(Some of) What I Learnt at INSEAD

Marta Bento

Let’s start with the basics. Academic wise, I learnt quite a lot. I learnt the basics of finance, accounting, macro and microeconomics, marketing and entrepreneurship.

I know better than ever how to value a firm, how to assess a project, and how to relate income statement, balance sheet and cash flow statement. I know how to interpret market signs, which personal investments make more sense, and the whole theories behind price discrimination, auctions, and supply and demand.

I know about agency costs, wrong management decisions, and operational efficiency metrics. I know how to position a product, how to create a strong brand, and how to price it. I would certainly be more capable now to open a new business than before my MBA - too bad I am not the most creative and risk-taking person in the world. I know this and more - and I learnt it only in a few months.

More important than what I learnt, was the network that I built.

Even if I am still not an expert in many of the topics mentioned above, I now know better than ever who to reach out if I have any question. Moreover, I now have contacts literally around the world, in as many sectors and functions as one can imagine. And that’s not only incredibly powerful, but also something that INSEAD is especially strong at.

Because everyone knows about different topics and wants to discuss them out, I’ve had daily contact with questions I have never thought about before.I just feel that, every day, my knowledge and curiosity grows. And, the more I know, the more I want to know. The more I read, the more I feel that I have to keep reading. The more questions I am asked, the more questions I need to ask myself. The more I write, the deeper I want to go. It’s like a (good) vicious cycle.

What else have I learnt? I learnt about different cultures and working styles. More than any other experience, INSEAD promotes diversity, both in terms of gender, nationality and background. It taught me how to adapt to different contexts, and how to strive in different environments. It also taught me more about my working style and how I should take advantage of it while dealing with different people and styles. Also, all the travelling and relationships with different nationalities taught me ever so much about different behaviours and values across cultures. I know better than ever the similarities and discrepancies among cultures, and that’s even slightly reflected in my group of closest friends. European countries with Latin origins, Southern American countries and Middle Eastern ones are more similar than one would ever imagine.

Another major learning for me was related to the Women in Business topic. I found out that most ambitious women struggle to ensure a good work-life balance, together with a successful career. I read a few books and blog posts about it, and I even got some female friends of mine interested in creating some kind of informal group to discuss these issues and go through all this together. I wrote about it already, here.

For many people, INSEAD was a good wake-up call in what concerns to relating with other people. In general, it is crucial to maintain relationships, work on them, renounce certain things. Doing an MBA can put anyone in a bubble, and it is important to keep long relationships healthy while enjoying a new network of friends and contacts. And trust me, this is only one of the life lessons we get at INSEAD.

Last but not least, I learnt A LOT about myself - what characterises me the most, which are my main strengths and weaknesses, who I am and who I want to be in the future, what I should do to get there, what I value in other people, what I can do to help them improve, and so on.

Thank you INSEAD for so many learnings. To everyone out there, don’t even think twice if you are considering doing an MBA.