sarah Mumbi Ndegwa

IMD Business School

“Curious about life, mostly laughing through it.”

Hometown: Nairobi, Kenya

Fun Fact About Yourself: I learnt how to ride a bike in my adulthood, complete with scheduled classes. One of the most humbling experiences of my life!

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Nairobi, Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting Option)

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Finnish Fund for Industrial Cooperation (FINNFUND), Senior Investment Analyst

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 definitely how intimately you get to know your classmates. You are around each other for extended periods of time (both in school and socially) which leads to a high level of bonding and engagement. Consequently, you can truly trust the feedback shared by your classmates as we see the good and ‘not so good’ sides of each other.

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 was particularly interested in the leadership stream facilitated by Professor Jennifer Jordan. The various facets – from the classes, debates and labs, to the sessions with our coaches and psychoanalyst – have proven to be very enlightening on not only how as individuals we lead others, but also how we lead ourselves. Suffice to say, the stream has more than delivered on its promise!

As an impact investor, the focus on sustainability in the program was also extremely important to me.

The aforementioned reasons converge around growing self and expanding my knowledge base on sustainability which were both central to my choice of IMD as a business school.

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? We have a saying in my community that ‘It takes a village to raise a child’. This rings true when it comes to adapting to the academic workload – you cannot do it alone! You must lean on your classmates in areas where they are strong, and concurrently fully show up for your classmates in areas that come easily to you. The diversity in the class proves to be an advantage as you can almost always find someone who knows a topic quite well.

The wider IMD community comprising the professors, MBA office and the non-teaching staff are always on hand with extra material, and a smile of encouragement on days you need it.

It takes the whole IMD community to pull you through – an extremely rewarding experience, in retrospect. Leaning on the community has been my winning strategy!

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Brag more.

A little over a year ago, I would have probably told you about the multimillion-dollar transactions I had the privilege to work on – and they were great! However, today I consider my biggest win as pivoting from this mergers and acquisitions advisory career path to impact investing in 2020. I had worked in Kenya and Sweden and the disparity was apparent; there was work to be done to further build developing countries, and financing would be my role to play. I therefore moved to Finland, committing my career to deliver impact in LDC and LMIC countries – I put my career where my heart was.

Delivering on transactions on a normal (pre-pandemic) day was an arduous task in itself. Doing the same during a pandemic added more challenges (e.g., we could not travel to our target countries to meet target businesses and diligence had to be done virtually). Client relationships had to be built and managed in a similar fashion – yet there was no quitting for us, as development finance could not have been more critical as it was (and still is) at the time.

In a span of less than a year, I was involved in transactions in Kenya, Jordan, Ghana and all across Sub-Saharan Africa. It was personally validating to work on financing business that spoke to my heritage at that point.

Describe your biggest accomplishment at IMD so far: Two things come to mind. On the academic front, my team and I had the privilege of working with a health tech start-up using AI for early breast cancer detection. We had a huge responsibility to provide the founders with solutions that had the potential to bring the company to the next level. Defending our process and output to a juror of industry practitioners was great. However, the greatest reward was to see the satisfaction we brought to the founders.

On the social front, IMD has taught – and continues to teach me – what working with others and leading oneself in an ultra-diverse environment looks like. Those late-night working sessions in the study rooms (aka dungeons), the laughs, relationships built, the conflicts resolved has been a lab of sorts. My opinions have been challenged, difficult conversations have been had, and my world view expanded at IMD. This shift has been humbling yet empowering.

Where is your favorite hang-out in Lausanne? Why do you (and your classmates) gravitate there? I enjoy taking walks near the lake followed by a gelato as the sun sets – whenever the weather allows it.

On colder days, the watering spot would either be the White Horse or Lacustre which are bars that are proximal to the IMD campus. You can always find a classmate in either of the two to grab a drink and chatting the evening away.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? Pursuing an MBA was always part of the plan; the realization of it has been the ‘pinch me’ moment. Why now? The stars aligned. I was in a new career that I was keen to accelerate. An MBA would provide me with the right tools and network to strengthen the same.

What has been your best memory at IMD thus far? The best memories for me are in the ordinary daily interactions with my classmates. I have had more belly laughs than I can remember! Those long nights that we have survived together and epic wins that we still celebrate. It really is a tremendous community that rallies around each other. My classmates are the memory that I will carry with me always.


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