2019 Best EMBAs: Marco Amici, IMD

Marco Amici, PhD

Institute for Management Development – IMD Lausanne (Switzerland)

“In any project, details are irrelevant, until the point where they become essential.”

Age: 42

Hometown: Terni, Italy

Family Members: Irena (wife, PhD in Chemistry, Scientist), Roberta Maria (daughter, we could not agree on one name hence the double one), Leila (cat, adopted as stray and now a spoiled member of the family).

Fun fact about yourself:

I played competitive rugby in France and Italy and I am a certified Crossfit® coach. Prior to embarking on the EMBA, I coached 2-3 fitness classes a week (circa 100 classes/year) in a small boutique gym in Zürich, Switzerland. Attendees were mostly financial and marketing executives from Zürich: I made many interesting connections while I was challenging them to their physical and mental limits. I learned some unexpected lessons on how to deal with highly-testosterone fueled individuals, to move their ego aside and to encourage them to come back for more.

I have a penchant for perfumes and essences: I routinely collect oils wherever my travels take me and I do extract my own essential oils (sometimes it is better to buy them, as my process is still not fully refined and results can be…well…disgusting). During my university years, I have been designing and manufacturing tailor-made perfumes for friends and family.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Master in Materials Engineering, University of Perugia, Italy

Ph.D. in Polymer Chemistry, National Institute of Applied Sciences, INSA Lyon, France (thanks to a grant from European Commission through the 6th Research Framework Program, a.k.a. “Marie Curie” grants)

Certified ISO 9001 auditor

Certified Six Sigma Green Belt Project Leader

Where are you currently working? Dow formerly part of “DowDupont”), Horgen (Switzerland), currently on a four-year assignment to Dow Belgium. Global Marketing Leader for Packaging and Specialty Plastics business unit (ca. 20 B$ business unit)

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

24in24: For three years in a row, myself, my wife, and a bunch of close friends organized this event (24in24) in Switzerland: a 24-hour “marathon” of Crossfit®. The goal is to keep your energy level in check, keep refueling the body and the soul…and always keep in mind the target. Over the last three years, we have raised 15k CHF to donate to an impoverished area of central Malawi in order to improve sustainable agriculture and education.

Many of my EMBA classmates, despite their experience and brilliant minds, were not trained in public speaking. As I have extensive training in this area, I volunteered to deliver two sessions, half-a-day each, to my classmates and proposed that the attendees contribute a donation to a charity. We collected approximately 2k CHF. In addition, we had good fun and, for me, it was rewarding to see the improvement of their skills and the generally higher confidence in public speaking.

Project Butterfly is a voluntary project coordinated by Dow to promote waste collection and recycling in developing countries. It consists of waste cleanups (beaches, marshes, beaches) and is coupled with an educational session for local elementary and middle school students. I have participated in three different sessions and look forward to the additional two projects planned for this year.

In 2016-2017, with other three friends, we founded Gelbepass, a start-up aiming to sell unused spots in fitness classes at the last minute (less than 48 hours ahead). It started originally in Switzerland and then later expanded to Austria and Germany. Despite careful planning, Gelbepass never made it to the users: we underestimated a competitor, resulting in a much higher initial investment (500 kCHF vs 100kCHF originally planned) to capture a large user base quickly.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? My daughter Roberta Maria was born during the EMBA program. One month later, I was moved from EMEA to global responsibilities. When Roberta came into our lives, I wanted to be an active caregiver and participate actively in parenting. I enjoyed studying with her strapped to my torso, pacing the room with the books or iPad in my hands. I took global calls while bottle-feeding her…and once, in a global video-call with my wife traveling abroad, Roberta decided it would be a good moment to play with some wooden toys and our cat just beneath my desk…with all the noise ensuing and the laughs from the team online.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Over an extended career, there are many…but the first one has always a special place.

My first corporate job after my Ph.D. was in R&D at a chemical multinational.

The first project assigned: a new plastic for automotive applications. It involved four chemists in two labs working on it. We found almost immediately the technical solution to the market requirements…Eureka, you would say! Now, just produce it and sell it! Easy, right?

Well, the fun had just begun. The project got attention from our leadership team, so we were quickly staffed with a large team. Marketing stepped in, and manufacturing too…then purchasing, IP, and sales…

As the project leader, I stepped up from a team of four to a team of 24…in three different locations and eight functions. We were working day, night, and weekends on the project. I was at the core of it, orchestrating all the technical work, authoring patents, supporting marketing, assisting pilot customers with trials, carrying 20 kg bags between manufacturing and R&D labs for testing (to spare a few hours in internal logistics), and negotiating new purchasing requirements for raw materials. It was exciting beyond imagination. My wife and I would joke that this project was my second Ph.D. in innovation management.

