2021 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Thierry Fumeaux, IMD Business School

Thierry Fumeaux

IMD Lausanne       

Age: 56

“A Swiss physician who decided on a complete career change 15 years ago and finally realized it!”

Hometown: Trélex, Vaud, Switzerland

Family Members: My wife Zina, my son Camille (23) and my daughter Amel (19)

Fun fact about yourself: My midlife crisis resulted in 3 successful (and expensive) actions: getting my motorcycle license (and buying a ‘big’ one), learning to play electric guitar (and buying several ones), and going back to school to get an Executive MBA (and paying for this!). Despite this, my wife still loves me!

Undergraduate School and Degree: Physician’s Swiss degree of Medical Doctor at Geneva University; Adjunct Professor of Medicine at Geneva University; Swiss Board Specialist in Intensive Care Medicine and in Internal Medicine; EMBA IMD Lausanne

Where are you currently working? Kinarus AG, Basel Switzerland, as Chief Medical Officer; Acthera Therapeutics, Schlieren, Switzerland, as a medical consultant.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Swiss Society of Intensive Care Medicine (central committee member from 2007, Executive President from 2018-2020, past-President from 2020); member of the Swiss National COVID-19 Scientific Task Force (president of the clinical expert working group 2020); Swiss Intensive Care Medicine Foundation, President of the Board from 2020.

Awards: Swiss Institute for Medical Training ISFM Award 2020 for outstanding commitment to postgraduate education; Society for Critical Care Medicine SCCM In-Training Fellow Prize 2002

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am very proud of having completed the EMBA program during the COVID-19 pandemic last year, while still working at the hospital and managing the crisis at the level of the Swiss Society of Intensive Care Medicine, as well as a member of the Scientific Task Force. All this with thanks to the unconditional support of my family.   

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Of course, I am proud to have cared for many patients in the last 20 years, but I am particularly proud to be recognized as a good ‘master’ by many physicians in training that I have been fortunate enough to work with throughout my career. Their testimony and the recent award I received are very important to me and make me very proud.  

Who was your favorite MBA professor? What a hard question … They were all so good, each with their own personal style! I would have to mention Ben Bryant, Professor of Leadership and Organization at IMD because his teaching was the trigger for me to explore deeper who I am as a leader and as a human being, thus making the EMBA the most valuable self-learning and introspective experience of my life.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? In order to succeed in the fundamental career change that I was considering, I recognized that I had to choose a very demanding and well-recognized program, thus IMD quickly emerged as the top choice. Although I realized that I might have to step out of my comfort zone, the challenge of committing to this tough curriculum and driving to successfully complete my MBA was a great source of motivation for me.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? As already mentioned, the IMD EMBA learning journey leads you to better know yourself! Of course, you acquire knowledge and skills in management, marketing, finance, and strategy, but you must also reflect on yourself. The teaching, the assignments, the group work and the challenges along with the interactions with cohort-mates, are all instruments to better understand who you are, with both your qualities and weaknesses, to better define what are your drivers in life and how you behave as a leader and as a person. It made me realize that I have an entrepreneur mindset! This allowed me to successfully move from my former career to my current professional situation without frustration … and to envisage my future with great enthusiasm!

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? I must emphasize that my family has been an extraordinary support during this whole period; it is thanks to them that I was able to reach the end of this very special year. My wife was always there to support me in periods of doubt and work-overload, always showing me the objective to reach, and arranging our family life to allow me to work in ideal conditions. My children also had a flawless understanding during this whole period. I didn’t have much time for them, and they always supported me. This is an extraordinary proof of love.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Don’t hesitate! This is the best decision in your life and you are going to open a path leading to so many future opportunities: not only based on newly acquired skills but relying on a network of smart people and on a better knowledge of yourself.   

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? The biggest myth is telling yourself that I am too old and too experienced to go back to books and to have graded assessments”. This is wrong! There is always something you can learn, particularly if you choose a totally new area. Of course, this inherently means that you have to accept to leave your comfort zone!

What was your biggest regret in business school? Not having done the program 10 years earlier! However, you cannot change the past, you can only change the future and it is never too late … so, not a real regret after all!

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? All are admirable … I would say Anis Mungapen, for many reasons, but mainly because he was very active in the plenary sessions, asking valuable questions and making appropriate comments for the collective benefit, and with humor. He understands very quickly and is able to analyze a situation in seconds and then propose a solution or a plan. He has an innovation-driven mindset, with a real desire to develop and grow, both on a personal and on a collective level. I have no doubt he will be a very successful entrepreneur in the future!

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? I have been teaching medicine for more than five years to individuals at the bedside, or to groups of students, or in-training physicians in auditoriums. This direct contact between the teacher and the trainees is of great value to me. In my opinion, being part of a cohort of students or trainees is an integral part of the learning experience, with active interactions among the most rewarding experiences during the program. COVID-19 had a very negative effect, but it reinforced this need to be part of a group that can interact directly to progress together.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I want to be in a position where I can combine my experience as an active physician with the management skills and competences acquired during the EMBA in a company active in the health care universe, primarily driven by the patients’ benefit, in a sustainable and ethical way.

What made Thierry such an invaluable addition to the class of 2021?

“Thierry’s dedication, strength and resilience made him an invaluable asset to the class of 2021 – in a highly diverse cohort of 46 professionals, with an average age of 42. His tenacity to juggle his hectic and exceptionally demanding role as a physician and leader in the medical community while driving to fulfill his ambition of pursuing an Executive MBA, was truly commendable.

Leading an Intensive Care Unit and contributing to the Swiss National COVID Task Force during a pandemic was a tremendous challenge at best. With an anchored resolve, Thierry managed this along with the innumerable unforeseen events and emergencies. We have had the privilege to work closely with Thierry and witness how he lives his values. He is clear about what he holds important, and ensures his intentions, words, and behaviors align to his beliefs. As an experienced member of his class, with more than thirty nationalities and a diverse range of industries, Thierry fully embraced the learning journey and threw himself into the discomfort of working well outside of his comfort zone.

IMD’s purpose is to develop global, reflective leaders who transform organizations and contribute to society. Thierry’s commitment to saving lives, while challenging his own personal growth, makes him an outstanding role model for all IMD alumni. Shortly following his graduation, Thierry secured an executive management position in a leading biotech organization achieving his dream of a successful career change!”

Maria Schmitt
IMD EMBA Cohort Director


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.