Countdown to an Exciting Start

Manna Ozawa

15 days and counting… I will officially start my MBA journey as INSEAD MBA'17D candidate very soon! Time literally flew by since I received one of the most pleasant calls from the INSEAD admissions officer notifying me that I was admitted to the programme, almost three months ago.

About me   

By way of introduction, my name is Manna, originally from Japan. Prior to INSEAD, I worked in Tokyo for a total of 8.5 years - as project and product manager for Oracle, and as business development manager for Visa. I did my undergrad studies at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and spent my childhood in the US. I competed in classic piano, and more recently in horseback riding, which is still a hobby I pursue in my spare time. I also love to travel and explore local culture like most if not all INSEADers :)

At INSEAD, I am a Singy starter (to start off P1-2 warm!), and plan to spend P3-5 in Fonty. And possibly, Wharton exchange in P5. For post-MBA career, I am considering general management positions in fintech-related companies, or management consulting with a focus on digital. This is only ‘a plan’ as of now - it could change drastically as I become exposed to new and different values, opportunities, and knowledge over the course of the programme. My intention is to start open-minded.


My road to INSEAD was a rather short one. A year back, I was considering opportunities to work abroad, but I also wanted to make sure I can step UP into a role with bigger challenges. One day late January this year, surfing on the web at night, I wandered into the INSEAD website. I knew the name because some executives from my company had done executive courses there, but none of the details and how it differs from the American MBAs. Once I read through the INSEAD website, I couldn’t stop searching for more information about the programme - it was such a fascinating world I found there and seemed like the exact fit to the theme I had.

  • Diversity, diversity, diversity: It could never be overstated because you don’t really know until you are actually there. Nationality, ethnicity, professional background, mindset... One of the most differentiating factors from US programmes.
  • Intense 10-month programme: I already had 8.5 years of professional experience on my hands, so I did not want a two-year gap in my career at this point. I felt I could benefit from the intense training in business fundamentals and specialisation in strategy/marketing to prepare me for the next challenge.
  • Career development: When you take a look at stats on INSEAD MBA post-graduation career placements, you will be astounded. The majority of people are career changers, some even change all three dimensions (geography, industry, role). It is natural given the ‘mindset’ of INSEAD students - borderless in many ways, and there is a good system in place to support this.
  • #1 on FT MBA ranking: At the end of the day, brand does matter.

I did more research about INSEAD and other European programmes over the next few months, and started preparing for my applications by mid-March. I knew I wanted to be at INSEAD ASAP, so decided to aim for the January 2017 intake, although it would be a challenge juggling a high profile project at work and MBA applications over the next few months.

About the INSEAD application process

During the process, I would say that GMAT was the toughest part (also took the longest). If any of you readers are thinking of applying in the distant future, now is not too early to start. With GMAT out of the way, you can focus on the essays, which in my opinion is the critical part of the application. This is where the school really gets to know you, and ‘international exposure’ is a key item you want to highlight in your essays. International diversity is a core part of identity for INSEAD, which boasts the tagline ’The Business School for the World”. If you have it, write about it. If not, you should think about how you can show motivation in context of your prospective career.

Setting things up for life at INSEAD

I am a Singy starter, and will be living with two other roommates from Germany and Switzerland. For my batch, there are various unofficial Facebook, Whatsapp and slack groups, and MBA Connect (a platform provided by INSEAD) for pre-programme networking. Also, INSEAD hosts Welcome Days two months in advance of the programme in Fonty and Singy. Many people find their roommates through these interactions.

The most popular housing for INSEAD students in Singy are Heritage View and Dover Parkview. These condos are right next to each other, about a 10-minutes walk away from the campus. Others live in HDBs on the next block, or near Holland Village station which is two metro stations away from one-north station, just next to the campus. You also want to take care of your student pass, mobile, tablet (PC not allowed in class), bank account opening in advance, since once the Orientation week kicks in, your timetable will be jam-packed…!

I look forward to starting school again, and updating you on my experience in the coming month.


img_0952 Wishing you all happy holidays :)