TC029-13 - IMD Business School
Alumni Stories · Leadership - Strategy

IMD’s EMBA is “A catalyst for change”

2015 Valedictorian Jamie Robertson tells how the program turns participants’ lives upside-down
March 2016

A 44 year old CEO is going through a mid-life crisis. Which cure does he choose? A Porsche or an EMBA?

CEO Jamie Robertson jokes that he chose IMD’s EMBA because it was a better investment than a Porsche in embracing his mid-life crisis.

“At my age you come to a point where your next steps are absolutely crucial,” he says, jokes aside.

Jamie stepped up to his challenge and was selected as Valedictorian of IMD’s 2015 Executive MBA class.

According to Jamie, IMD’s EMBA is such an intense and reflective experience that it forces participants to look at the parts of their lives that need changing, and then take the leap.

A force for change

“After the EMBA, I didn’t want to spend another minute doing something that I no longer enjoyed,” Jamie says. “It was a great confidence boost and learning moment. It made me realize how much opportunity is really out there in the world.”

Jamie was CEO and founder of Odgers Berndtson, a Global Executive Search firm in South Africa, until recently when the EMBA inspired him to sell the business to the management team and move to Europe to start anew.

Jamie had previously turned Odgers Berndtson’s fortunes around after taking IMD’s Mobilizing People (MP) program. After completing MP, Jamie says he went back to his company firing on all 20 cylinders. “I felt completely re-energized and was in a mode where I needed to sort everything out in the business.”

After MP Jamie was ready for another educational experience.

“I have always had a chip on my shoulder about formal education,” he says. Jamie looked at some other top schools for EMBAs but chose IMD not only because the cohort is so international but also participants use their own companies as clinics so the learning is real world.

Eye-opening experiences

Among the other unique experiences, Jamie appreciated that the program offered discovery trips to Silicon Valley, Brazil and China where he says IMD’s professors and affiliates such as Winter Nie, Carlos Braga and Jim Pulcrano offered formidable networks and access to what average executives would not get to see.

Another “cherry on the cake,” as he calls it, was the intensive multi-day crisis simulation organized by the Swiss Armed Forces in a World War II era secret bunker.

Jamie gave it his all during the EMBA and it paid off. He was honored with the top spot in the class at the graduation ceremony in November.

“I am sure I was a pain in the ass. Any chance I had I was giving feedback and complaining to faculty” he jokes. “But I wanted it to be the best experience I could have. Being named Valedictorian made me feel that all of my hard work during the EMBA was appreciated and paid off.”

Overall the EMBA enhanced Jamie’s knowledge about doing international business, but it also provided a lot more.

Great new network

“I learned more about why and how companies do acquisitions, create shareholder value, about economic models, et cetera. The EMBA changed my view of the world; when I read the paper, I see another side of things now. But it has also given me a lot of other people that I can call on for business or for personal reasons. I now have a group of great new friends from diverse age groups and 60-odd nationalities.”

Finally, Jamie has a few words for anyone considering IMD’s EMBA: “Don’t take the decision to do it lightly. It will change your life and sometimes those around you.”

So what’s next for Jamie? Will he buy the Porsche now?

The EMBA was rewarding, but he says he will take some time off to reflect and then consider potential opportunities. Buying another business based in Europe, he feels, could be the next adventure.

Find out more about the IMD EMBA program.