- IMD Business School
Alumni Stories · Leadership

A deep dive into the ocean of possibilities

Nestlé Scholarship for Women holder, Sonia Sachdeva, finds IMD galvanizing
March 2018

IMD is proud to honor Sonia Sachdeva, IMD MBA 2018 candidate, on International Woman’s Day.

Sonia was chosen as the recipient of the Nestlé Scholarship for Women among many outstanding candidates. Initiated by IMD alumni in 1997, this scholarship aims at attracting young women leaders to pursue their professional journey at IMD.

“Diversity is like adding pixels to a digital picture – the more they are in number the sharper is the image,” she states encouragingly.

Sonia welcomes transformational experiences. Although only two months into the MBA program, she shares her enthusiasm about an environment that she thinks will lead to a true metamorphosis.

New horizons

After a successful seven and a half year long career across multinational organizations, Sonia was looking for a new challenge; she decided to take time off to acquire new skills and to learn from the best minds across the world. She was encouraged to take the plunge by her mentor, who challenged her, and her husband, who supported her in her journey to IMD.

Originally from Simla, a small hill town in northern India, Sonia’s talent and appetite for academic pursuits earned her a passage to New Delhi, where she graduated with honors in Economics from Lady Sriram College – one of the best colleges in  India.

She believes that it was the ethos at her alma mater that created the bedrock for her self-belief and sense of righteousness – two traits that still help her navigate through the challenges in the workplace as well as in her personal life.

Sonia’s first employment stint was a summer internship with Johnson & Johnson during her master’s course in human resource management. She worked with a group of dynamic and highly inspiring people, who helped shape her interest in the field. “I am lucky that I found mentors very early in my career. They have guided me in my professional journey for nearly a decade now.”

After working for a year at a greenfield bank in Mumbai, she moved back to New Delhi to join Philips, embracing the opportunity to work with the Dutch conglomerate and gaining multi industry exposure.

For the next four and a half years, her career progressed steadily and she was also invited to play a significant role in the diversity and inclusion agenda for the company – becoming the youngest member of that team. “The program needed to be attractive, but more importantly it had to be sustainable.”

It was a difficult decision for her to leave Philips, but following her wedding, Sonia wanted to move back to Mumbai. With this move started her next two-year experience with Cochlear Medical Devices that she describes as transformational, “It was like joining a startup where everything was extremely fast paced”. She took on the role of Human Resources Lead for South Asia, a region full of challenges.

“Here I learnt the dynamics of a rapidly growing business and sharpened my ability to steer opinions – even amongst teams with managers who had twice as much experience as I did. It was a steep learning curve!”

Her career advancement was proceeding smoothly when she decided it was time to look for new horizons.

Why IMD?

“I was looking for an intellectually stimulating environment that would challenge me and allow me to deep dive into an ocean of opportunities.”

She reached out through her network and connected with people who had attended international MBA programs; the most glowing recollections all seemed to come from participants from IMD.

Sonia was really impressed by the meticulous assessment process at IMD. Although the application required considerable effort, Sonia felt rewarded: “I felt that IMD cherished my diverse background and that I could really add a new flavor to the class.”

IMD’s responsiveness was also a pleasant surprise. She had an answer within a week of the assessment day. “The customer delight factor made choosing IMD even simpler.”

Sonia adds that “The Nestlé Scholarship for Women has not only been a great financial aid, but also a huge motivation as I get started on this journey. IMD’s intent of rewarding meritorious students is clearly shown by it increasing the pool of  scholarships for the upcoming MBA class even further.”

First impressions of IMD?

“What I appreciate most is IMD’s intent to help us dive straight into real learning – academic as well as personal discovery.”

Sonia observes that the modules allow her to relate theoretical know-how to real world scenarios.

Another aspect that she finds inspiring is the multifaceted class profile: “The background of my fellow MBA candidates makes our class unique!”

She is also a big fan of the leadership stream that gives her access to personal coaches who  provide constant and constructive feedback through the year.

“I’m really impatient to meet the better version of myself.”

The next step?

Sonia admits that her real desire is to manage a business end to end – including the personnel, the economics and the operational aspects of it. She strives for complete ownership. Given her passion for health and wellbeing, the industry where she spent a significant part of her career before IMD, she says,

“I’d like to bring together all the expertise that I am gaining at IMD and impact businesses that transform the lives of people. Healthcare access is a fundamental right and everyone must have it.”

It’s early days yet, but Sonia marvels at all the “Aha!” moments that she has experienced so far, moments where she has learned to look at things differently.