Why I Chose INSEAD To Do My MBA

Cecily Liu

After nine years of professional experiences across journalism, the government sector and charity, I felt ready for the next level of accelerating my career to create a bigger impact. I have always been curious to learn, and I felt energised by the idea that I can take the questions, reflections and fresh ideas that I’ve accumulated at work over the years into a classroom setting, to freely discuss with other students and learn from them to. 

I chose INSEAD for its emphasis on diversity and high level of international exposure. It is truly a business school for the world.

I feel this global perspective at the core of INSEAD values fits well with me - as I’ve lived in China, New Zealand and the UK, I consider myself a global citizen and feel very much at home with the INSEAD environment. 
I met so many incredibly smart classmates who are high achievers in their respective fields and are very humble and willing to share and proactively encourage others to achieve their best. I learnt that humility allows us to keep an open mind, to stay curious and to take our learnings even further. 
During my time on the programme, I was VP Careers for the INSEAD Women in Business Club, a club that supports female students to further their careers through talks, seminars, a mentoring programme and other resources. The highlight of my experience was organising a seminar called "The Less Trodden Path”, where INSEAD alumni from various non-traditional MBA sectors shared their experiences, encouraging students to think beyond the more popular MBA graduate fields.  
I was team leader for the "INSEAD Chinese Cultural Week" organising committee which was a week of activities showcasing the highlights of Chinese culture to classmates from all around the world. We had a range of social, cultural and educational events, including calligraphy writing, a Chinese costume dress-up photoshoot, movie screening, ‘designed in China’ products auction, a China travel exhibition, Chinese dinner, and several webinars where we invited faculty, alumni and other China experts to speak and interact with students.

The way my classmates asked me questions about Chinese culture made me reflect deeper, and their approach to compare Chinese culture with their own made me learn more about their cultures and realise we have a lot more similarities than first appeared. And that, I felt, is a true benefit of INSEAD’s diverse community.
I was also a founder of the “INSEAD Brunch Cub” - it started with a few students exploring how we could create a safe space to share innovative ideas and discuss important and potentially controversial topics relating to politics, religion, culture and business. We decided to gather on Sundays over brunch, to discuss one topic per week. The INSEAD Brunch Club creates a safe space for us to openly share, respect each other's views, and question our own assumptions! We've had a lot of insightful discussions, and of course, enjoyed delicious food together!

At INSEAD, I feel I’ve been appreciated both for my intellectual strength and emotional intelligence, and the combination of the two makes me feel empowered and supported.

From an intellectual perspective, I feel I very much have an equal voice as male classmates, which I find very encouraging. From an emotional intelligence perspective, I feel that qualities I’ve leant from my female role models (my grandmother and mother) such as compassion and empathy really contributed to how I engage with classmates in group projects and socially. 

From the Alumni community, I look up to Christina Law (MBA'91D). She went to INSEAD at a time when her cohort only had 12% women and 4% Asian, but as an Asian female student she worked hard to pursue her dreams. She was open to new knowledge, constantly challenging herself to learn different perspectives, and the confidence she developed allowed her to stand up for herself in the corporate world and make a significant impact.

I am inspired by the key questions she uses to frame her career and life (Am I making a difference? Am I doing the right things? Am I enjoying myself?) and I ask myself these questions periodically to remind myself of my career and life aspirations.  
Since graduating from the INSEAD MBA in July 2021, I’m now working in London as ESG Consultant at ISS, specialising in Sustainable Finance. My team provides critical sustainability opinions on Green, Social and Sustainability-Linked Bonds and delivers training to various Debt Capital Market stakeholders looking to advance their ESG strategy. I also contribute to product and methodology development, pilot consulting and training for bond issuers, and to support the high growth of the business. 

I love my job because I feel green finance is such a meaningful way to help align capital market incentives with environmental objectives and other sustainable development goals. I’m grateful that many of my INSEAD lessons (especially the ‘Sustainable Finance’ elective module led by Professor Lucie Tepla) are super helpful for my job and that I’m making a difference.
Navigating the post-COVID job market was not easy, but I’m grateful for the journey. I spent a few months applying for jobs all day long, and it was really sad getting so many rejections. The worst part about the rejections was not the lack of a job, but the fact that I started to doubt myself, because I felt I was not capable of doing anything. However, the INSEAD community helped me so much in regaining my confidence and energy level.

I went to an INSEAD alumni event and met Gaby Glasener-Cipollone, who leads the Communications work for the INSEAD UK Alumni Association. Gaby invited me to help with the INSEAD UK Alumni Association’s communications work, so I started to engage and surprised myself by how much fun it is (as a former journalist, I knew how to do the work, so I received validation for all the tasks I performed, and it helped me pick up my confidence).

Meanwhile, I received a lot of help from the INSEAD Careers Development Centre, and as a result of researching and interviewing for many jobs globally I connected with a few dozen alumni across four continents (Europe, Asia, North America, Oceania).

I could not believe how generous they were with their time, and how absolutely encouraging they were towards me – for example one alum, who is an MD of a big advertising firm spent an hour on Zoom helping me to edit my CV! I’m super glad that I have my dream job now, and I’m almost glad that I did not get a job straight away – for all the experience and friendships I developed with other INSEADers along this journey is certainly a part of the INSEAD magic I wouldn’t want to miss.
The INSEAD network was very supportive during my job search, and I think it will continue to help me throughout the rest of my career. The key thing about the INSEAD network is that the more I put in, the more I get out from the experience.

For example, since graduating I have been helping students from the Asian European Business Club to organise a China Tech Day – it was a very successful event with over 200 participants and it unveiled so many insights and interesting discussions. I invited many of my industry contacts to be guest speakers and moderated a panel discussion. I feel that experiences like this helped me to raise my profile, connect meaningfully with opinion leaders in the field I work in, and learn so much about leadership, teamwork and industry knowledge in the process.
For anyone who is considering the MBA, my advice is just do it! No matter what stage you’re at in your career or what long term goal you have in yourself, you will absolutely acquire useful skills which will accompany you for a lifetime!
Be kind to yourself – know that life is a marathon and do not overly stress about ‘the post-MBA job’ – after all, you have a lifetime to reach your dreams!
INSEAD is a place where diversity is being truly embraced – which means being truly open to the perspectives of people different from us, actively listen to understand and learn from others, as opposed to be blinded by our own preconceptions and assumptions.