Student Stories - IMBA
Myles Flott | IMBA Student from United States
Prior to applying to ISM, I was finishing my commitment to the US Military. As I was looking for what I wanted to do next, I realized that I wanted to go back to school and, specifically, I wanted to get my MBA. I also wanted to do what many have dreamt of: live abroad. Ten days after my exit from the military, I booked a ticket to Paris, France in search of this opportunity. I applied to many schools, eventually finding ISM, and I got in contact with their admissions office. From the first phone call, the ISM admissions team took the time to get to know me, my goals, motivations, and how ISM could offer value. No other school took this kind of time before I even applied. After having several conversations with the staff at ISM, connecting with current students and alumni, as well as sitting in on a course, I was confident that ISM was the right place for me.
I earned my bachelor’s degree in education. For a very short period of time, I taught high school history. As much as I enjoyed this, I felt as if I was being pulled in another direction. Thus, I left the teaching profession to pursue my desire to serve in the US Military, looking to possibly make a career in service. However, this was disrupted from sustaining injuries that forced an early discharge. At the same time, my family was venturing into the entrepreneurial world by opening a luxury travel agency. My family has worked in the travel/hospitality world for decades so naturally, I saw this as a great opportunity to be involved and a part of something special. ISM would become an important part of this journey since I had no formal business training. As I am growing and learning how to operate within the world of business, I am simultaneously learning critical skills in the classroom that I am able to apply. This has been of huge value to me.
My experience at ISM has been something I am very grateful for. Starting with my first class, where I met colleagues from all corners of the world. This was a new experience for me that expanded my scope and perception of the world. In each class, you are able to listen and learn about how different segments and cultures conduct business. Each professor brings a different perspective. I have been able to create fantastic one-on-one professional relationships with my professors. Each one of them has been easily accessible and loves to share their topics with passion. Some professors have become more than just teachers but rather coaches and mentors for my academic, professional, and personal development. And although the professor may be the one leading the class, I observed that each student brings a plethora of knowledge and first-hand experiences themselves. I have been able to create some great friendships with my peers. Discovering Paris, traveling Europe, and collaborating on business ideas with those whom I have met at ISM has been a truly life-changing experience.
Coming into ISM I had very little formal or practical business experience or education. As an IMBA student, you have the advantage to take PhD-level courses. I signed up to take the course Valuation and Acquisition, an advanced finance course. After the first morning session of the first day, I was already feeling like I was drowning. I was clearly way over my head, and I was surrounded by colleagues with decades of experience on this topic who could possibly have conducted the class themselves. Despite being completely lost, I was also inspired. I believe you have to constantly put yourself in uncomfortable situations to push yourself and allow growth. By putting myself in a situation where everyone in the room was much smarter than me on this topic, I had an awesome opportunity to then learn the most. After the course, I had to put in several extra hours to learn all the basics just to attempt to complete the final. My professor was extremely supportive and spent extra time outside of the class to mentor me. This was one of the most difficult classes I had ever taken but by far the most defining class for me. I continued to take every finance class offered, still having to play catch up outside of the classroom. I eventually changed my specialization to finance and have found a new love for studying markets. I have also been recently approved for publication for an article that I wrote with two other colleagues as the final assignment for the class Venture Capital & Private Equity. This has been a dream of mine to someday be published, and ISM gave me that opportunity.
I have had the pleasure to talk to several prospective IMBA students about ISM and the benefits that are offered. A great benefit that I always speak of, specifically speaking for IMBA students, is that many of your colleagues in your courses are DBA or PhD students. Thus, not only do you have the knowledge and experience that is being shared by the professor, but you may have 10 other highly experienced subject matter experts on very specific and complex topics. The collaborative learning environment fostered at ISM is unlike anywhere else I have seen. For an IMBA student, this is incredibly valuable. Unlike other MBA programs that may have classrooms filled with students that just got their bachelor’s degree with little to no experience, ISM has created a business model that IMBA students can gain so much from. I don’t know of any other school that is going to allow MBA students to sign up for as many PhD-level courses that their schedule allows. I believe this is one of the greatest benefits that I have experienced at ISM. I know us IMBA students return the favor and teach some of our DBA and PhD friends a thing or two, though!
ISM is unique for several reasons. The courses are set up in a format that is very different from the traditional university course design. Each course is an intense three days of deep learning and analysis of various business topics. Each course is a time where students and professors from around the world rendezvous in Paris, France at ISM’s beautiful schoolhouse. ISM is also unique in the amount of autonomy each student has in designing their experience. Each student has a timeline in which they have to complete their degree -- how they do that is completely up to the student. Because ISM is set up as a course format, this gives students a lot of time outside of the classroom to pursue their own professional ambitions as well as complete their educational goals.
The diversity within each course is also something that is sincerely unique. I believe in one course I was in, 15 different countries were represented. It is truly fascinating to experience this kind of diversity in a classroom where we are all there to improve as well as work towards our professional and academic goals. Nothing in life or in the business world is black and white. ISM is unique in its ability to be flexible with each students’ experience. Because of the amount of autonomy each student has, every ISM student has essentially their own “fingerprint” known as their ISM experience. As many of the students at ISM have businesses of their own, families that rely on them, or prominent positions within companies that they work for, ISM is very supportive and understanding as each student navigates on how to balance work, family, and school. I have had events in my personal life occur during my time at ISM and each time I have reached out to the professor, or faculty at ISM, they offer empathy and support that I believe is unique.
At the time of writing this, I have one more class to complete and then I will then move onto my thesis which I plan on having complete by the summer of 2021. Upon graduating from ISM, I have many hopes and ambitions. Within my family’s business, we hope that we will continue to grow. I intend to be an important part of that growth and to continue that path for the years to come. I believe that ISM and the practical experience that I have gotten outside of the classroom will prepare me to be entrusted in leading our company.
Although 2020 has presented some challenging moments in the world, not everything has been doom and gloom for me. I recently got married. Certainly, a year I will never forget! Building a family and life is something that is a focus and will be even more of a focus after I graduate from ISM. One thing I have learned and benefited from in my 30 years of living is to be open and ready for the next opportunity. Where I will be in one, five, and ten years from now may be completely different from what I could imagine. But, without a doubt in my mind, because of ISM, my professors, mentors, colleagues, friendships built, and overall growth since moving to Paris, I will be ready and prepared to pursue any opportunity and challenge that is waiting for me.
The advice I would give someone to make the best of their ISM experience is to come to Paris for as many in-person courses as possible. This is where you meet, network, collaborate, and learn in ways that online courses simply cannot replicate. Most of the students at ISM do not live in Paris, so this can understandably be a challenge. I would recommend taking the classes that are going to challenge you. Speaking from my own story, I took a finance class that I thought was going to destroy me but, in the end, may have been the most important and most defining moment not only academically but personally as well.
Furthermore, challenge yourself by using the classroom and course as a laboratory to better your skills. For example, I have no experience in presenting business models or strategies to an audience. I wanted to get better at public speaking as well. Therefore, every time we would do a mock presentation in the courses, I would be eager to volunteer to present to improve on these skills. The classroom is a safe place for you to make mistakes, practice, and grow. Don’t be afraid to use it as such. I recommend using each class and final assignment to further your knowledge in your own field. For example, I used almost every final assignment to learn more about the travel/hospitality industry. In some cases, our company implemented strategies that I learned through this research. Lastly, I would recommend getting to know the professors and your colleagues. We are all on the same team! During courses, it is nice to enjoy lunch with someone you just met or enjoy a drink with your classmates at one of the local pubs after the course that ISM always organizes.