INSEAD : A View From Outside In

All of us who decide to invest a considerable amount of time and money to pursue an MBA, first spend a lot of time choosing the best B-school to suit our needs. I did the same. I spoke to more than twenty alumni from the top b-schools, went through school websites to understand their programme structure, visited some campuses in the US and Europe to get a first-hand glimpse of the campus culture.

Eventually, I zeroed in on INSEAD after considering all relevant factors; not least of them was the fact that INSEAD has been the top-ranked MBA programme in 2016 and 2017. I distinctly remember all the details of the dream-like moment when I received my acceptance call. I was standing in the middle of an open plan office, hardly able to lower my voice while trying to ascertain repeatedly that I had indeed been accepted - it was a very noisy mobile connection, and I wanted to be extremely sure before I start reveling in the glory.

Once the euphoria settled, and just before I was going to commit, I was still toying with one remaining gnawing question at the back of my head -  whether a one-year MBA programme would provide enough opportunity to explore and experiment, and to successfully make the career switch that I am hoping for. I put my trust in the statistics and testimonials which were telling me that indeed the programme was designed to help me succeed. Ever since then I have been awed every day by the magic recipe that distinguishes the INSEAD MBA programme.

In principle, the preparation for the programme started the day we were enrolled. INSEAD has plenty of processes and platforms in place to provide individualised support to every student to help them reflect on their own strengths and aspirations, and to steer them to achieve those aspirations. Early on, we were provided access to MBA Connect, a portal for all enrolled students, where there is plenty of information about potential future career opportunities; networking events; list of past employers; and various books, websites and directories that could be referred to for further research. It took me a few weeks to go through all that information, and a few months to really absorb them, complete some suggested pre-read, and talk further to alumni who are working in the areas of my interest.

Starting in early November, we had a series of interactive webinars to cover very practical topics such as Summer Experience, CV Making, Relationship Building etc. I have completed psychoanalytic tests and submitted essays for the Personal Leadership Development Programme (PLDP), which have forced me to challenge every belief and assumption that I started with, and to search for my most basic motivators and drivers.

I had my first meeting with my personal career coach last month, and I feel very self-assured with the knowledge that I have constant support and guidance during my career search journey from her many years of experience in career counselling. At times it is overwhelming to know that at INSEAD, we are going to benefit from the coursework, career search support and leadership development programme that has constantly evolved as close to fifty thousand alumni, from the most diverse backgrounds that is seen by any B-school in the world, have graduated from this institute over the last 60 years.

A very distinctive INSEAD feature is its very active and connected student and alumni network. I have personally experienced it at every stage of my pre- and post-admission process. I received response within hours from all INSEAD alumni that I contacted over LinkedIn, and they made time available for a more detailed chat. Both my alumni interviewers were very accommodating when I needed to schedule my interviews within a very constrained timeline due to logistical challenges on my part. The alumni groups on Yammer are abuzz with activity.

You can see someone from Class of 2011 asking a question, and promptly receiving a very insightful response and further offer of help from a senior from Class of 1992. It helps to know that we continue to be a part of a close-knit family long after we graduate, and that the strength of this family grows with every passing year. Collaboration is an essential part of the INSEAD culture. The value system here induces everyone to help and support fellow INSEADers in every way they can.

For example, we, the Class of 18D, have been in touch with each other through our Slack group, and various WhatsApp groups. As of today, even when I have met only a few of them physically, they are the first people that I would turn to for advice on any issue, for example, preparation from course exemption examinations, best electives to take, summer internship opportunities, best student loan rates, etc.

Our class is going to commence in the first week of January. However, with the many webinars, preparatory essays, networking events, career treks, all the paperwork related to international immigration, and the more fun activities such as making the pre-MBA video, organizing the pre-MBA trips and new year eve parties, most of my classmates have been very busy for the past few months. There was recently a discussion on our Slack group about the best productivity applications to use so that we can stay on top of all our actions.

While the verdict is not yet out if Google Keep is the best, or if Wunderlist wins the race, the discussion sure proves that there is a lot on our hands. Considering how the stage is set, I thoroughly believe that the year ahead will be full of so many opportunities and choices, that all of us will be competing with our own self to make the most of that experience. That is exactly how I wished my MBA experience to be.