2023 MBA To Watch: Sarah Mumbi Ndegwa, IMD Business School

Sarah Mumbi Ndegwa

IMD Business School

“A development finance professional living out her humanity through her career.”

Hometown: Nairobi, Kenya

Fun fact about yourself: I am a huge late night snacker

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

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Finnish Fund for Industrial Cooperation (Finnfund), Senior Investment Analyst

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? Not Applicable

Where will you be working after graduation? The World Bank Group (IFC YPP), Associate Investment Officer

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Young Leaders Award Scholar

Graduated with Honors: Awarded in top 10% of the class for academic as well as leadership performance.

Finance Club coordinator

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? During the program, my team and I, under the mentorship of our Professor Niccolò Pisani, worked on a Swiss based health tech start-up using AI for early breast cancer detection. We had a huge responsibility to provide the founders with solutions on their anticipated geographical expansion in Europe as well as in their fundraising efforts. We further defended our process and recommendation to a jury of industry practitioners ensuring that it would translate in the market.

Not only was the work commercially useful, but it solved towards demographics and issues that are close to my heart. Further, the founders were successful in their fundraise of CHF 4m and have expanded their team thereafter.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Building an international career over the last five years. I started my career in Nairobi, Kenya. Three years in, I moved across the world to Stockholm, Sweden to explore the technology M&A space which was thriving. When the pandemic began in 2020, I relocated to Helsinki, Finland to take up an impact investing role focused on emerging markets. I have also held consulting stints in Switzerland, Argentina, Uganda, Tanzania, and Mozambique and served clients from across the world. A young Sarah could have never dreamed this up!

Why did you choose this business school? The leadership focus, which IMD is so well known for, was the leading factor. There is a very personalized approach from regular sessions with a leadership coach and a psychoanalyst, to lecturers, experiential weeks, and labs. It is not a cookie cutter approach: you really get to explore your unique voice as a leader.

The international cohort also meant that you could really experience how your approach translates across cultures which was aligned to my international career.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Ralph Boscheck who led the Economics module as well as an elective dubbed ‘Movers, Shakers, Preachers and Pragmatists’. I really liked his approach of taking conventional topics, economics and ethics, and infusing a philosophical and a commercial angle that was very practicable to non-economists. I will admit that sometimes my head was spinning out as his questions were complex following the topics in question. Yet, in those discussions, he really guided us into establishing our own approach and grounding us as business leaders. He covered the historical yet pushed us to really consider what it was to lead not just through the risky, but into the unknown.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? Strategy Beyond The Market by David Bach. This was tailored to help us engage better with the social, political, regulatory and cultural context in which businesses operate. We took a step further to consider shaping this ‘nonmarket’ space proactively not only to boost a firm’s competitiveness but to engage on how business can be a force for good.

This was particularly of interest to me based on my interest in working in emerging markets where, in some cases, structures are not as robust. The uncertainty and volatility require one to go beyond the market to build an ecosystem that works. The module really recognized that the world is not linear nor is it textbook!

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My class participated in the MBA tournament, which saw business schools across Europe come together to compete in a three-day sporting event. As a small class (104 in total), the class came together to really cheer each other on. We were small but mighty! Personally, I represented my school in the table tennis doubles, for which we won the gold medal. I have this vivid memory of the quiet before my teammate Rafi made the winning serve and the roaring cheer that followed the winning score.

It was early in the year yet the care for each other was palpable. We won together and lost together. Our Dean, Omar Toulan, as well as the MBA office, would show up for the games with us, which really showed how alive the IMD community is.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I would engage the wider IMD community on campus more. I could have set up more lunches with professors at the school who have such depth and breadth of knowledge, who also hold close industry ties. All these resources were very proximal to me, and I could have done a better job of leveraging that proximity and wealth of resource.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth would be that the program is academically rigorous. Reality fully aligns with this myth: we work hard (and play hard) at IMD.

What did you love most about your business school’s town? Lausanne is a beautiful town on the shores of Lake Leman with a view of the Alps. The location gives you lots of places to find pockets of silence where you can almost hear your heartbeat and reflect on your experience.

It is also a sports town that hosts lots of international sports bodies and corporations and is within a reasonable commute to bigger cities such as Geneva and Zurich. Depending on where you are in Lausanne, you may experience the quaint small-town feel, or a city feel – best of both worlds.

What surprised you the most about business school? I did not anticipate how much the experience would change me. You hear about the personal transformation from the alumni and the sKeptic in me assumed that it was mildly hyperbolized – I was dead wrong.

I can vividly point to that moment in Buenos Aires, Argentina during a discovery trip where it became clear that I was going to pursue a career in development. I can remember the deep gratitude I felt when a classmate gave me very honest feedback that was hard to hear, yet extremely helpful. There was the moment when a classmate shared his life journey that is etched in my memory as it left me in tears, both inspired and challenged. There were moments when my professors came to class and left me in absolute awe.

I came to business school to learn ‘business’, but these very few examples are to tell that it was so much more! Not to sound cliché but it really was transformational.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I showed my personality throughout the process as I wanted to be sure that I could fully show up as myself through the year and still be a great fit.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I really cannot choose as a huge chunk are colleagues who I now consider lifelong friends. In a small class, you get to really interact with peoples’ journeys, and really it would be herculean to highlight one story over another.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? My first is to join the World Bank, which really was a dream for me. I am excited to really continue in the development space as part of the team. I am crazy enough to believe that we can one day put a dent in the extreme poverty levels in the world.

Second is to have a short working stint in Asia

What made Sarah Mumbi Ndegwa such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?

With an MSc in Finance and 6 years of experience in impact investing and financial advisory in the Nordics, East, West and Southern Africa, Sarah is passionate about impact investing focused on emerging markets. She has an extremely unique background which gives her a wealth of experiences to draw on. During her MBA, Sarah emerged as a true team player.

Due to her exceptional profile, Sarah was awarded the Young Leaders Scholar and graduated with Honors. In addition, she took the lead on the Finance Club coordination, where she was involved in organizing multiple events with external speakers. She also actively helped her classmates who were struggling with Finance course. She has a way of motivating which became evident at the MBA Games where she not only won gold in double table tennis but was always the first and most prominent voice in cheering on her classmates.

We wish her all the best for the next chapter in her life as she moves to work for Maersk in Denmark.”

Omar Toulan
Professor of Strategy and International Management, MBA Dean and Hilti Chair


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