When I left the US for Switzerland, many people asked to be updated by email every once in a while about how I am doing over here. I finally sent out my first update, one third of the way through the program. The content was as follows:
To those who expressed interest in receiving periodic updates from me, here is my first. As I near the end of my fourth month in Lausanne, I feel incredibly positive about my decision to come here. This program is exactly as advertised: intense, international, very personal, and 100% focused on leadership. On paper it was exactly what I was looking for; in reality is has turned out to be that and more.
Highlights so far have included (roughly chronologically):
· Outdoor leadership/group dynamics exercises in the snowy mountains
· Very personal, very deep analysis of myself, my subconscious, how I behave, how I react, what motivates me, etc. by psychologists, psychoanalysts, transactional analysts, Jungian analysts, professors, leadership coaches, career coaches, and amateur students—and amateur me!
· Very personal, sometimes painful, but incredibly useful feedback from peers, professors, and coaches regarding my leadership style and effectiveness
· Lunch every day at a campus restaurant that would give even the finest private restaurants a run for their money
· Learning so much from my classmates—89 successful business leaders from 44 different countries and a wealth of professional/educational backgrounds
· Contributing my own experience/perspective to their learning
· Running along the gorgeous lake with snow-capped mountains as a backdrop
· Excellent courses, cases, and projects from world-class faculty
· Developing personal relationships with said faculty
· Weekend-long, sleepless group exercise to test our performance under extreme stress (another one is scheduled for next weekend!)
· Visits from friends and loved ones—especially my birthday weekend in Lugano
· Helping the CEO of a fledgling startup software company analyze its market, choose an appropriate strategy, raise money, and implement the recommended strategy
· Helping the CEO of a huge, global chemicals company save hundreds of millions of euros by optimizing its supply chain and procurement organization
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, however. Aside from the toll taken by the constant barrage of work, there are some additional downsides to being here:
· I miss my friends and loved ones. The people here are wonderful and I’m sure that many of the relationships I’m forging will last a lifetime. However, they are no substitute for the wonderful people already in my life.
· I miss my alma mater. Although I still serve on several Rice alumni organization boards remotely (via email and conference calls), it’s not the same as being involved in person. This year will be the first that I have missed Beer Bike, Commencement, and—probably—Homecoming. Missing baseball season is tough enough (The Owls are currently ranked #4, go Rice!) but football season will be even harder.
· There is not time to do everything I want to do while I’m here. I spend most of my time working at school or on school-related activities. As a consequence, my French isn’t improving much, I haven’t met too many locals, and I really haven’t traveled at all. For that matter, there are some courses on which I am not focusing as much as I would like, again due to time constraints. A great deal of this program seems to be about forced prioritization: you can’t do it all so you’d better figure out what really matters to you and do that really well.
· My wine consumption is down—WAY down. Certain informants keep me apprised of the menus of the wine dinners at the Petroleum Club of Houston so I can at least live vicariously through them. However, Lausanne is so beautiful that it’s a crime not to be spending each sunset on the lake with a picnic dinner and some great wine. Once I have a chance to come up for air I may have to make up for lost time!
One question I receive from a number of people back home is “What will you be doing after IMD?” December, after all, isn’t that far away. We spend a significant amount of time here working with coaches to think strategically about our careers. What careers, roles, industries, and geographies are the best fit for our personalities, ambitions, motivators, lifestyles, skills, and values?
My goal is to leverage my success in leadership and entrepreneurship to make a big, positive impact on the world. This could be by staying in technology but leading larger and more global organizations. Or I am also open to working in areas that match with my interests and experience: energy (especially alternative), nanotechnology, the arts, wine, football, and space exploration. A great fit, even in an established company, would be a role that entails some form of entrepreneurship and innovation–perhaps an American company with a new initiative to go international or vice versa to build on my international background.
Another path that interests me is venture capital. I could use my entrepreneurial experience and the constant influx of new projects would appeal to my desire for a dynamic work environment. It probably wouldn’t offer many leadership opportunities but there may some firms that take a more “hands-on” approach with their investments by providing a management team. I’m still investigating this option.
I believe that the US (Houston, Austin, San Diego, and Silicon Valley are most likely.) will be my ultimate destination but I am open to taking the “scenic” route and working in Europe (UK, Italy, France, or maybe even Switzerland) for a while first. This is all very much in flux so I offer no guarantees that it won’t have completely changed by my next update!