- IMD Business School
Alumni Stories · Leadership

Seeing the bigger picture – “an unforgettable once in a lifetime experience”

Javier Sanchez Castro, EMBA 2018 on being a better leader and his quest for lifelong learning.
February 2020

Javier Sanchez Castro’s career has been full of twists and turns, but one thing stands out – his thirst for learning.

His illustrious academic and professional journey includes a PhD in Biomedical Engineering from EPFL, a stint as a Researcher at Harvard Medical School, a role developing innovative startups and management positions at Philips and Merck and time working at the Global Fund to Fight Aids and Tuberculosis.

Javier has never stopped his quest for learning along the way. In addition to obtaining his IMD EMBA in 2018, he also recently earned project management and scrum certifications.

He is currently Director of Engineering at Nexthink, which was the result of a research project conducted at EPFL. Headquartered in Lausanne, the company raised US$85 million in 2018 and has a mission to help IT teams create seamless digital environments so people can focus on projects that matter most to them.

During his EMBA, Javier did his ‘cultural assessment’ assignment at Nexthink, which was also a former winner of the IMD Startup Competition.

As part of his assignment, Javier interviewed 20 people all the way up to the CEO over the course of four days. The report was followed with a presentation of his findings to the company’s C-Levels and Head of Human Resources.

Following that successful experience, the company created a position for Javier, and he has been with the company ever since.

IMD recently caught up with Javier following to discuss his new role and completing his Executive MBA at IMD.

What are the challenges you’ve faced in your career that led you to IMD?

Throughout my professional career I have been taking roles with increasing levels of responsibility. Although I had a solid engineering background, with a MSc and a PhD, and an educational path in renowned institutions (UPC, EPFL, Harvard), I was missing the bigger picture: how all the levers of a business are intertwined, so that you are able to understand the impact and reach of your decisions and the decisions of others.

What were some of the highlights?

It is difficult to express it in words – you have to live it. You learn a lot in the onsite sessions at IMD and sharing with the amazing professionals of your cohort (and other cohorts). But when you are trying to understand how to do business in China, when you have to pitch a startup in front of real investors in Silicon Valley, when you are managing an airport crisis from a Swiss army bunker in the mountains, or you are just left in the middle of a Kenyan furniture market to understand in a couple of hours how the business works and who makes the money, then you realize that this program is different. It’s an unforgettable once-in-a-lifetime experience.

How have you changed?

Well, the program changed a lot of things. Most importantly, it helped me to understand better what a leader should be, and how to walk the talk. If I have to highlight only one impact and learning, it is that the program helped me balance and find the way to become a better professional and better human being.

From a purely professional perspective, I started an amazing new challenge at a company with hypergrowth, with all the difficulties of scaling up, from startup to the next IT unicorn and potential IPO, as Director of Engineering. The impact of the program was evident here. I did one of my EMBA assignments with them, on cultural transformation. After spending some days at the company using the methodologies, tools and learnings acquired at IMD, I presented the findings and recommendations of my assessment to the CEO and C-levels. Weeks later I signed a contract with them and today I am contributing to Nexthink’s amazing story from within, helping them to reach the next level.