A Desk to Stand On

Stefano Ceravolo
I loved my time at INSEAD. Not only because of the amazing people I met and the life-changing experience, but also because it gave me the occasion to think about the professional I wanted to be”.

My first interviewer during my INSEAD application (which was utterly interesting, by the way) ended our conversation with these words .

The subsequent reflection on this statement was pivotal to finalise my decision to undertake an MBA at INSEAD. Of course, I had already done the math (I am an engineer, after all), so I knew by heart the figures of all the major MBAs in the market, including ROI, classifications, network and all the other parameters most of the applicants are surely familiar with. But that particular point won my heart, since it was touching upon something I had been reflecting on a lot.

Turning thirty soon enough, in those days I was experiencing – and with me many of my peers and friends - some kind of “middle-age” crisis. I was having, for the first time in my life, the sensation of missing purpose in my career, acknowledging all of a sudden that my long-term goals were not being reflected anymore into my daily actions.

I was so focused with my daily duties that I had forgotten my plans (and dreams). In other words, I had fallen into a crystallised comfort zone with no plan to get out, so I had to figure out how to create my path.

My desire to pursue change was strong, but still in a nebulous phase; the possibility to look at things differently was of unprecedented importance. The diversity and quality of the numerous inputs received would have made the difference.

When I realised this thought, my movie-addicted brain immediately drew the powerful “desk” scene from an old movie, “Dead Poets Society” that had left an impact during childhood.

For those who have not seen the movie, it is set in an elite prep school particularly attached to conformism. A new professor though, excellently interpreted by Robin Williams, seeks to propose his unorthodox methods to the students, to nurture their creativity and to encourage each one of them to develop their own unique personality. In an iconic scene, he stands on his desk to teach his students the importance of looking at things from a different perspective.

Why do I stand up here? [...] I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way.

I strongly believe in this underlying concept and it is one of the pillars upon which I will build my INSEAD experience. Many people have asked me what I intend to do after the MBA. This often leads to a 15-minute conversation that I will spare you (for now). The bottom line is that I have many ideas, in terms of industry, location and role, but I am flexible and open to change.

I am not saying that I do not have any plan at all; I am saying that I am open to adapt my plan throughout this intense year that awaits me. This because I know already from now that in 2019 I will be looking at things from a new perspective and, like Darwin said, adaptation is the key to success.

Coming back to the movie comparison, I picture in my mind the year to come like a gigantic, metaphorical desk where I will stand on. Throughout the year, I will try to narrate what I will gaze from my new perspective, so that everyone reading can participate with me to the exciting journey I am about to begin.