Just one year after we started, with five international patents protecting the new product line, we launched the new plastic at the world’s most important fair for plastics, the K-Show.

Who was your favorite MBA professor?

Stefan Michel: Stefan is at the heart of the IMD EMBA program in his role as Dean. He balances between academic rigor, real-life applicability, and a very cutting Swiss humor. Behind a tough Swiss-German façade, he is a caring person with a passion for learning. His strategy classes were dynamic and challenging. He is very fair and pushes us to the limit while making sure no one is left behind. I use almost every day the learnings I took from him.

Ben Bryant: When people think about learning how to be a leader, we tend to think about hard skills like finance and strategy. Less frequently, we consider psychology and behavioral sciences as THE most impactful skills. What we learned in Ben´s classes, assignments and group simulations…was absolutely the most rewarding experience of the EMBA.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Strategy (though Leadership and Finance came close seconds). The biggest insight was about tools and methodology: where IMD excelled was not just teaching us ground-breaking tools. Rather, it is to push us to become more reflective leaders, to think long and deep on the questions rather than on the answers. I have radically changed my attitude to business models and as a result I lead more mindfully and more efficiently with a heightened understanding of the market choices.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? The IMD Executive MBA provides a unique offering: flexibility in the program schedule, incredible class diversity with broad and senior industry experience, as well as a rigorous curriculum in general management and international leadership.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? The intellect and diversity of my classmates were one of the most enjoyable components of my EMBA journey.

Our discussions over lunch were legendary. For instance, we would start from Tolkien, continue to the economic roots of World War II, and end up debating the drivers of innovation. The atmosphere in class is always vibrant, with many questions asked during and well after each class.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? I was visiting our operations in Singapore in September 2018 while also preparing the last strategy assignment, which was a big assignment both in quantity and quality. I had already been away from home for four weeks.

I, therefore, flew my family to Singapore to spend ten days together in that incredible city. We stayed at a nice hotel with a large room overseeing the swimming pool. I would work during the day (starting very early hours) and return to the hotel mid-afternoon to spend 1-2 hours in the pool with my daughter. Then, it was a quick dinner and off to study until midnight or so. I kept this rhythm for 10 days. It was a rewarding accomplishment: all my business targets for the visit were met, the family was super happy and relaxed, and the strategy paper received excellent feedback.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time…

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? “Life is easy, you just need to sit and listen…no pressure whatsoever…”

This is the myth…and is valid for the first couple of days…then competitive spirit kicks in…then collaborative spirit kicks in…and you end up forming coalitions and studying hard just to prove yourself…and get as much as learning as you can for yourself.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Getting to know some spectacular, fellow classmates so late in the program. Despite the well-designed program, with the continuous rotation of teams over the 15 months, I happened to work with some incredible individuals only in the last rotation. I heard other classmates sharing the same regret…which is inevitable when you have all these brilliant minds within reach.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Marco D’Amore: His path in life is unique (a graduate from hotel school who now runs an accounting and consulting company in Shanghai), his connections are incredible and, on top of all of this, his attitude to life: “Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% what you do with it.” Marco has been a positive opinion-leader in class and is firm and fair in dealing with people, never rigid or arrogant.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I sat in a two-day finance crash-course for my company in 2009. My mind was on fire for days afterward with the desire to learn more.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I aspire to become a global strategy director for a large organization and re-ignite my sports coaching as a side-career.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? A leader always ready to support, with humility and creativity.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? To attend a seven-day ski-racing training in the Dolomites, and to engage with design studios to leverage my creative skills.

What made Marco such an invaluable addition to the class of 2019?

“Marco has been an active member of the EMBA cohort of the recently graduated class of 63 highly-diverse professionals – with an average age of 40 years old. Marco could be considered, in many ways, as a key pillar of the cohort. With a sharp mind and warm personality, Marco frequently brought the conversation back to the more pragmatic questions at hand. He shared his points of view with humility, yet openly invited others in the class to contribute their perspective to the discussion. He always appeared positive and in a good mood. It was infectious. While he was extremely effective on working on the task-at-hand, he was also attentive to his classmates in a caring and inclusive manner. Leading, based on intellect alone and a blinding focus on the results, is not his nature. He is dedicated to enriching his leadership skills and ensuring that those he works with in a team environment are all leveraging their skills and inputs towards building the most effective outcome.”

Terry Akitt

EMBA Program Director


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