Ex-lawyer the First Day, but Full and Unique INSEADer Thereafter
Being a lawyer didn’t make the MBA a logical move. I had left the law firm industry quite early in my career, spending the six years before INSEAD in asset management. However, the assets I was working on were still legal by nature: my fund provided the financial means necessary to companies taking part in lawsuits to cover all related expenses in exchange for a share of the proceeds in case of success.
As the beginning of the programme drew near, two things preoccupied me: The fact that it had been nine years since I had sat in a classroom and that when I looked at the list of classes, none of them was remotely related to anything I had studied or worked on in the past.
The first days of the programme reassured me on all accounts.
First, I participated in the Business Foundations Programme, which was hugely helpful in three ways. It allowed me to get a head start at knowing my classmates, including many with unusual backgrounds like me. This five-day programme is offered to those with no business background needing some accounting, math, or finance basics.
Also, it allowed me to navigate the campus, the IT infrastructure and Fontainebleau a few days ahead of the launch week, which is always nice when you settle in a new place, let alone a new country.
Finally, it made me realise that while INSEAD remains first and foremost a school, the way of teaching, average age and experience level in the class and general positive atmosphere made the learning experience much more engaging, interactive, and practical than what I had experienced in my prior studies. That reassured me a lot about the rest of the curriculum.
The INSEAD experience was a human and collective one for me.
When it comes to interacting in class, on campus, in extracurricular activities or in your study group, your professional background and undergraduate training will come up, but it is your desire to share and learn, and your overall personality which will matter the most.
At our first study group dinner, listening to my classmates’ stories made me see them as much more than ex-bankers, consultants, or engineers. I’m sure the same applied to them about me. Over the following months, my contribution to the group was a few times technical (the “team contract” in Organisational Behaviour was a fun experience), but more often of a soft nature: organising work, managing personalities, making out-of-the-box suggestions, or bringing my professional experience in, which spans beyond the pure legal sphere.
One is much more than its undergraduate major. Also, having a non-traditional background helps stand out from the crowd and is a good way to make new friends and expand your network. I probably had to spend more hours in the library on average then my classmates and couldn’t exempt any classes, but never did I feel like I didn’t deserve my spot in the MBA or my seat at the table. Quite to the contrary, I was proud to bring something different to the conversation and found even more added value to the MBA, given how much I learned on hard and soft skills.
The community made the experience great and helped me overcome any difficulty I faced throughout the year. Having untraditional INSEADers is what makes this community so strong and rich.