An Investment in Knowledge Pays the Best Interest: My Journey to Consulting in the UAE

Alankrita Lal

When I ventured into the world of INSEAD, the prevailing wisdom whispered that changing three pivotal dimensions of one's career - Location, Industry, and Function - was nothing short of a Herculean feat, if not outright impossible. 

Yet, here I stand today, a suitcase in hand, ready to embark on the journey of my dreams - an achievement made possible by the unwavering support of the entire INSEAD community.

Before INSEAD, I was a Business Development Manager at ExxonMobil, a major player in the Indian oil and gas sector. ExxonMobil, a great firm to work with, provided me with numerous growth and learning opportunities in both India and the United States.

But an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and exploration soon revealed the limitations of my one-dimensional learning. It was time to broaden my horizons, delve into diverse industries, and nurture my passion for sustainability.

After extensive research, I uncovered the allure of consulting - a world offering exposure to diverse industries, a steep learning curve, and a chance to drive organisations towards their net-zero goals. Yet, a formidable gap separated my aspirations from reality - a lack of the required skills and network for such a radical shift. And the question loomed large: Was consulting my true calling? Is an MBA worth it?

After meticulous contemplation, which included weighing the risk of forsaking a comfortable, well-compensated position, I took a life-changing leap: I invested in knowledge through an INSEAD MBA – the best investment of my life.

INSEAD emerged as my top pick for three compelling reasons: its diverse network, robust alumni base, and a world-class one-year MBA programme. Opting for a one-year MBA made sense, given my seven years of prior business exposure and the desire to minimise opportunity costs.

Doubts loomed about the extent of diversity and inclusivity at INSEAD. Many institutions appear diverse on paper but falter in embracing inclusivity.

INSEAD, however, not only professes diversity but embodies it authentically.

My conviction in this assertion is rooted in the fact that, as a recent graduate, I now count INSEAD friends spanning nearly every country in the world. This rich diversity, coupled with interactions with fellow consultants and climate-tech enthusiasts, widened my horizons and guided me toward the most fitting next steps in my career.

As I began my INSEAD journey, I was paired with my career coach, Ravi Bhogaraju. I distinctly remember our initial interaction. I was uncertain about pursuing consulting and confessed, "I think consulting might be a good option, but I'm not entirely sure if I can achieve it. I'm open to exploring other career paths."

Recognising my uncertainty, Ravi wisely advised me to research and connect with classmates to explore different industries and compile a long list of potential career opportunities that excited me.

Over the ensuing weeks, through external networking, considering location preferences, and aligning with my future goals, he assisted me in refining my choices. I eventually had a list of companies, with consulting prominently featuring as my top choice, aligning with my current skills and short/long-term objectives.

In a challenging job market landscape, the Middle East emerged as a compelling region with promising investments in alignment with "Saudi Vision 2030". Insightful feedback from peers who participated in the INSEAD-conducted "Dubai Trek" left me convinced about the region's exciting learning and growth prospects.

“Saudi Vision 2030”, the ambitious blueprint for Saudi Arabia's future, places sustainability at its core. This vision resonated deeply with me, aligning perfectly with my goals. I envisioned utilising my existing skills to contribute to the energy transition while absorbing insights into how other industries are progressing toward a cleaner future. INSEAD's strong community presence in Dubai and other countries in the region offered the promise of a warm welcome in a new land.

After countless hours invested in applications, case preparations, and interviews, I finally secured a position with Oliver Wyman Consulting in Dubai. This achievement was no small feat, as it represented a successful transition of the three dimensions: from the oil and gas industry to consulting, from business development to associate, and from India/US to Dubai.

The unshakable support from my INSEAD peers and my dedicated career coach played a pivotal role in making this transition a reality.

I must emphasise that, although the job preparation journey at INSEAD was intense, the INSEAD community, including alumni, proved exceptionally supportive and responsive in navigating this demanding phase. The INSEAD community is genuinely close-knit and goes above and beyond to assist one another. Sponsored consulting students, who didn't have to engage in job hunting, dedicated long hours to support their peers throughout the entire journey.

I feel immensely gratified and proud to be a part of this network, having forged lifelong friendships. As I embark on my new adventure in Dubai, I carry with me a sense of support and belonging, with nearly 60 classmates joining me in the Middle East. I eagerly look forward to giving back to the community as an INSEAD alum.

For those contemplating an INSEAD journey, my advice is simple: "Keep an open mind and an open heart" to fully embrace the myriad opportunities within this exceptional community. 

Best of luck, and welcome to the world's best business school.