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Alumni Stories · Influence - Workplace Well-being - Top Team

Pay it forward

IMD scholar Mohammad Barghouthy (MBA 2021) gives back to the community by serving as alumni ambassador and providing scholarship support for future generations.
May 2023

Management consulting might be known for high levels of stress and long hours, but it hasn’t stopped Mohammad Barghouthy (MBA 2021) from switching careers and breaking into the profession. “I think I can handle the pressure for now,” he said. 

“[Management] consulting allows you to solve problems in different industries and different functions while being surrounded by like-minded people who are incredibly smart and kind,” he said. “It’s also where I’m learning the most.” 

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Barghouthy’s love of learning and keen intellectual curiosity fueled his passion to pursue his dream job in management consulting, one of the most sought-after industries for many MBA graduates. His career change was catalyzed by an MBA program he took at IMD in 2021, which he described as an “inflection point” in his life.  

“I was fortunate enough to experience [the MBA] and I wouldn’t have had access to it if it weren’t for the scholarship,” he admitted. 

MBA’s value proposition 

Born in Egypt from Palestinian origins and raised in Saudi Arabia, Barghouthy earned a degree in mechanical engineering from The American University in Cairo. After graduation, he landed a full-time job in the construction industry as a heating, ventilation and air-conditioning  project engineer in Saudi Arabia. 

“Initially, I loved it. But after three and a half years, it wasn’t rewarding anymore,” he said. “My learning curve started to flatten.” 

Struck by workplace ennui, Barghouthy thought about taking up an MBA to reboot his career. While weighing his options, he attended a seminar by Stanford Graduate School of Business that helped reframe his view of higher education. 

“It was pointed out to me that during our undergraduate days, the people with the most diverse backgrounds are likely to be the ones we’ll learn the most from, which was spot on. In a similar way, when we embark on a highly ranked MBA program, we can expect to have that experience, but on ‘steroids’,” he said. “Essentially, that was the value proposition of any top MBA school, including IMD.” 

After much contemplation, Barghouthy decided to enroll for an MBA to help him pivot to a new industry and re-energize his career. He sent applications to three business institutions, one of which was IMD. He favored IMD’s MBA for its diverse class profile and small class size, but was worried he wouldn’t be able to take up the program. 

“Essentially, that was the value proposition of any top MBA school, including IMD”

“For me, IMD was a ‘reach school’ [defined as one that] you don’t quite fit into, a place which you’re ‘intimidated’ to apply to,” he said. “Honestly, a part of me didn’t feel the value of applying. I looked at the profiles from previous MBA classes and I felt like I didn’t fit in. These people have very impressive profiles and I just couldn’t see myself there with them.”  

To his surprise, a few weeks later, Barghouthy received news that he had been offered a spot in IMD’s 2021 MBA intake on a partial scholarship. But there was another hurdle – he still needed financial support to cover the full costs of the MBA program. 

“I was happy but confused, and didn’t know what to do next… I had a budget issue as the program fees were more than I could afford,” he shared. 

After applying for financial aid from IMD, he received a call from Seán Mehan, the former Dean of IMD’s MBA program. “He wanted to find out why I was hesitant [about accepting the program offer]. He told me that in three years’ time, the financial concerns I had, such as family support and what could happen after the MBA if things didn’t go my way, would not be as significant as they seemed.” 

But as it turned out, Barghouthy’s application to secure financial assistance was approved. 

“I wouldn’t have accepted [the offer letter] because of the financing issue. And the scholarship took that [problem] away,” he said. “I received the ‘gift’ and access [into the program], and little was asked for in return, which was beautiful.” 

Coming full circle 

Drawing from his personal experience as a scholarship recipient, Barghouthy affirms that higher-education philanthropy fosters a more inclusive MBA cohort and enhances the classroom learning experience. 

“MBA programs are essentially built around the idea of diversity and having people from different backgrounds,” he said. “If the ‘price point’ for a program is set at a certain level, then you’re only attracting a certain group of people from a certain social class. The lower the financial barriers of entry for people, the more rewarding the experience for everyone on the program.” 

In his post-MBA journey, Barghouthy has found renewed purpose by giving back to the IMD community. Despite his busy schedule, he has been contributing to various IMD admissions and outreach events, where he engages and interacts with current and prospective students. “A number of people have reached out to me because they want to pursue a similar career path, or find out about my personal reflections regarding the program and my journey,” he shared. 

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Barghouthy is also following in the footsteps of his scholarship donors by providing scholarship support. Last year marked a full-circle moment when he donated to the IMD Impact Leaders of Tomorrow Scholarship Fund at the IMD 2022 Giving Day. 

He reasons that paying it forward is an expression of donor appreciation and can motivate scholarship donors to keep supporting the cause. 

“It boils down to making the donors who have contributed to the scholarship cause sense the impact that their financial aid has,” he said. “Passing it on’, so to speak, will encourage them to continue their generous donations.”