A New Chapter Begins

Nancy Blyth Piacentini

Before it was cool, my father was an entrepreneur, and although he did not single-handedly invent the “nomad economy”, he certainly applied the concept of taking on new professional challenges every two years, sometimes it felt like every two weeks. For me, that meant constant change: new towns, new schools and new friends. 

Dad isn’t physically here anymore to tell me to shake things up, but I am sure he is harbouring a large smile these days. He wasn’t always happy about me sharing his tenacity; nevertheless, he was always supportive. I didn’t just leave home at a very early age, I left the continent!

World map

France was a culture shock since the last town I finished high school in boasted 600 inhabitants (yes, six hundred). I rediscovered my home country through a European lens, learned to speak Parisian French and grasped life’s important lessons:

1.      Having a plan is important, sticking to it is almost impossible.

2.      Perseverance creates opportunity.

3.      And when opportunity knocks, answer the door - even if your hair is wet.

I originally planned to go back to Canada and to get a degree, but an opportunity to work in the electronics sector changed absolutely everything. My study plans were replaced by wedding plans and without warning, my career was officially launched. I moved from consumer electronics and industrial components to blood transfusion and clinical trials. Each new job was never what I had thought it would be, but almost always led to troubleshooting, problem-solving and relationship-building. 

I developed a strong sense of purpose and a will to make a positive impact.

Unsurprisingly, my passion led me to work in higher education at the famous Grande Ecole where my patchwork of diverse experiences suddenly seemed like a coherent learning journey that gave me the right skill set to advise students at one of the most exciting times of their lives: choosing their future and applying for a master's degree, a life-changing decision. 

In fact, the better part of my professional life has been spent helping students find their way. I cannot think of anything I would want to do that has a more positive impact than that. It also allowed me to reconnect with my own dream of getting a degree, so I pulled up my sleeves, and well… that’s another story. In short, students can believe me when I say “study now, sometimes later is never”.

That is why after 14+ years at HEC Paris, I am very proud of my student alumni and happy to see them write the next pages of their personal stories. Nonetheless, I am thrilled to embark on a brand new higher education adventure with INSEAD: one of the world's leading and largest graduate business schools.

After pioneering the world’s first 1-year MBA programme in 1959, I am a part of the INSEAD team that is launching the new multi-campus 10-month INSEAD Master in Management (MIM) for 2020!