Viewpoints - Kemi Ogunlesi


Nationality: Nigerian

Year Graduated: 2021

"The learning curve has been steep, especially for me who has a non-business background. But the method of instructions and the determination of the professors for each of us to succeed, have been truly remarkable."



What made you decide to embark on an MBA programme at INSEAD?

There were five things that were important to me when choosing a business school, and INSEAD effortlessly ticked all five boxes – it was in fact the only B-school I applied to.

The first being brand recognition – I wanted a top Business School as this greatly improves employability. Next consideration was the duration of the MBA as I preferred a one-year MBA versus two-year, which reduces the opportunity cost of the MBA when considering living expenses and loss of salary. Another factor was the strength of the INSEAD alumni network, which means that I am part of a globally connected and robust community.  Anyone who has had the opportunity to interact with INSEAD alumni can testify to how above and beyond they go to provide insights and connections as needed.

Then there were personal reasons – I wanted a European B-School to be in the same time zone as Nigeria to stay in touch with my husband and daughter and lastly, studying in France offers me a great opportunity to improve my French language skills.

Do share with us your first impressions of your classmates and professors.

It was super exciting starting off in Fonty (albeit virtual) – and you could feel the palpable excitement from everyone else also. I have found my INSEAD cohort to possess a diverse nationality pool – for example, in my study group of five, there are eleven passports. Everyone comes from truly unique background, and there are some very exciting non-traditional backgrounds, including a police officer in my section!

The learning curve has been steep, especially for me who has a non-business background. But the method of instructions and the determination of the professors for each of us to succeed, have been truly remarkable. A lot of the instructions were illuminated by case studies that really bring to fore the reality that these are not abstract concepts.

What are your post-MBA career interests?

With my background in engineering, I am primarily looking to pivot from a technical role into more of a business function, as well as a geographical relocation for some much-needed international work experience, having spent most of my career in Nigeria.

I am exploring a couple of interesting career options – the first being consulting; as my career so far has been primarily in operations, it would be good to have some strategy experience to balance that out. I am also very interested in the technology industry – seeing how much technology has revolutionised the world and our daily lives, and the fact that there is so much growth potential in the application and adoption of technology across Africa.

You are an INSEAD Machaba Machaba MBA'09D Scholarship recipient, congrats! How has the scholarship helped you?

I am glad to have been selected for the scholarship and honoured to be able to carry on the legacy of Machaba Machaba, an INSEAD alum from the ‘09D batch. Being a recipient of a Machaba Machaba MBA '09D Scholarship has significantly eased my financial burden, allowing me to focus on the more important aspects of school: learning and making people connections.

Coming from a country with recurring currency devaluations and double-digit interest rates, the cost of the MBA would have been otherwise prohibitive, and the impact of the pandemic has limited the support available from family and friends. The scholarship has therefore been a great enabler for me and my MBA aspiration.

Realising the impact of the scholarship is why I have eagerly volunteered for the Robin Hood Campaign committee to help raise funds for scholarship opportunities for the next set of INSEAD candidates; doing my part to give back to others.

What was your scholarship application journey like?

I applied to INSEAD in Round 4 (which technically meant that I was not eligible for a scholarship) but after receiving my offer, I asked if it was possible for me to still apply for a scholarship. The fantastic MBA Financing team put me in touch with the Scholarship Committee to see if there were still any un-awarded scholarships that I could apply for. I am truly grateful to have been given the opportunity to apply for the Africa Scholarship, from which I was then selected for the Machaba Scholarship.

One of the elements at the heart of the application process is the essay. When writing mine, I learnt a lot about myself and how important it is to value your story and to tell it in a direct and simple way, while also demonstrating the impact that an MBA from INSEAD would make in your life and how you will further impact the world.

Any tips to African applicants who are interested in applying for a scholarship at INSEAD?

Identify your strengths and what makes you unique, tell your story in a direct and simple way – simplicity can be powerful. Very importantly, believe in yourself, and value the personal and professional journey that has led you to the point of your application.

I recommend any applicant needing financial aid to visit the scholarship portal that outlines all the available scholarships and the criteria for accessing them and seek help and counsel from family and friends as required during the application process.

Also, if you are not offered a scholarship due to the application round, always make the effort to put in a request. You might not get it but at least ask, as you have zero chance of getting it if you don’t ask.

Please complete this sentence: On the day I graduate from INSEAD, I will …

pop a magnum of champagne and party like it’s 1999! (if COVID allows)