2023 MBA To Watch: Amanda Tan, IMD Business School

Amanda Tan

IMD Business School

“Life-long Disneyland and West End musicals fan who is always up to play team sports.”

Hometown: Jakarta, Indonesia / Groningen, The Netherlands

Fun fact about yourself: I used to compete across Southeast Asia in football, basketball and touch rugby.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Durham University, BA (Hons) Combined Honors in Social Sciences

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? MoveMeOn, Growth and Success Lead (London, UK)

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? N/A – I took IMD’s advice to use the month off to relax, reflect (on the last 6 months) and review what my next steps will be.

Where will you be working after graduation? Bain and Company, Consultant (Zurich, Switzerland)

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Received the IMD MBA Lausanne Alumni Club Merit Scholarship (awarded to best all-round applicant from the first application deadline); graduated with honors; elected as Point of Contact for the Sports Committee.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Co-leading the organization of the IMD MBAT teams and the MBAT trip to Paris. This involved organizing roughly 100 students across 24 events. I am most proud of this achievement because we performed beyond expectations (IMD record 11 medals won – including 6 golds compared to 1 gold medal won in the last 5 years) and achieved our goal of balancing “competitiveness and fun”. This became clear from quotes from various classmates: “MBAT was a true bonding moment” and “MBAT made me realize what it means to be a part of the IMD MBA cohort.” The cherry on top was a quote from MBA office: “The first MBAT trip that went smoothly with no issues!”

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? It was seeing the real impact I made on business revenue and people development in the short space of six months at MMO. In particular, my process improvement recommendations contributed to over 120% growth of the business line and an increase in confidence and satisfaction of the team. We all have imposter syndrome at some point in our lives and it was really gratifying to see my actual direct impact on the business and its people. This gave me a confidence boost I could carry with me into the MBA program.

Why did you choose this business school? IMD’s emphasis on leadership and personal development. Getting access to a leadership coach and PDE (Personal Development Elective) analyst were undoubtedly some major highlights of the year for me in terms of personal and professional development. The leadership stream isn’t just a set of generic theoretical classes. Instead, this stream ties in personal development so we are able to understand not only what kind of leader we naturally are but also, what we need to work on to be the kind of leader we want to be. As someone who hopes to have leadership positions in my career, I knew this would be invaluable in my leadership development. The surprise element was the impact this had on my personal development and self-awareness – I leave IMD a much happier person!

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Jennifer Jordan, who leads the Leadership Stream. I have a lot of respect for Jennifer, not only did she hold a command over classes in an impressive manner, but she was also able to create a safe space very quickly for the class to discuss everything very openly. Jennifer’s genuineness, openness, and ability to be honest and reflect on herself are qualities I greatly admire and I am working on replicating these behaviors. Her classes made me really think and question even some of the long-held beliefs I have held.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? Strategy Beyond Markets (SBM), with Professor David Bach. I think the course is summed up very well in David’s introduction of his course: “This is The Defense Against the Dark Arts of MBA school”. The course opened my eyes to the wider circumstances within which businesses operate – the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful. David’s classes challenged me and fundamentally changed how I view the role businesses play in society and the responsibility held by leaders in a business – to both take advantage of opportunities and to avoid pitfalls.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? It’s not just a single event, but I’d say IMD’s tradition of Partner inclusion in the program. From ensuring candidates’ partners are involved to hosting talks on being ‘dual-career couples’, the effort that IMD puts in on this aspect reflects how IMD thinks of us all holistically. IMD recognizes that we’re not just MBA students who will be future leaders. Instead, we are also people who have lives outside of work that carry the same (or in some cases more) importance over work, so IMD invests in helping us improve as people (not just professionally).

