My Adventure, My Dream and the INSEAD Seed

Gulseren Topcuoglu

My INSEAD dream was a like a seed planted two years ago in 2018 by one of my former managers who was himself part of the Executive MBA (EMBA) Class of 2018. 

The seed he planted was watered by a personal desire to acquire knowledge to fix complex situations in life; nurtured by a passion to make an impact in a world full of challenges. It was later fertilised by an unusual COVID-19 pandemic and now turned into a fruit of admission and I am thoroughly excited about it. 

How did the INSEAD dream start? 

I spent most of my career in Sub-Saharan Africa and my assignments allowed me to witness the challenges of local communities in several countries. There was no COVID-19 in 2018 but there was a mind that was yearning for something new and something different.

What I felt I needed was a management skill, a leadership trait that would make lives better for people and a mind that could identify a problem and produce solutions before problems escalate to a point of no return.

I was also looking for the best academic community that would challenge my intellect and strengthen my resolve in building a professional career that would not only make profits for companies but also touch lives wherever I would find myself. 

It was during this period that an unexpected call from my former manager came. He was aware of this passion and burning desire in my life. Having experienced INSEAD himself, he explained how the INSEAD journey could perfectly shape and groom me for the challenges ahead. That call was timely and extraordinary, but I couldn’t make a decision just yet. 

The COVID-19 pandemic: the fertiliser of my INSEAD dream.

In the beginning of 2020, I had moved from Ghana to Paris within the same company but with a completely different career path, where I had no permission for excuse nor failure.

The first two months were my probation period in the new role, and I needed to get myself acquainted with the new environment and all the stakeholders involved. It was during this awkward moment that COVID-19 struck with all its constraints including the infamous lockdown.

I became a little frustrated, somewhat confused as the whole situation was completely against my nature.

As a person who moved countries every two years, I needed to do something to set myself free. 

More importantly, lockdown allowed me to really look inward, and I found myself questioning again what my positive impact could be on my generation. I have seen how people suffered with diseases such as Malaria and Ebola in Africa, and this time the problem was on a global scale.

The world had changed, but more importantly the world needed people to lead and drive that change.

That was the fertiliser to grow my INSEAD dream and I was already convinced my dream was aligned with the ideals and values of the INSEAD promise. 

Interestingly, every step I took throughout my application and admissions process made a lot of sense to pursue an EMBA at INSEAD in the middle of the pandemic. My interaction with the admissions team and some alumni during my interview was an eye opener. I was convinced that INSEAD was the best option, I did not even consider applying to other schools.  

The minute I learned I was admitted was the start of jubilation.

In September 2020, I was visiting my parents in Turkey and one morning I received a text from Carolina Bouza, EMBA Admissions Officer to check my email. The excitement was incredible, and my mother can testify to it. She had not seen me this happy for a long time.

That same day I was included in the INSEAD GEMBA’22 WhatsApp group and I was amazed at the interaction with my new family coming from diverse backgrounds. I have worked as an expatriate my entire professional life, so having a semblance of a family means a lot to me. I am sure I will learn a lot from each of them. I am already immersed in the pre readings – and I am enjoying every bit of it as it helps connecting dots in my mind.

Less than one week left for the first module, I am extremely excited for the future ahead.