2021 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Iris Depaz, IMD Business School

Iris poets and quants

Iris Depaz

IMD Business School

Age: 44

“Passionate, curious and purpose driven. A proud mum; a passable wife with a vibrant sense of humor.”

Hometown: Brisbane, Australia

Family Members: 1 Husband, 1 Son and 1 Daughter. No pets yet, but kids are working on it…

Fun fact about yourself: I performed in an international salsa dancing competition.

Undergraduate School and Degree: 

Bachelor of Science with Honours, University of Queensland (1998)

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Molecular Biology, University of Queensland (2003)

Graduate Certificate in Higher Education, University of Queensland (2006)

Where are you currently working? Country Medical Head, Australia & New Zealand, Sanofi Pasteur

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Career Development and Leadership Mentor for young professionals; Co-founder of digital health startup Quaefacta; Graduated EMBA with Honors

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? The year 2020 was a tough one with many people suffering from heightened anxiety and dealing with a lot of stress. Despite the demands of my EMBA, and my job working for one of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturers with the stretch demands that entailed, I was still able to commit to the young professionals I mentor as well as to my family and my team at work to support them during this challenging period. I don’t think I could have done it if I hadn’t been on the EMBA journey at the time. The leadership module, led by Professor Ben Bryant, was critical to me not only surviving but thriving in 2020. My hope is that all current and future leaders can participate in this kind of program and learn to be “the lighthouse in the storm” not only for others but also for themselves.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Over my career, I have had many proud moments including obtaining funding for research and leading teams to obtain access to vaccines in multiple countries globally. The fact that what I do play a small part in protecting the lives of vulnerable communities makes me proud. This is a sentiment shared by everyone I have ever worked with in the field of vaccines. The COVID pandemic has shone a spotlight on the importance of what we do. We have just witnessed what the absence of only one vaccine can do to society. I feel prouder than ever to have chosen to work in vaccines and public health.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? This is a mean question! How can you ask me to choose?? Well, despite once expressing my undying love for Professor Goutam Challagalla in the middle of a lecture, I have to say Professor Karl Schmedders earns this acclaim. I never in my life thought I would be on the edge of my seat during a finance lecture, but Karl has the perfect blend of drama and nihilism while at the same time being earnestly optimistic. I adored his lectures and thanks to him, and Professor Leif Sjöblom, my eyes no longer glaze over during finance meetings.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? The fact that we could apply the frameworks that we were learning directly to our own company was initially attractive because I thought this would save me some time. This turned out to be true, yet the real value was not only the ability to direct my focus on my own company but to direct it into different areas of the business. This has provided me with a much more holistic view of my company and also the environment in which we operate. What I was able to apply — and am still applying — from the assignments truly brought value to the business as well as to my own personal development.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? Turning the camera off on Zoom was a very handy feature in 2020! I remember I was on a work call where I was being asked to decide on a proposal. My daughter however was upset that I had been on calls all day. So, I let her sit on my lap and I brushed her hair while I watched the presentation (unmuting when I had questions) and was able to take the decision so the team could advance. I then made the kids dinner with my husband while he quizzed me on finance to help me prepare for an upcoming exam. Later that evening, after I put the kids to bed, I jumped on a call for one of our team assignments. This was after a full day of work with seemingly never-ending zoom calls. It was a crazy year. In a way, the fact that we were in lockdown made things easier. Suddenly it didn’t matter that I had no social life because I had an MBA to complete and I couldn’t go out anyway! But in all seriousness, one thing I did that helped me make it through was setting specific times for breaks during the day and on weekends to reconnect with my family and friends. We also had small celebrations or rewards along the way, as each assignment was submitted, or a module was completed. Then we had a big reward at the end of course.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Take note of the profile of people applying to the school. I really wanted an international perspective and I certainly got that at IMD. The people really make the journey special and you will make lifelong connections. Now, after the EMBA, I have remained connected with several colleagues and we are actively collaborating on projects or to support each other’s businesses.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? I had put off doing an EMBA for fear that I would drown in the workload and the assumption that I needed to study full time, like I had in my undergraduate degrees. But it is completely possible to do the EMBA and work full time, you just need to be highly disciplined. It is critical to stay on top of your assignments, block time out to work on them, and plan out your schedule a month in advance. I found that by being organized, I was able to enjoy the learning rather than constantly stressing about deadlines. I now understand what all the mature students were on about back when I was an undergrad…

What was your biggest regret in business school? Not being able to see all my classmates at the final graduation. Of course, I was fortunate I could be there myself with the majority of the class, yet I did miss not having everyone present. I am now counting the days to when I meet them all again.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I was fortunate to be in a class with many exceptional people and I admire so many of them. However, the first person who jumped into my head is Anis Mungapen. Anis is genuinely interested in people and really wants to make a difference. He is also a better feminist than I will ever be! Anis welcomed his first child during his EMBA, so he is clearly also brave and possibly foolish. I admire people who are willing to take a leap! Most importantly, Anis is a great friend. He, along with other dear friends I made on the journey, made the EMBA one of the best periods of my life.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? Having made the decision to invest the time and energy, I wanted the full experience. I wanted not only the education but the engagement with colleagues from many different cultures and industries to learn about things I knew nothing about.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My motivation comes from helping others. Whatever I do professionally, I want to be of service to a greater community or, more generally, society. In the long-term, I would love to facilitate the realization of projects that increase equity and access in the areas of health and education around the world.

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

“Iris is an inspiring woman as her passion, energy and sharp mind stand out in any group that she is part of, including in the highly diverse and accomplished group of 46 professionals in her class – with an average age of 42. Her commitment to “challenge what is and inspire what can be” was evident from the moment we onboarded her into the IMD Executive MBA program.

In the current global context, we need confident, humble, and inspiring leaders, who have the courage to ask the hard questions, make the tough decisions while actively listening and being empathic. We witnessed all these qualities in Iris. As well, her energy was infectious. She was upbeat, positive, inquisitive, and challenging in her interactions and frequently added a humorous quip or wry comment that contributed to an open and joyful environment.

Iris leveraged every aspect of the program. She was fully committed to be at the learning-edge, pushing her own boundaries as well as her classmates, and consciously putting herself outside of her comfort zone to fully benefit from the EMBA learning journey to the maximum.

In this exceptional pandemic- year, participants working in the health industry were overcome with unique challenges, pressures, and demands. We acknowledge the outstanding efforts of our participants, such as Iris, working in the most affected industries and commend their commitment and determination. We admire Iris’ tenacity, resilience, and capacity to pursue a rigorous, global EMBA program, care for her family, achieve a promotion, and be an active member in the IMD Executive MBA community.”

Maria Schmitt
IMD EMBA Cohort Director