2022 MBA To Watch: Anou Sewonu, IMD Business School

Anou Sewonu

IMD Business School

Hometown: I was in born in Lomé, Togo

Fun fact about yourself: Given my upbringing in rural areas, I used to have unconventional hobbies such as farming, hunting, and roaming in the savannah

Undergraduate School and Degree:

PhD in Medical Physics, Université de Lorraine, France

MSc in Medical Imaging Physics, University of Tours, France

BSc in Physics and Materials Science, University of Tours, France

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school?

SPIN UP, SAS – Co-Founder and Head of Commercial Operations

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? N/A

Where will you be working after graduation? Eli Lilly & Co – Strategic Projects Manager

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: As co-Leader of the 2021 MBA Healthcare Club, I teamed up with two classmates to plan, organise, and deliver a structured event on our cluster day with guest companies such as NOVARTIS and ZS Associates.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Innovation Week – my teammates and I developed a sustainable solution to electrify small businesses in West Africa, using repurposed containers equipped with solar panels. From ideation to feasibility and financial viability assessment – and finally project presentation – our output genuinely reflected me and my teammates diversity of thoughts and experience. Eventually, we secured the highest grade of this innovation week stream, a remarkable team achievement.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? It was launching a company named Spin Up, an R&D consulting company specialised in MRI safety and implantable medical devices. It has been the most thrilling journey of my professional life, so far. To produce images, MRI scanners employ a set of electromagnetic fields which cause occupational hazards and patient-related risks such as disruption of cardiac stimulators and projectile effect to cite a few. As an MRI Physicist, I entered a partnership with my former managers to launch a consulting company addressing MRI safety issues. Having demonstrated commitment and leadership in previous roles, I was fully entrusted to lead the company and build its business processes. In the first operating year, we secured a positive bottom-line, won a funding contest, and onboarded two additional engineers. Besides the collective professional achievements, my actual pride is that this human adventure still goes on.

Why did you choose this business school? Having reflected on my tenure at Spin Up, I realized I needed to grow my leadership ability and expand my healthcare industry expertise in an international environment. Among the wide choice available in Europe, IMD stood out as the most relevant option to me because of the school’s highly diversified class, extraordinary emphasis on leadership development, and geographic location within a healthcare industrial ecosystem.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Ralf Boscheck, Professor of economics, is definitely my favorite MBA professor. His teachings smoothly blend macro/micro-economics with a great dose of strategic thinking, business ethics, and sustainability challenges. To me, Prof Ralf Boscheck’s economic stream is absolutely instrumental for MBA students to grasp the key challenges they will tackle upon graduating.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? I greatly enjoyed most if not all the events organized at IMD: CEO series talks, company meetings, and Cluster Day. Since I must pick one, it would be an informal event, the Polar Bear Jump which consists of plunging ourselves in the cold waters of Lake Geneva in winter time. To me, the Polar Bear Jump brings out all the sense of camaraderie and solidarity which glue together batchmates and are conducive to building lifelong friendships.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I would start to bonding with my then classmates, now friends, early on. This is as opposed to waiting three months for my introvert self to feel more comfortable with the beautiful souls I met at IMD (smiles)

What is the biggest myth about your school? Before joining IMD for the MBA, I heard about how grueling, time-consuming, and nerve-cracking the program can be. From my experience, although the IMD MBA program is genuinely challenging, prioritization, collaboration, and being authentic can help to navigate the year without being or feeling overwhelmed.

What surprised you the most about business school? Coming from a scientific background, I used to think of business school as an equally demanding environment. I was surprised to find business school academically way less demanding than graduate school was when I was doing my PhD.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I connected with my fellow applicants and we had several preparation calls or ice breakers before our assessment day. With the personal knowledge we collected on one another, I believe I was more effective at collaborating with them during the assessment while still being a competitor. Collaboration, sometimes even with competitors, is key to success in our complex and ever-evolving business environments.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Harita Byluppalla – Harita personifies everything I would like my daughters to grow into. She is caring, daring, self-driven, and likes to set and achieve goals for herself and the teams she works in. Her work ethic and empathy have been a source of inspiration to me and although we were peers at IMD, I consider her one of my mentors.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? Dr Olivier Meyrignac, a bright radiologist I used to work with as a research scientist, convinced me to undertake an MBA. He rationally talked me into realizing the gaps I would need to fill in order to achieve my ambitions and goals. I am grateful for his persistence and will always be.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

  • Learn German and get to professional proficiency ASAP (smiles)
  • Get my first international assignment in my new role at Lilly

How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? The pandemic reinforced my long-standing belief of the need for collaboration to create and deliver shared value. I am a firm believer that not a single human being can make it by him- or herself. Rather, it is the contribution of an entire community (colleagues, mentors, supervisors, mentees …) that helps to build a career, at least a sustainable one.

What made Anou such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2022?

“Anou Sewonu – invaluable as, without any exception, he demonstrated outstanding professional behaviour.”

Anou embodied many qualities with his collaborative, caring, reliable, and positive attitude.

In addition to managing an intense MBA year, he was active in organising the extra-curriculum events for the health cluster. He added value by providing support to his classmates and thus contributed towards developing a constructive class culture.”

Professor Seán Meehan
MBA Dean 2021

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