- IMD Business School
Alumni Stories · Leadership

“IMD is challenge, transformation and growth”

Breaking down barriers: COO Ramiro Villagra on choosing the world's most transformative MBA program
February 2018

Ramiro Villagra knew straightaway that the IMD MBA was exactly what he was looking for. The comprehensive program with an emphasis on leadership was the perfect match. After four years as COO of Tecnovial, Chile’s leading supplier of safety barriers and corrugated steel structures, a position that he held already at the age of 27, he felt the need to complete his technical expertise with further self-development.

“IMD was the right place for me to be.”

From Chief Development Engineer to COO in three years

Born to a Catholic family in a small town in the south of Chile, Ramiro owes the chances that he was given to several people who believed in him and who encouraged his academic excellence.

He was very driven and always aimed to be among the best, always looking for new challenges, adding running to his activities while still pursuing his studies.

When it was time for university, he decided to attend the top engineering school in Santiago, where he was awarded one of the scholarships for the best 100 students.

But when he finished his degree in civil engineering – working throughout his studies to support himself – he already knew that he was more interested in management. He was given a chance by the CEO of Tecnovial, who had been one of his university professors. Within three years, Ramiro was made COO, in charge of 70% of the personnel of the company.

“Things went very fast for me, I was very committed to my goals, but also quite stubborn.”

There were difficult times as well, when a strike took place and lasted 45 days, putting the entire environment in danger. He had to manage the conflict, while also looking after those who had chosen not to strike.

“I realized that people are the most important and challenging asset to manage.”

Time for change

“Periods of crisis are when you ask yourself what you want your life to be, what you want to do next.”

Ramiro decided to gain further experience and to develop on a personal level, and although Tecnovial tried to get him to stay with the company, he wanted to be in charge of his decisions and choices and decided to aim for the best MBA.

He chose IMD for the real-life experience that it offers, the role playing and leadership skills.

“IMD was, by far, my favorite option.”

Thanks to the Woods Staton scholarship, designed to encourage entrepreneurship in IMD applicants from Latin America, Ramiro was able to secure the funds and financial freedom that will allow him to choose the most rewarding and meaningful professional path after the MBA.

“I’m really honored to have been selected among many other highly qualified applicants.”

A good fit

Ramiro has had the privilege of studying and working with brilliant individuals, but he believes that an exceptionally high level of talent is to be found at IMD.

“The faculty is amazing, really first class.”

“What impresses me most is the class profile: my fellow MBA 2018 classmates are the most interesting group of people I have ever known, and with so many different stories. They are also very complete, equally interested in so many areas, including science and sports. It’s great to be with them!”

How to engage in human relationships in a competitive environment is a priority for Ramiro and he says that he is finding the keys in the IMD leadership stream. “I have been able to discover some aspects of myself that can be of value to others.”

He remembers an incident when an employee at Tecnovial said that it was because of him that his work had become more appreciated in the company. He would like to live such moments again.

His dream would be to start a company where people could take pride in their work. “I feel that my time has come to give some meaning to others, as well as to myself.”

Ramiro appreciates the time that the IMD MBA is giving him to think deeply of what he wants to do and where he wants to spend his energies.

“IMD is very unique and I feel honored to be here.”

Every year, IMD’s MBA program enrolls 90 mature individuals, with an average work experience of 7 years, broad international exposure and recognized leadership potential. They invest 11 months of rigorous work to acquire a solid and actionable education that is research-based but practice-focused. They work with coaches and analysts to develop themselves and each other. We offer a state-of-the-art career counselling process and access to IMD’s community of business executives and corporate sponsors. At the end, we develop leaders who have a desire to make a positive impact in the world.