The agility to seize unexpected opportunities - IMD Business School
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The agility to seize unexpected opportunities

Moving the EMBA discovery expedition to Dubai helped take Sarah Luvisotto’s career in an unexpected direction.
April 2022

When Sarah Luvisotto embarked on her EMBA program, she hoped it might take her career in an international direction.

During the course, Luvisotto – whose succession of previous roles had encompassed advertising and PR agencies, FMCG brands and international schools, as well as running a consultancy and co-founding a promising start-up – decided to explore opportunities in the learning industry.

Her career strategist, Céline Beaurain, put her in touch with an IMD alumnus working at start-up Artemis Education in the Middle East.

“We met and I had zero career agenda,” recalled Luvisotto. “I wanted to understand what was on the minds of leaders in the education sector. The company was based in an area of the world in which I previously had no interest in working, but I was intrigued.”

‘Can do’ mentality

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the traditional EMBA Discovery Expeditions to Kenya and Israel had been cancelled and replaced by a trip to Dubai. Being a short trip away from Artemis Education HQ in Doha, Luvisotto decided to hop on a plane to meet the company’s C-suite. This turned out to be easier said than done.

“When I arrived at the border in Qatar, I was refused entry on the ground because of a crazy rule that said you cannot remain in the country for less than four hours,” said Luvisotto. “I tried everything, charm and all, but of course the Qatari custom officers were having none of it.”

Not to be deterred, Luvisotto booked an extra plane ticket, made it across the border and rushed to her meeting. As a true entrepreneur, she managed to make the most of the situation and gained valuable insights from the roadblocks thrown in her way. “Things were completely off track. But it was a chance to grasp information on a different level. It was an acid test of how we would work together when things don’t go as planned: would we fix things and move fast, or lose focus and get bogged down? I had all the answers I needed right there and then. Something that had stayed with me from the leadership stream was that everything is there if only we are willing to look.”

So, after initially ruling out the Middle East as a place to work, Luvisotto credited the Discovery Expedition for providing her with fresh perspectives. “IMD showed us how dynamic and happening the region was,” she explained. “In a way, I kind of found that ‘can do’ mentality that I experienced while living New York, and that I needed to progress to the next stage in my career. In the Middle East, everything needs building – and people make it happen at an unthinkable pace compared to Europe.”

Sense of adventure

Part of the attraction of the new role was also a sense of adventure. Luvisotto has never taken the secure path; early in her career, she left a successful job as deputy director of leading Swiss PR agency Farner Consulting to move to New York and attend Columbia Business School. Later, when the opportunity came to launch disruptive real estate company kiiz, she grabbed it.

She also listened to her gut. The meetings with Artemis Education emboldened her in ways that other offers didn’t. She felt she could make a positive impact and keep growing – a major driver in her career decisions up to now.

“I am not oblivious to the personal and professional challenges of moving to a new geography, with a new company.  To me, this is not about being brave or daring. It’s about the irresistible pull of getting an inch closer to the extraordinary,” she said. “If you keep doing the same things all the time, you are missing out on the chance of being transformed and deploying your full potential.”

Change as a catalyst for growth

Luvisotto’s career is marked by taking on roles at companies at times of accelerated growth. With more and more people joining the ranks of the affluent middle class around the world, the market for private education has quadrupled in size over the last twenty years, providing opportunities for relatively new firms like Artemis Education to meet that demand by building a network of international schools. “A growing number of parents are recognizing that there is more to education than passing on knowledge. It’s about building character by exposing our children to experiences beyond the classroom, something international schools excel at,” she explained.

As the Head of Global Marketing and Communications at Artemis Education, she is now leading the group’s corporate communications and building marketing capabilities across the EMEA region to deliver strategic initiatives, starting with exciting realizations underway in Qatar and Portugal.

Luvisotto has regularly invested in her own education throughout her career and credits the IMD EMBA for transforming her as a person. She said the EMBA journey gave her a greater understanding of her strengths. “It’s like being a rock over which the waves keep crashing. I feel a bit more polished now. I received valuable feedback about what authentic leadership would feel like to those around me. It gave me the impetus I was asking for to spread my wings.”