Excitement, emotion, pride, celebration, every year the IMD MBA Graduation Ceremony is a special event, marking the end of a learning journey and the start of an optimistic new chapter.

Bringing together this year’s class of 90 and the loved ones who supported them through the challenging year, the 2019 edition was no exception.

This year the message was clear – don’t get confused about what success means and make sure you take your life into your own hands if you want to find professional and personal fulfilment.  

Be proud

“You worked very hard to get this degree,” said IMD President Jean-François Manzoni. “And you should be proud of it. Competitors, life, bad luck, will be able to take a number of things away from you in the years to come. But this degree, this achievement, nobody will ever be able to take that away. You achieved that and it will last forever.”

Sharing three messages with the graduates, Professor Manzoni started by saying: “Be proud of IMD and be proud of your degree … be proud of who we are and use that pride as a continued encouragement for you to live up to that heritage and our collective purpose.”

Manzoni also encouraged graduates to embrace the IMD alumni community. “There is an amazing professional and personal richness in this group. Nurture it and make it grow.”

Professor Manzoni also stressed that the graduates remain clear about their objectives and trade-offs, and not to neglect themselves, their families, their communities or the world for too long, “or it will come back to haunt you”.

“The search for professional success is a demanding master and a relentless one,” he said.

Keynote speaker Manel Adell, Chairman of Rocksolid Group, echoed Professor Manzoni’s sentiments. Life is too short to strive for someone else’s goals, he said.

After completing his MBA at IMD in 1994, Adell went on to be Executive Director at Bang & Olufsen. He later founded Starlab Barcelona, a technology and research company and was CEO of Desigual from 2002-2012 where he won the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award. In 2014 he started “the world’s first startup decelerator,” Decelera. Adell is now Chairman of Rocksolid Group.

Adell also shared three pieces of advice with the graduates:

Be humble – “Only by recognizing that success is collective, circumstantial and temporary will you enjoy it. Without humility it will be difficult to recognize your mistakes and those are the only source of learning.”

Be brave – Citing an example from his own career journey, Adell told the audience that if he had not sold his apartment to finance an early business venture, he would not be on the stage talking to the 2019 class of graduates.

Don’t waste your time – “Do something you’re passionate about, and do it now,” he said. A person can only do their best if they have the freedom to be creative, Adell said.

A whirlwind year

After collecting their diplomas, graduate Richard Pickering took to the stage to deliver a speech on behalf of his fellow classmates. “In times of stress small acts of kindness can go a long way,” he said.

For Pickering another highlight was a class trip “around the world in two weeks” visiting the innovation hubs of Silicon Valley, Shenzhen and Dublin.

Summing up his 12 months at IMD, Pickering said: “The MBA has been a special year, whether it was our experience working with some of Europe’s most interesting startups, the opportunity to work with UEFA in the annual innovation challenge, or the international consulting projects, which took teams of all of us around the world in different directions.

“The diversity of experience at IMD has changed us for the better.”

Closing the ceremony, Dean of the MBA program Seán Meehan said: “Believe in yourself and you will make great things happen. The world needs people like you to take responsibility and you need to make a choice now to accept that burden of opportunity.”

Watch the full ceremony here.