Embarking on my MBA Journey

Ekaterina Kuznetsova

Dear All,

In only a few days I will be boarding a plane in Zurich to spend the next six months away from home – I am an 18D’ starting in Singapore! The change couldn’t be any bigger. From cold, heavy snowfalls in Europe to warm rain showers in Southeast Asia. From client-first attitude in consulting to personal individual development and learning. From working in small core teams behind locked doors to an open exchange with a very diverse group in the MBA class. Wow!

I suspect, however, one of the few things that should remain somewhat constant will be the incredibly fast pace. I was told that the INSEAD MBA does not leave much free “idle” time. In this blog, I will be sharing “my” highlights of this rich experience and as such I am very  looking forward to keeping you posted throughout the next year!

In my view, leaving at the end of December is the perfect time – not only is it a natural point to take personal “inventory” of all you did during the previous year, but it is also the time to re-connect with your friends and colleagues. In fact, at the many Christmas get-togethers, I am constantly being asked why I decided to do the MBA and why at INSEAD. Therefore, please allow me to take this first opportunity to share my thinking with you as well.

For the last two years, I have been working for McKinsey & Company. At this point in one’s development within the firm, we are encouraged to take a break and to pursue something else in our career – perhaps a PhD; a social secondment; an office rotation, or of course an MBA. Since I studied Physics before joining consulting, the choice was apparent to me – an MBA was the perfect opportunity to deepen my business understanding and to find time to reflect and to discover what I am truly passionate about. To the latter it’s important to know that I worked on 12 different projects with 10 different clients in just two years, and this is not exactly what you would call focused and determined.

Upon evaluating all the many MBA programmes available, the choice for INSEAD – at least for me – was quite easy. As someone who loves variety, enjoys intense fast‑paced environments and appreciates engaging with intellectually curious and culturally diverse people, INSEAD seemed a perfect fit. I enjoyed the idea of possibly studying at as many as three different campuses in just 10 months (total INSEAD MBA duration). I loved the requirement of a second entry language and I highly appreciated the deliberate choice made by INSEAD for a very broad student background mix. Finally, convinced that this is the one and only MBA program for me, I applied to INSEAD solely and fortunately, got accepted.

Keeping the “end-of-year” inventory setting in mind: if you are planning an MBA or some kind of sabbatical as well, now is a perfect time to go through the same thought process as I did. You should ask yourself:

  • Do I want to go back to learning or do I just want to do something else?
  • During the educational break, do I want to see many things, which may light a fire in me (MBA); or do I know already what I am passionate about and want to go really deep (PhD)?
  • Do I believe that learning is most effective when exchanging opinions with other people, i.e. in the class room, in study groups, on joint trips?
  • Do I like fast‑paced environments and thus prefer a shorter program (10 months) instead of a traditional two years MBA curriculum?
  • Could the MBA be part of the discovery phase of my future position and am I open to change my plans, e.g., geography, industry?
  • Does social engagement rank very high for me and do I want to meet people from very diverse backgrounds, both culture- and work-wise?

If you answered most questions with a “yes”, INSEAD could be the perfect fit for you as well.

So, what are the next steps?

  • Take time over Christmas to discuss your thoughts and ideas with your colleagues, friends and family – and do keep an open mind when listening to their comments and considerations!
  • If you have INSEAD Alumni in your network, reach out to get their perspective
  • Consider visiting one of the campuses, especially if you live relatively close by
  • Familiarise yourself with the entry requirements, e.g., GMAT, TOEFL, essays
  • If you are already sure to do the MBA, then begin the application process right away – that is, take the exams and begin writing your application
  • Think about financing – perhaps your employer is open to supporting you

After the winter holidays, time will quickly pass – ideally, you can apply for one of the first rounds (first application round closing March 14, 2018) and enjoy a relaxed summer with your place secured at INSEAD for the 19D’ intake. And don’t forget to simply look forward to the great time ahead.

In my next entry, I will share with you my personal aspirations and what I am looking forward to during the coming year. I can’t do this just yet as I’m in the habit of doing my bucket list on New Year’s Eve – old school, with a fountain pen no less!

I wish you all a merry Christmas and a great start to the year.

Best regards,