Selmona Walder (EMBA 2024) - IMD Business School
Alumni News · Leadership

The IMD Executive MBA: An adventure you will never regret

Shifting gears at different inflection points in your career is critical to your learning and your growth as a leader, says IMD EMBA Selmona Walder
May 2024

As Head of Global Business Solutions, Finance Operations and Processes with LEO Pharma, Selmona Walder has been at the helm of a large and internationally dispersed team for four years. Before that, the seasoned finance leader spent well over a decade with shipping and logistics behemoth Maersk, enjoying leadership roles in finance operations.  

Walder’s is a career characterized by consolidated expertise and excellence in people management – yet, in 2024, she is bracing herself for a significant change of direction. In a departure from the world of finance, an opportunity to move into supply chain management at the Danish pharmaceutical multinational will see her shed her team of immediate reports and move into a new type of leadership as a value stream leader for key products where she will be “exercising influence without authority.”  

“There is more than one way to be a leader,” she said. “After 20 years in finance, I felt it was time to look at the different strengths I have built and accumulated over time and play to them in new ways.” 

In assessing how to channel her strengths and embrace the opportunity to do something entirely new, Walder says she has drawn immense support and inspiration from the network she has built at IMD, a journey with the school that began in April 2023 when she joined the Executive MBA program (EMBA).   

“I’ve always been good at translating numbers to business leaders and it’s an ability that I hadn’t exploited previously. Talking to my IMD network, I drew so many insights and such a real sense of support, that I felt ready to take this risk and embrace the opportunities. It was a chance to learn,” she said. 

A scholarship as inclusive as it is empowering 

Learning is a decisive driver for Walder, professionally and personally; learning by doing has long been the hallmark of her career. Deciding to join the EMBA was fueled by a desire to broaden her perspectives and build a more holistic understanding of business. IMD offered a learning experience that ticked all the boxes: a program with the structure to expand her knowledge base and acquire an end-to-end view of her organization and industry as well as the flexibility to channel this new knowledge into direct impact by applying new insights into her day-to-day work.  

The decision to pursue the IMD EMBA was also accelerated by the offer of a scholarship, something that Walder lauds as being “just as inclusive as it is empowering.” 

“I was thrilled to receive the scholarship. It gave me the opportunity to learn from so many talented and ambitious leaders from diverse backgrounds. Scholarships like the ones at IMD also contribute to a strengthened sense of community.” 

As Walder explains, everyone benefits from programs like the IMD EMBA Scholarship, from the individuals who may not otherwise be able to finance the opportunity to the organizations that employ them and can leverage new knowledge and perspectives – and even IMD itself, as it builds cohorts with truly diverse backgrounds and perspectives to share. There’s also a sense of responsibility that the scholarship engenders, she adds, that serves as further encouragement to do your best and get the most out of the EMBA experience. 

“The scholarship really helps, it means you can take that leap and invest in yourself and your career. It also means that others are invested in you – that others are betting on you too – so you feel the drive to do your very best.” 

For Walder, part of doing her best involves exploring new ways of thinking and doing and leveraging the challenges and demands that the program brings to connect with different functions and colleagues within her organization. Part of the EMBA is about developing a bigger-picture view of the business. This has led Walder to connect with new colleagues and decision-makers, from marketing to strategy. As a result, she is building a new network within the company. 

“You can end up having quite a guarded view as a senior leader, and in your day-to-day, you don’t often get to connect with different leaders in your organization. IMD gives you the impetus to push the boundaries and make new ties, both at work and within your cohort.” 

Leading with confidence, ambition, and grace  

Being part of an international cohort and the interchange of experience and perspective with diverse but equally driven professionals has made Walder “more comfortable” with ambition.  The experience has also increased her confidence in her abilities 

“The program gives you a degree of safety but also pushes you out of your comfort zone,” she explained. “Everyone here has an ambitious goal in sight, we are all keen to grow, to learn, and to make real transitions in our careers and our lives. Part of the experience is accepting that what got you here won’t get you there and embracing your ambitions, your goals, and the risks ahead. Everyone in my cohort leaned into the shared experience and supported one other.” 

The EMBA has helped Walder plot her pivots, all while delivering concrete and continuous benefits to her current role and function. Working on each assignment has seen her deliver value back to the company, where she learned to become “something of a consultant” in the way that she leverages the teamwork and problem-solving elements within the program and applies new insights to workplace business challenges.   

As she braces for the transition into her new role, Walder also credits the program for accelerating her understanding of what it means to lead. She says she is looking forward to coaching, mentoring, and exerting her leadership as well as working in greater collaboration with leaders in different functions.  

“The EMBA has really helped me prepare for this shift. It’s opened my eyes to the different muscles that you can use in leadership. It has shown me new ways to exercise influence – with colleagues, with the board, with functional leaders – but without the formal authority I have had until now. It has also shown me the importance of grace.” 

A personal takeaway that Walder is quick to recognize is that effective leadership embraces failure, individually and in others, as a chance to learn and grow. Plus, she says, the higher you go in any organization, the more your reactions and responses carry weight.  

“In a sense, the EMBA is just as much about seeing and recognizing your blind spots as a leader and developing the tools to work with these. The EMBA is a challenge to be truly open and to bring your entire self to the learning. In my experience, engagement is met with engagement.” 

Looking forward to a new phase in her professional life as she completes the EMBA in 2024, Walder is grateful for the opportunity that the scholarship and IMD haves afforded her: the investment in herself that she has been privileged to make, and the spirit of learning and adventure that the experience has engendered. 

“I would encourage anyone to embrace a learning journey like this because it is an adventure you will not regret,” she said. “You will not leave the program the way you started it.”