The Crossing

Stefano Ceravolo

Here in Fontainebleau, there is a crossing in front of the INSEAD campus. Every day, it is easy to spot several INSEADers waiting for the streetlight to turn green, ready to rush into school.

People are often in a hurry and late for class, and often try to gain a bunch of seconds by crossing on the red light, to the delight of the local drivers.

While waiting for my turn to cross the road, I cannot help but reflect that I am now more than 50% through my MBA. These six months have indeed been so intense that I have the paradoxical sensation of seeing my previous life as distant and close at the same time.

To a certain extent, it's like I have been through a giant crossroad, and I feel I am not exactly the same person I was six months ago. Next week, I will start my summer internship, in a new country, with a new company, and in a new industry. Not only I am going to a different place, but I will see things with different eyes too. 

I remember my first job after graduating; I was really excited about the possibility of implementing the concepts I had learned during my studies, and I was really convinced that a job was about applying those concepts. Reality proved to be very different, but that's another story.

Now, like then, I am about to come back to work after a shorter period of studies. This time is different: I have only a few fresh theoretical frameworks to apply, but on the other hand, I feel incredibly enriched by the interactions and the experiences held here at INSEAD in these six months.

It is not a new finance model, or a strategy framework that I am bringing to this new company, but rather my enhanced luggage of experiences, my soft skills and my network that have grown so much thanks to the amazing bunch of people that I met here.

My approach while working in a team has radically changed.

For those who don't know, here at INSEAD at the beginning of the courses everyone is assigned to a study group of four to five people. The group will be in charge of delivering any assignment from that moment on for the rest of the first two periods of the MBA. In other words, your fate is actually clung to the other four students in your group without any formal authority. 

The last point may seem irrelevant, but in my view is crucial, as it is a very risky business.

The group must be united even if there is no one in charge to iron out disagreements or to take individual responsibility for a decision.

I believe it to be a fabulous arena for self-exploration and sharpening of leadership and teamwork skills. Despite all the possible things that could have gone wrong, my experience with my study group was indeed marvellous, and I became quite close with people whose acquaintance I would love to turn into a lifetime friendship.  

Nevertheless, the point is that the group teaches humbleness. INSEAD gathers so many brilliant people from so many different geographies and backgrounds, and it is immediately evident that as much as someone can be smart or particularly excellent in one thing, there will always be someone better in other aspects, more experienced or just ridiculously bright.

INSEAD Student Group

This experience, together with the awareness of being part of only one of the 91 nationalities represented here, helps to put things in the right perspective. It makes you proud of being part of such a network, but humble at the same time when approaching new situations, at work or in life. 

As trivial as it may seem, these are the fresh values and skills I am bringing to the job market, and I believe these are crucial in making a difference in business.

I only had to cross the road to find them.