Meet IMD Business School’s Distinguished Alumni: Daniel Skirton

Daniel Skirton

Class / Grad Year: IMD’s MBA Class of 2020

Current Employer / Role: The Boston Consulting Group; Public Sector Defense & Security Knowledge Team Leader

Best memory at school: 2020 was a difficult year for everyone, and each person’s experience of how the COVID-19 crisis unfolded was unique to them. It would be fair to say that the one thing we all had in common was what we would have called in the military a ‘dislocation of expectation’. All of us had expectations as to how the year would unfold, and those expectations were shattered for all of us in just a few weeks that early spring. My best memory, therefore, are the incredible ways in which our class pulled together to support each other through the difficult times. Whether this was Zoom dinner parties, working hard to be as inclusive as possible for those people who the crisis impacted the most, or simply getting together in small groups and sharing a laugh, it was incredible to see that raw human capability for adapting to our surroundings and finding positivity when everything seemed bleak. I think everyone learned a lot about their own ability to adapt and overcome, which I am sure will serve us all well in the years ahead.

Greatest achievement at school: My biggest achievement was making the transition from military life to civilian life, which was something even I underestimated on joining. In many ways, being in the military prepares you well for change, leadership and adversity, but it does so in a way that needs to be modified to really work outside of the military environment. My communication could be blunt, my style of leadership not collegiate enough, too few opinions heard and indeed too few perspectives sought before making a decision. The work with my IMD leadership coach enabled me to identify my shortcomings and act on them; the intense time spent with my classmates gave me great feedback, and I genuinely felt myself grow in that year. Achieving greater self-awareness and the continuous improvement that this enabled has been invaluable since I left IMD, and I don’t believe I would have enjoyed the same sense of progress and success without that experience through my MBA year.

Your advice to incoming first-years: I’ve been asked this a lot since leaving IMD, from people heading to business schools, and I’ve always given the same answer which seems to land well. Everyone has different goals going into an MBA, and few of those goals are the same at the other end because you have to let go of what you think you know going in to really grow. So I say this – don’t be too hard on yourself, enjoy your time, enjoy the space an MBA can give you to be reflective, but most of all enjoy the people you are with because they will be the thing that you remember the most when you leave.

Where do you currently live? On completing my MBA I returned to London, a choice that I am incredibly pleased with as the city has come back to life and is as vibrant, diverse and energizing as it was before the pandemic.

Fun fact about you: I once spent 50 days sleeping next to a live torpedo.

Why did you chose your school? Other than the incredible chance to study abroad in a country as beautiful as Switzerland, I chose IMD because of the small cohort size, which indeed delivered on my assumptions that this smaller community would breed incredible relationships with both the staff and the student body. There is no doubt that the small class size meant that we dealt with what was thrown at us in 2020 better.

What student organizations did you join? I led the technology cluster, which was a great forum for hearing from alumni and beyond, but most of all it encouraged all of us to share our collective experiences on job opportunities and skill development, and to introduce others to our own networks. All of this meant that we increased our understanding of what types of roles were in the market, and how those might be a match for us.

Favorite trait in others: Working at BCG, I’ve come across some incredible minds, and I think I’ve actually discovered what it means to have a ‘strategic mindset’ through observing it in others! I’m always blown away when someone is able to offer a perspective which is at once totally outside of what I’m able to observe about a situation, and incredibly important and astute. Many client problems I’ve faced have had moments of enlightenment like this from people I’ve worked with here, and I’m so grateful to work with people who think like that.

One thing you would’ve changed in the MBA experience: 2020 was such a difficult year for everyone, I think what people really deserved was to have their families with them at the end of the year to celebrate their achievements in person. Through no one’s fault this wasn’t possible, but if there was one thing I wish we could have changed, that would be it.

Favorite class? Looking back now, the class that set me up the best was accounting. From zero knowledge of accounting practices, that course took me to the position where I can run analyses of accounts, interpret ratios and have a conversation with someone about financial performance, which I never thought I would. It opened up a whole new side of business for me and has simply been invaluable in building the capabilities I have today.

One secret to success? The moment you think you’re the finished product, then you truly are finished. I’ve always borne my limitations and gaps in understanding in mind and worked to build them out. Time for training is not time off, I impress that on the team I lead today and I think we are stronger for it.

What is your biggest regret? I truly wish that I had had more time with all the fantastic people I met, but I know that when we meet again it’ll be like we never left.

What is the next thing you’re going to do on your bucket list? I’m keen to spend more time in advisory roles and share the knowledge I have built over 15 years of work and learning. I have recently become a school governor for Technology and Innovation where I’m helping them define their technology strategy and improve the way in which they deliver learning. Beyond this and into the future, I want to play a part in the global energy transition, somewhere I can take my engineering, strategy and operational know-how and be part of the transition’s acceleration.

For more information on IMD, visit the website here

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.