Following is an IMD MBA Diary entry cowritten by my ICP teammate, Daniel, and me. This is Daniel’s second time working with me (We were also in the same Mod II study group.) and he hasn’t strangled me yet.
You know that something has changed when you take a train during a weekday. We have become so used to being stuck in Ouchy that it felt almost awkward not to sit in a classroom all day. There was a sense of adventure and excitement in the air when we (Bryan Hassin [USA], Mupwaya Mutakwa [Zambia], Felipe Restrepo [Colombia], Daniel Thull [Germany] and our professor Corey Billington [USA]) left Lausanne for the first work-meeting with our ICP client.
The expectations for our meeting were high. Over the last months there had been some communication glitches between our client, a global chemical company code-named Pandora, and us and we were eager to get the project back on track. We used the two hour ride to Zurich in a very “swissy” train car to consult with Corey and come up with a project plan that will bring us closer to the “big win”. Had someone told us a year ago that we would be travelling first class to Zurich, talking about physical supply chain optimization and the tax-effect of principal structures, we probably would have told him to go see a doctor…
Avid diary readers might recall that we have recently seen the movie “An inconvenient Truth” by Al Gore. Although our project team had not discussed the issue openly, we did all our travel on public transportation and thus maybe helped to offset some of the carbon footprint of our colleagues who travel around the world.
The meeting with Pandora went very well. Although one of our stakeholders was out with a migraine (maybe that was due to the long list of information we were requesting from him) we were able to extract lots of useful information from them. Not least did we learn that emulsion polymers are colloidal dispersions of polymers in an aqueous medium. We expect that tidbit to be of critical importance in our future careers.
The Pandora buildings left quite an impression. Bland from the outside, they were sharp and very modern inside. Maybe a little TOO modern—the green bathroom was a bit much! Speaking of green, though, all of their buildings had green roofs. We thought this sustainability touch, coupled with the absence of a single environmental incident over their 100+-year corporate history, was surprising—and welcome—coming from a chemical manufacturer.
Lunch was a refreshing break as we spent an hour chatting up our client. The special of the day was “Fleischkäs”, which ostensibly means “meatloaf.” However, this was like no meatloaf we had ever seen. It was basically a huge hot dog, sliced into crosswise sections and served with gravy. It couldn’t compete with IMD’s lunches, but what do you expect in the cafeteria of the local water works?! Unfortunately Corey had a long conference call and couldn’t join us for lunch. He had to settle for a cheese sandwich plus a Twix – welcome to the consulting world!
Before hopping on the train to head back to Lausanne, our group relaxed by the river for about 45 minutes. We found a nice little café with outdoor seating and ordered a round of beer—except for Bryan. When told that they didn’t have any dark beer, he ordered Scotch whiskey instead. The “bourbon” on the menu came from Tennessee so he didn’t trust it—Americans! Despite the fact that he claimed to have had Macallan 12-year many times before, this was the first time that it was served A. in a champagne flute and B. accompanied by dark Lindt chocolate—a pairing that went quite well!
On the train ride home we abandoned project discussion to talk about careers. Corey was helpful in providing some of his wisdom accumulated throughout his years at IBM, HP, and Silicon Valley start-ups. His #1 piece of advice to us sounded obvious but he assured us that each year he saw students not follow it: avoid toxic companies/work environments. Avoid them like the plague. If you love what you do and are in a nurturing environment, there is no limit to what you can accomplish. You should feel your energy going up every day. If, however, you are in an exploitative, unethical, abusive, or otherwise “evil” company, your energy will go down and life will . . . suck.
This project falls into the former category. We are set to deliver millions of euros of value to our client, we have tremendous faculty support from Corey, and we are very positive as a team. Despite the fact that the solution to our client’s problem is non-obvious, our energy level for addressing it is increasing and we know that we will succeed. Now, in the meantime, we all need to work on finding similar environments for life after IMD!