Solving Why's? - Why Emba, Why TIEMBA, and Why Now?

Gurpreet Singh

To begin with, almost every MBA student has a story to tell. However, unlike many MBA aspirants, I decided to go for an MBA 16 years ago, on the evening of April 23, 2005, when my grandfather surprisingly ask me, “What would you like to do in life?". I replied, "An MBA". However, I did not realise then that it would take me another 16 years to finally go on my MBA journey. So why did it take me 16 years and why now? The short answer will be - no time and resources, but it really boils down to right timing.

So, why now?

Have you ever felt you have been in a business meeting, and you hardly learned anything new? Or have been asked to give a speech at an event and you struggle to find the inspirational words to share? I felt I was being dragged along life rather than living it, and it was time for the change.

My job involved intense traveling. But when the 2020 pandemic hit the world and travel came to an immediate stop, I had the opportunity to reflect on my life. And this was my epiphany moment, an opportunity in disguise that it was time to live my unlived dream.

Why an EMBA? And not an MBA?

For many senior executives with over a decade of experience like myself, life has moved on from the full-time MBA dream because the opportunity cost of going for a full-time programme means missing out on the peer-to-peer learning with similarly experienced participants that comes with a part-time or Executive MBA. This element is very important. So, an EMBA was the right fit.


Why did I choose the Tsinghua-INSEAD EMBA (TIEMBA) as my first and only application for my EMBA? The short answer: when you find your perfect match, your search is complete. The long answer: I came to China in 2008 and since then China has been my career market, although I have also lived and worked in the US, Japan and widely traveled to many countries, but Asia has always been my focus.

So, my search stopped when I came to know about the TIEMBA programme, which is a perfect combination of a world-class university, Tsinghua, and INSEAD, which is one of the world's leading business schools.

The programme was a perfect choice for professionals like me who focus on Asia and China in particular.

The ongoing pandemic - a waiting period in uncertainty

After months of hard preparation and online tests and interviews, I finally got the call from INSEAD about my acceptance, the moment-of-a-lifetime celebration. 

During Module 1 we were still haunted by COVID, making the most of the opportunity in disguise and trying to live in the new normal. I was excited about meeting my classmates, who come from 17 nationalities, a mix of experienced professionals, serial entrepreneurs and all of them are super intelligent, full of knowledge, and full of life.


Just a few weeks before our first module in China, we were hit with another wave of COVID, which brought back tougher lockdown restrictions that came with a ban to enter Tsinghua University, and having to move our first module online.

Big disruption and truth to be told, the thought to defer my programme did seriously cross my mind. However, I was not alone in facing this tough choice and remember discussions with my classmates about the situation. But then, I experienced another epiphany.

I thought about the most important thing in my life and the answer was, my time. So, waiting further to do TIEMBA was not justified.

Converting online studying challenges into opportunities, my classmates along with TIEMBA academic staff brainstormed and found an innovative solution that classmates can gather in a local coffee shop to study module one online together. Although the logistic was solved, I was still skeptical about studying online. 

Our TIEMBA programme kick-off was an ice-breaking session on Zoom, which was a great exercise that helped me to better connect with my classmates. Session one was a tech-mark team collaboration exercise that left me with a lifelong takeaway: in the real business environment, it is not just about how well you perform, but you should try your best to outperform your competition because your competition will try their best to terminate you.

The macroeconomics class was given by the outstanding Professor Chong-En Bai, who is an economics celebrity in China. He is also part of the policy-making committee for the government. What made this session very interesting was not only the content of the lecture but also the question-and-answer session. Professor Bai answered brilliantly all the key topics and policy questions giving a 360-degree preview into policy makers' thinking.

We closed off with an interesting session on international economics taught by senior Professor Lu Yi, who made it very enjoyable by giving us an overview of the Chinese economy and also by inviting two other outstanding professors; Professor Hong Ma and Professor Qing Liu, who taught us a wide range of topics on the world economy ranging from the history of globalisation to current blockchain and its impact, threat, and opportunity to the world economy.




To conclude on module one, I would quote, "When life gives you lemons make lemonade". We were hit with having to take a module online, but we innovated and still found ways to get together and to study together, which made module one more fun, relaxed, and full of good learning.