Reflections: My First Period at INSEAD

Dozie Okeleke

It has been 10 weeks since I started my MBA programme at INSEAD. A couple of folks have asked me how the journey has been so far and most times I find it hard to explain. I will take a moment to describe my experience in P1. INSEAD is everything I hoped it would be. Flashback to orientation week, it was amazing how incoming students blended so easily with the unique INSEAD culture. Now let me explain: With over 80 nationalities represented, INSEAD still remains the most diverse business school on planet Earth. Now put all these people, different backgrounds, native tongues, diverse experiences and convictions into a single place. You will find yourself immersed in an environment where your emotional quotient takes a huge leap. It is indeed an overwhelming experience.

The classroom learning experience is highly reflective of INSEAD's diverse and inclusive culture. I was assigned to a group of five including a Canadian consultant, an Australian lawyer, a Japanese IT consultant, and an Indian health expert. Your first two periods are spent with your group mates (with graded case studies/assignments to be completed by your group ) and you realise that in your first few weeks you need to understand how best to relate with your group mates.

Thankfully, INSEAD supports you with this by providing guidelines on how to maximise the group learning experience. From understanding low and high context cultures to the importance of a team contract, you learn very quickly how to deal with cultural differences and increase your overall output as a group.

The Splash project, a community development initiative, was our first task at working together as a group with one purpose. The brief was to construct a playground for kids. Despite the chilly weather conditions, the project was completed in four days - thanks to the supportive Splash team and dedicated INSEAD students. Never used a drill in my life but I was  drilling nails and cutting wood. Amazing experience!

Photo Credit: Splash Community Projects
Photo Credit: Splash Community Projects

I must say at this point that my group has been a big plus to my experience so far. Not only can we leverage the individual competencies of our team mates, the personal connections made during group meetings also help increase your knowledge about different industries and cultures. I am happy with the mix (very deliberately done by INSEAD) and quality of contributions by my colleagues. Everyone is well-informed, arguments are constructive, faculty is heavily seasoned hence the learning experience is awesome.

There is never a dull moment in class, save for a few exceptions. I am still amazed at how much of Financial Accounting I learnt in just five weeks. Statistics class was always one to look forward to, thanks to our theatrical UDJ Professor who made stats a walk over for many. Exams came knocking on the door in no time and though there was a bit of anxiety, it ended up much easier than I thought. The focus is always on applied knowledge.

Illustration on sampling error during Uncertainty, Data & Judgement Class
Illustration on sampling error during Uncertainty, Data & Judgement Class

Back to Orientation week: I remember burning out with asking over 100 people the usual introductory questions - What were you doing before INSEAD, what is your post-MBA plan, etcetera. I could only remember a handful of names initially but as P1 commenced in full gear, the names began to stick. Our ever vibrant social media platforms also help to facilitate connections between classmates. From taxi-sharing posts to champagne crawls and ski trips, INSEADers are always up and about doing interesting stuff. In 10 weeks, I have been to four different countries in and outside Europe, attended numerous workshops and student planned events- chateau parties, club dinners and random meet-ups at bars in Fontainebleau. Not to forget the popular 15-minutes flash parties my house mates often organised.

Another highlight of my INSEAD experience so far has been INSEAD's 2016 Financial Times ranking as the Numero Uno Business School in the world, moving three steps up from fourth place in 2015. I remember the moment when the news broke on the internet; flash parties everywhere and then a grand champagne celebration the next day held across all three INSEAD campuses in Fontainebleau, Singapore and Abu Dhabi. It was indeed a joyous moment for all. Also notable is that INSEAD is the first and only business school to achieve a "Triple first" in the FT rankings: MBA, Tsinghua-INSEAD Executive MBA (TIEMBA) and Global EMBA (GEMBA) programmes. This was certainly a proud moment for students, alumni and faculty alike. More importantly, I was even happier about my decision to study at INSEAD - there couldn't have been a better timing (Thanks FT!).

In the midst of all this, campus and course biddings had to be done. I finally opted for the Wharton exchange for P4 and Singapore for P5. I will dedicate a whole post to "Why Wharton?" once my spot on the exchange is confirmed. Elective course biddings have commenced and I am very impressed with the options available for P3-P5 across all campuses. The course offerings are diverse: from Decision Sciences to Organisational Behaviour, Strategy, Finance, Entrepreneurship, Communication, Marketing, Operations Management… the list is endless. Most faculty are renowned experts in their field of study and I really look forward to learning from the best of the best.

Back to reality: I just completed three summer internship applications all with a deadline for today. It is amazing how writing a simple cover letter can be quite tasking especially when you obsess about every little detail. I have a few pre-readings and assignments due tomorrow and a number of meetings in the course of the week for which I need to prepare for. With a jammed schedule ahead, here I am, grasping for the next second so it doesn't slip away. I know it will be worth it in the end and I must apply myself to learning this way. There will never again be such a time as this.

Off to a great start in P2!