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? This is a tough question. If I had to go back in time and do it over again, I would do the same thing. There is no doubt that I made many mistakes and there were multiple situations that I could have handled “better”, but these events are what enabled me to grow and develop. I have learned from the mistakes I made in handling team dynamics, recognizing (with the help of coaches), and my pattern of conflict-avoidance. I came to the realization that throwing myself into the “doing” of work so intensely was a defense mechanism against both imposter syndrome and a lack of self-love would only have been possible had I gone through the year making the mistakes I did.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Before joining IMD, I heard all about the diverse, yet close-knit- small cohort. I asked myself, Really? Don’t all MBA schools champion diversity? Don’t all small cohort MBA schools have close-knit communities? At IMD I quickly realized that this was actually true. Each year, IMD is able to bring together a truly diverse cohort (diverse in every sense: gender, ethnicity, work experience, and cultural beliefs) and throw us all into situations (intense group work, leadership experientials, PDE, coaching) that enable us to open up to each other and create that space of psychological safety. Without this, none of us would be able to progress in the ways we did, to try things with the encouragement of classmates and to take risks in this “safe” year. At one point, I wondered how does IMD do this? Is it just sheer luck? Talking to some of the admissions team, I learned that during the admissions process they don’t just focus on brilliant individuals, but they make their selections within the bigger-picture context of putting together a brilliant cohort.

What surprised you the most about business school? The “non-business” elements! Yes, of course I am also referring to the social aspect of business school! More importantly, I was surprised at the investment made in providing us with PDEs and coaches and the emphasis placed on self-understanding, awareness, and growth. Of course, getting a better handle on these things should help us to be better leaders in the workplace, but I was surprised at the emphasis made in helping us to be better human beings.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I think you may have to ask the admissions team this question! If I had to give an answer, I would say my energy and sense of humor gave me an edge. IMD has a long assessment process including individual and group activities. I think my ability to inject some humor into what is normally a nerve-wracking and anxiety-driven situation might have given me some bonus points!

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Tony Mrad. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone so genuine, honest, and just so unapologetically himself. He is able to make fun of himself (as well as others!) in a manner that isn’t self-deprecating, and he does it in such a way that invites you to get to know him better – much like an effective ice-breaker!

Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to be in the same group as Tony, but I was a big part of his recruitment process where his resilience and his self-awareness really shone through. Despite setbacks, Tony always picked himself back up. He remained positive when some of us started questioning ourselves and he remained unwavering to his goal, while I saw other classmates flip-flop between what role/industry to go after. I think Tony was able to do this because he has a great level of self-awareness and he is honest with himself (and others) about his abilities – you can trust Tony to say things as they are. This grounded persistence led Tony to getting the job he wanted, albeit secured slightly later than some of us. I think I might have celebrated his success more than I did my own!

Finally, Tony has a very caring side (I think someone described him as a “big teddy bear once you get to know him”…), which you could very clearly see in how he managed to keep his wife, Joey, a priority despite the intensity of the IMD MBA. I truly admire how Tony remained true to himself throughout the programme, how he kept Joey an integral part of his IMD year, and how he remained steadfast in achieving his goal.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? I’m usually the kind of person to think more short or medium term – so for now that would be earning enough to repay my loans and achieve financial stability once again! Thinking on the long-term though, I would very much like to take my work experience back to Southeast Asia one day, to have the opportunity to give back to the place where I grew up and to the countries that shaped a big part of my early life. Second, I would like to improve the pro bono activities of any company I work at and to take part in pro bono and charitable activities myself. I believe companies have the kind of resources some communities can only dream of having and the impact companies can have (when targeted in the right direction) can make a true difference, whether that’s in diversity, inclusion, climate change, sustainability, or anything else really!

 What made Amanda Tan such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?

“Amanda holds a BA (Hons) in Social Sciences and 5 years of experience in the strategy consulting market.

Amanda is a true go-getter and a highly reliable person. Therefore, it’s unsurprising that she received a highly sought-after Merit Scholarship and graduated with Honors. In addition, to excelling in academics, Amanda also took the lead in the MBAT games organization in Paris. This involved organizing ~100 students across 24 events. The MBA office was extremely impressed by Amanda’s outstanding organizational skills. She is an extremely eloquent speaker and was always willing to help out, especially with future MBA candidates, even helping the office with a session in Indonesia for potential students.

We wish her all the best with her new position at Bain in Zurich, Switzerland.”

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


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