Ms Lisa Piguet at IMD Business School

Speaking in IMD language, our mission every year is to put together the best group of 90. This means that we select about 200 people for an interview out of all applicants for the MBA programme (who are between 400 and 600 a year) and eventually only 90 of them are admitted to IMD.

Ms Lisa Piguet at IMD Business School

What is the profile of the full-time MBA students at IMD? What is the profile of the executive MBA participants?

Speaking in IMD language, our mission every year is to put together the best group of 90. This means that we select about 200 people for an interview out of all applicants for the MBA programme (who are between 400 and 600 a year) and eventually only 90 of them are admitted to IMD.

There is a great diversity in the profile of our MBA student body. Our students come from over 40 different nationalities, they are between 25 and 35 years old, they have worked in various industries and usually have between three and nine years of work experience (the average is seven). We look for talented people with diverse backgrounds. They need to have excellent interpersonal skills and strong leadership potential. That is why our students end up advancing their careers immensely after completing the IMD MBA programme – we select people with raw talent who want to make a difference.

Our executive MBA programme is even smaller – we admit 65 people annually. Roughly 88% of them are male and 12% - female. We have participants from 19 countries who speak 18 different mother languages. The average age of the Executive MBA students is 39. They have worked in at least two countries; they have 14 years of work experience on average and as a group come from 29 different industries.

In terms of educational background, 11% have PhDs, 38% have a Master’s degree and 38% have a Bachelor’s degree.

What sets your programmes apart from other MBA programmes?

Our programme is very different from all similar programmes that we sometimes get compared to. The IMD MBA is an intense 11-month general management programme that manages to fit the curriculum of a two-year old programme in less than a year! This shows that the opportunity cost for our students is much lower as it allows them to only skip a year off from work. Furthermore, about 80% of the MBA programmes out there are focused on consulting and finance. In contrast, we have a really strong focus on industry. We really emphasize on leadership and personal development.

IMD prepares general managers so we train people how to lead responsibly. We teach them how to be good leaders. We push them hard and help them cultivate the skill to look within themselves and get to know their own limits. You learn a lot about yourself throughout our programme.

The small size of our class enables us to apply a very hands-on approach in every aspect. We offer an elective, which is in essence 20 sessions with a licensed psychologist. This part of the programme helps our students to look within themselves through a lot of exercises, group activities, writing assignments and introspection. That is one of our key differences from all other MBA programmes, which helps us cultivate the leadership out of the raw talent that our students come with. That is one of the reasons why this elective is taken by about 95% of our students.

Additionally, our interview process is quite unique. If selected for an interview, an applicant comes to Lausanne and spends a whole day in various interview sessions. We usually have between six to nine people in those sessions. Once this process is finished, the candidate knows our final answer within two weeks.

A very intense year begins once a candidate is admitted to IMD. As mentioned earlier, our programme is very hands-on, very practical and includes many projects. It includes a three-month entrepreneurship project, which takes place from January until March. During the project our students get to work with late start-ups from the Lausanne-Geneva region, learning how to deal with business practice and ambiguity in practice.

Our programme also includes the so-called Discovery Expedition, during which our students spend two weeks in some developing country (last year the expedition took place in South Africa), working with the local government and understanding the economics of the region. Another big project at IMD that sets us apart from other MBA programmes is the so-called International Consulting Project. During the project our students spend eight weeks consulting and discussing strategy with giant multinational companies, who actually pay IMD 80,000 SWF for that service. This is a very high-level project so in order to maintain the hands-on approach, a professor is assigned to it.

Could you describe the structure of your full-time and your executive MBA?

Our MBA programme starts in January with a six-month segment that includes the fundamental business courses. There are two sets of exams during this period. Additionally, the three-month entrepreneurship project is taking place simultaneously. The students have a three-week holiday in July and come back to class in August. There is a two-week on-campus recruitment, during which companies come to IMD to recruit some of our students. The International Consulting Project takes places at the same time as the recruiting. Then, towards the end of the programme in November, our students have the opportunity to choose from a number of electives offered at IMD.

Our Executive MBA programme is modular, which makes it really flexible. It could be stretched out from 14 months to several years, depending on the availability of the students and their needs. The foundational stage includes a four-week residential module and a Programme for Executive Development, which is offered four times a year. The distance learning module lasts for five weeks and covers the four basic business courses – Marketing, Leadership, Finance and Strategy. It also includes exams. A successful completion of the exams is required for entering the Mastery stage, which takes place for 12-14 consecutive months. It is offered in November and April. The programme also includes a 10 ½ week face-to-face time (seven weeks at IMD and three and a half weeks at a discovery expedition to China, India or the Silicone Valley). The E-module of the programme consists of graded company assignments.

What types of companies employ your graduates?

About 80% of the IMD graduates head down a career development in some industry. Some of the world’s top pharmaceutical and manufacturing companies hire the IMD students. DuPont, Google, Amazon, Siemens, Samsung and Nestle are just a few names to quote as an illustration of the rank of companies that our graduates go on to work for. Some of the top-consulting firms also have IMD graduates in their recruits but the majority of our students choose to work in various industries once they finish their programme.

What advice would you give to potential candidates?

There is no formula what specific qualities a candidate should have in order to be admitted to IMD. There is a video online, which I strongly encourage aspiring IMD candidates to watch. I give advice and many practical tips, which can be extremely useful in a candidate’s application process to our programme. I keep telling people that they should at least get an admission interview if they follow the video. From then on, it is a mixture of characteristics that we are looking for. We select achievement-oriented people, who are focused on their career progress, who can sell themselves well and have good academic achievements. Also, as simple as it may sound, we look for good people, good citizens, who are bright, concise and show that raw talent, which could grow into real leadership.

What networking opportunities does IMD offer to its MBA students and graduates?

I have a favorite saying – birds of a feather flock together. Both our MBA students and the students from our executive programme are very much alike – they have the same spark and desire for success; they are all career- and goal-oriented people who use every opportunity to create valuable contacts. That is exactly what IMD enables them to do. Due to the small number of participants, all people in the programmes are really close. The MBA students have access to the Executive students that are being trained at IMD, which gives them the perfect opportunity for networking and discovering possible future employers, company co-founders or just upscale professionals.

How does IMD ensure high return on investment for its students?

There is a reason why IMD was ranked at the top of Forbes’ list for its ROI (return on investment). I believe the success of our students starts with our selection process – we only admit people that we believe have the stamina to push themselves and can measure up to the extreme intensity and high standards of our programme. Furthermore, the way we approach our students and the manners, in which we train them, create different types of managers out of them. Comparatively speaking, the IMD graduates go up the ladder much faster than their peers from other programmes. This is all for a reason – the combination of the students’ raw talent, our coaching and the hands-on way of teaching that helps them in real business during their studies, is the key to their successful professional advancement and thus high return on investment.

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