IMD International

IMD MBA graduate: “Everything suddenly becomes possible”

Apple executive Olivier Guillebert tells how IMD’s “boutique” quality shaped his career

October 6, 2014

"There are times when everything suddenly becomes possible," says Olivier Guillebert of the year 2010 when he started his IMD MBA. After two years of careful planning and preparation, his personal and financial situations were finally right for a new start.

Guillebert had carefully researched the schools offering MBAs and had concluded that many, including INSEAD and Chicago Booth Business School, catered to candidates much younger than he, who already had 11 years of professional experience. "I decided on IMD because I wanted to be in a more senior environment," he says.

Entrepreneurial drive

Guillebert had created his first company before he had even finished his business studies at EDHEC in Lille, in the north of France. He launched a relocation start-up to eliminate the administrative hassle for people relocating inside France, of which there are more than six million a year. "Through my company, I was the one signing off on the training programs of my fellow students, even though I was only two-thirds through the course," he says with a smile.

Guillebert worked hard on his relocation agency, but when an employment opportunity came up via the alumni network of his school, he decided to give it a try. He was only 23 and for the next six years he worked for the family-owned DIY retail company, Leroy Merlin.

Given the culture of the enterprise, he continued to work in an entrepreneurial capacity, which was amazing, he says. "I was in a position to decide everything: marketing, pricing, strategy, hiring." He appreciated the values of the company and the team spirit that they inspired. Although more than 100 employees were soon reporting to him, he still aspired to an MBA.

The IMD experience

The second reason Guillebert decided on Lausanne was the idea of a 'Boutique MBA'. "Many people perceive big schools as an advantage, especially when it comes to networking, but I was looking for quality work in small groups," he says. He appreciated an environment where he worked very hard, but got to know everybody: "You learn a lot more in a melting pot like IMD." He recognizes, however, that recruitment after business school can be local and encourages those with international careers to stay on the lookout for opportunities elsewhere.

New leadership style

Guillebert is now Senior Manager for Apple Europe and says that what he learned at IMD was perhaps more important to his current employer than the diploma itself. He learned during his studies in Lausanne that the key to good leadership is not a rigid hierarchy, but to be creative and energetic so that people want to work with you.

"You lead by example, by influencing people in a very collaborative way and by convincing everyone," he says. Being well-tuned to the new leadership style and out-of-the-box thinking allowed Guillebert's recruitment process at Apple to go relatively swiftly.

His entrepreneurial drive nudges him now and then to remind him that he would like to start a business again, someday. "You never forget that roller-coaster feeling. That's really where you have the most fun," he says.

Olivier Guillebert is Senior Manager at Apple Europe in Paris. He attended the Biennial International Alumni Event focusing on the digital revolution on 26th and 27th September at the IMD campus in Lausanne.

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