“I have a vision that the future will be built upon my contribution.”

Elena Arens

Senior Software Engineer, BHP
MBA 2012


In three sentences or less, could you tell us a little more about yourself?

I’m an entrepreneur with a passion for technology and innovation, and a strong bias for action and discovery. I enjoy data, insights, and unusual perspectives. And, oddly enough, behavioural biology.


Any fun facts?

Many years ago, my brother, who worked in Singapore at that time, invited me to visit him. I came, and I fell in love with the place - it was green, safe and so incredibly futuristic.

A few years later, when I applied to top business schools, INSEAD was the first to accept my application. There was a question in the acceptance form: “Which campus would you choose: Fontainebleau or Singapore?”. I didn’t hesitate for a moment. Sometimes, there are things that are just meant to be.


Elena Arens

Why did you choose INSEAD?

There were two reasons. The first reason is a boring one – INSEAD was among the top five business schools in the Financial Times ranking. But the second reason is probably more important. INSEAD celebrates diversity, and I’ve always felt like the odd one out.

I had a strong feeling that INSEAD would be a place where I would feel that I belonged. And I made the right choice.


How would you describe your INSEAD experience?

It was a whirlwind. New people, new cultures, new perspectives – a kaleidoscope of experiences that shaped my new identity.

There are some things I would have done differently if I could go through it again, but that is what can be said about any major turning point in life – you emerge as a different person. It’s fantastic.

Perhaps, nothing else in my life made so much of a difference for me.



Are there any important lessons you gained from INSEAD?

There were so many that it is hard to pick the most important ones. Being part of a team, being humble, working hard, being honest to yourself and others – these are the key lessons, but there are so many more.

And everyone else learnt something different. INSEAD takes you in and offers you so much that even many years later, you still discover something new, something valuable, something so personal to who you are. INSEAD just keeps on giving.


Has INSEAD benefitted your career?

I believe INSEAD not just benefitted my career, it redefined it. Before the programme, I had a good idea about the things I didn’t want to do in my life, but I wasn’t sure about my future path. INSEAD gave me the space and an opportunity to discover myself and my passion.


What is a common misconception about you?

Lately, the most common misconception about me has been that I do not know much about technology. Many of my conversations start within a business context. After discussing market size, CAGR, unit economics and competition, people I talk to cannot easily imagine that I am also a software engineer who built an automated testing system for a smart building IoT framework and an online platform for predictive maintenance of industrial equipment.


What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

That is not an easy question. Most achievements are ephemeral: they feel great in the moment, but then they fade away. All the sales I’ve closed, contracts I got signed, systems I designed are just dots in the lifelines of teams and companies I was part of. But that’s why one project stands out.

Years ago, when I was part of a local subsidiary of an international community, I worked on introducing international award and professional certification programmes locally. This undertaking was met with skepticism at that time, but years later the local chapter had its first winners and certified professionals. This achievement touched hearts, inspired others and made them feel they belonged to something large. It made a difference.


What is your greatest fear?

My greatest fear is not going for what I love and what I believe in. There are so many things to try. If you try and it turns out to be different from what you expected, you just move on. If you try and discover your new passion, your life is so much more fulfilled.

Of course, there are always consequences: your career, your savings, your obligations to your family - you name it. But giving it a go gives a fantastic sense of freedom and opportunity. And it changes who you are.


What does it mean to you to be Limitless?

One could never deem to be without limitation. As others, I am bound by my reality, my experiences, my culture, my physique and my abilities. But it is within my capacity to be the best I can be. My achievements are only because of those who came before me, and I hope that the future will be built upon my contribution.

There is no limit to where we as the human race will go, and it comes about through the struggles and contributions of everyone.



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