- IMD Business School
Alumni Stories

Alan Kallir (MBA 1993) departs after 20 years as President of the IMD Alumni Association of Australia

The outgoing President reflects on the highlights and challenges.
5 min.

Alan Kallir’s journey to IMD began in the early 1980s when he was awarded the Swiss Government Scholarship for highly qualified postgraduate students at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zürich.  

The ETH is where the Australian embarked on his PhD in physics, chemistry, and computer science – and bravely so, with little to no knowledge of the German language. He overcame the challenge in a unique way.  

“I made a pretty serious effort not to speak English, even in the lab. I would speak my version of German with all my colleagues,” Kallir said with a smile.

His persistence paid off and he became a fluent speaker, managing Swiss German well enough that his Swiss friends conversed with him in their native dialect.   

Living in Switzerland was a rewarding experience, and he stayed in his new home country for 13 years, during which he worked for Sandoz, UBS, and Hayek Engineering.

In early 1994, shortly after completing his MBA at IMD in 1993, Kallir returned to Australia as his elderly mother, already a widow, was falling ill and joined McKinsey & Company as a management consultant. Subsequently, he founded his management consultancy, Insight Partners, which was initially based in Sydney and Zürich and continues to operate.

A lucky opportunity  

It was by a stroke of good luck that he became President of what was then the IMD Alumni Association of Australasia.   

In early 2004, the other members of the association’s committee wanted to move on, so he became the “last one standing”. However, he wasn’t daunted by the challenge.   

“It’s an honorary position, and I’ve kept going because I’ve enjoyed it so much,” he said.  

One of his first tasks as President was to get rid of membership fees: “From then on, basically any alumni in Australia were automatically considered a member,” he recalled.  

Kallir also wanted to continue the previous committee’s objectives to ensure alumni events were first and foremost learning opportunities, and that the benefits exceeded the costs for all participants.  

“When you come to an event, you’ve got to experience something; that’s the benefit. On the other hand, there’s the cost, not only the dollars but also the cost of people’s time and logistics,” he said.  

“About 30-40 years ago, everybody was working in the city, but now our offices are more spread out, and people also work from home, especially after COVID.  

“The logistics of reaching the city, which can take up to nearly an hour depending on how far away people live, might make individuals contemplate whether the cost of their time and travel justifies attending a lunch event in the CBD.  

“Nowadays, you also have the alternative to run an event over the internet, but this means you then miss out on the networking. It’s a hard nut to crack!”   

Consistency is key  

Kallir’s original model was to organize four events per year. The planning of these was inspired by IMD’s Professor Emeritus of Innovation Management, Bill Fischer, and his teachings about excellence in manufacturing.  

“There’s a strategy in manufacturing: consistently doing the same thing. That’s a measure of a quality organization – consistency of output. I wanted this for our events, and I think the whole thing worked exceptionally well,” Kallir explained.  

The place, time, and process for the events were always consistent. The only variables were the theme and speaker.  

“The purpose of these functions was to improve learning and knowledge, not marketing,” Kallir recalled. “For this reason, I declined consultants who wanted to use an alumni event as a marketing activity.”  

Reflecting on what he has enjoyed most during his 20 years as president, a significant part has been the wonderful people with whom he has spent time.  

“I enjoyed meeting and socializing with the alumni, many of whom became my friends,” he said.  

Kallir has also taken great pride and enjoyment in assisting younger alumni climbing their career ladder and seeking guidance.  

“One of the things I did was to offer them the opportunity to speak at our events. Then, in modern language, I coached them,” he added.  

“It was a development opportunity for them, and by coaching them, I hope they got something out of it. I didn’t set myself up to coach; things just happened that way.”  

Unexpected and spontaneous events during Kallir’s time at the helm have been both exciting and, at times, nerve-wracking.  

“I’m using my Swiss analogy here,” he laughed. “It looks difficult if you’re standing at the bottom of a mountain, looking up. But when you reach the top, you realize it was not too hard. If you’ve done these sorts of things, climbing up and down, a few times, it gets much easier.”  

IMD would like to thank Alan Kallir immensely for his 20 years of service as President of the Alumni Association of Australia and wish him all the best in his future endeavors.