On the occasion of International Women’s Day IMD caught up with Anca Burca who graduated from IMD’s MBA class of 2015. Anca focuses on Digital & Business Strategy Transformation at Optimity Advisors Europe.

IMD: Why did you decide to do your MBA at IMD?

Anca Burca: I had planned to do an MBA for many years before actually doing it. I became acquainted with IMD during an MBA Fair in Singapore, and was very impressed with the high quality and professionalism of the team representing IMD. At that time, I thought I needed to gain more experience so I could fully benefit from its leadership focus. After returning to Europe in 2011, I worked for a consulting firm specialized in customer experience in Germany, and a couple of years later I started visiting some European schools to choose the right one. The journey I had with IMD from visiting the campus, to considering applying, all the communication before and during the application process with both IMD staff and alumni were very professional, and my experience on campus during the interviewing day, were all decisive factors. In addition, assessing why I wanted to do an MBA and what I wanted to get out of it, against the educational curriculum and faculty, made me realize that the leadership stream was particularly my focus and it is what sets IMD apart. Working with the coaches and the analysts was very powerful in making me be more self-aware and also much more confident. I can definitely see the benefits of all this now, 3 years later. 

IMD: How was your experience as a woman participating in the IMD MBA?

Anca Burca: I was lucky to have been in groups that were very accepting of everyone's views. The IMD staff, faculty, coaches and analysts were all been incredibly supportive and helped me on various occasions when I needed guidance.

IMD: What leadership skills did IMD MBA provide?

Anca Burca: The leadership skills IMD provided me with helped on three dimensions: self, team and organization. I became much more self-aware, knowing what values I stand for, finding my secure base and overall being a more confident leader. At the team level, I learned what is important to have a star team and how diverse individuals can work together to make that happen. Adding this knowledge to my prior to IMD experience, I can definitely see the difference now. Being open to be challenged by the team I lead, while guiding them to achieve quality output are all part of my IMD learning. Continuous improvement and feedback sessions if done the right way are key to success, and IMD is very strong in that aspect. At the third level, the organization, I learned to look at its success factors in a much more structured way, while increasing even further my curiosity to learn what is happening outside of my organization and how those factors could impact the organization – being hyper-aware, making informed decisions, and making recommendations for fast execution. It has helped me deal with an enormous amount of information in a fast changing world, with a constructive and structured approach; overall, it helped me become a confident leader in a VUCA world.

IMD: What is your current role within your organization?

Anca Burca: I am leading consulting engagements with clients wanting to adapt their business models and be successful in the digital era, changing the way they operate, adapting the skill set and technologies they use to make informed decisions based on data. My most recent engagement has been in the Gulf region, with a leadership team in a very complex national transformation plan, with teams and experts from three continents, working on site and remotely, to deliver on a high impact project, in a very fast paced and agile environment, where business is done in a different way from the usual Western world, and hence planning and decisions all need to take that into account. I would not have been able to manage such a complex project in the typical VUCA world had I not gone through the IMD experience. It taught me to deal with unpredictable situations in a calm manner, to be better at accepting change and be able to make sound decisions, willing to adapt them along the way for the benefit of the outcome, while leading the team. Given the fast changing environment, I know that I am on a continuous learning curve myself and can always improve as a leader, but IMD gave me the tools and confidence to lead, while the organization I am in is giving me the environment to get there. 

IMD: How can business contribute to progress in closing the gender gap? What role does technology play?

Anca Burca: Most businesses have already started to assess the gender gap in their organizations, so the first step is done. What I think is necessary in all organizations is more coaching for management/ leaders in leading teams to ensure that both genders have equal voices and are equally respected. We need to see more women wanting to take a leadership role, and this is the manager's role to coach their employees to want to step up, and if they don't dare to, to try to understand why. Very frequently there are subtle messages in behaviors and language that make employees feel they cannot do it or do not want to do it and it's important to uncover these and solve them. I believe this is equally the case for management, higher management and executive roles, as we now see many women in management roles but not many in executive roles. There is a cultural element as well that needs to be dealt with, and we see a trend of women in countries where they are not well represented in management, taking bold moves to make themselves heard. Changing cultural and traditional behaviors will take time, but what we can do now is start with education programs and campaigns, and showing what the benefits of having more women in the workplace are for a nation and for women as individuals. Technology is an instrument to get there, either for the campaigns themselves, for coaching programs, and especially for making education available to people/ businesses in remote areas, for spreading information and raising awareness.

IMD: Advice for future generations of women considering to apply for the IMD MBA?

Anca Burca: Speak with as many IMD alumnae as you can, learn from their success stories and how IMD helped them be successful. Visit the school and the campus, speak with faculty, staff, and coaches. Follow the IMD MBA blog and the articles posted on social media. You will then be equipped to make your own decision. We welcome intelligent women from all around the world in the program and in the alumnae community.

Find out more about the IMD MBA