COVID-19 closed business school campuses and forced thousands of MBA students into studying online. But it has also been a trigger for innovation. Some of the world’s most exciting startups have come out of the pandemic, and many of them have been started by MBAs. Edward Tsim from INSEAD's MBA Class of 2020 shares how the pandemic has sparked a business idea and launched the next step of his career as a lawyer-turned-entrepreneur.
Hometown: Agadir, MoroccoUndergraduate Institution and Major:
I never saw myself as an entrepreneur before INSEAD. In my mind, entrepreneurs with the likes of Steve Jobs or Elon Mask have a certain level of coolness; they are free spirits with a tremendously high risk-seeking appetite. I imagine them to be working day and night in T-shirts and jeans in their tech-enabled cozy offices, drinking coffee and ordering late night takeaways, pushing the team towards new breakthroughs with excitement!
Is launching a business the best way to fulfill your purpose? Are you dreaming of becoming an entrepreneur, but you are too afraid of taking the risk?
INSEAD is the ideal place for me to pressure test my ideas with pioneers of relevant fields and future leaders.
Coming from a background in science and start-ups, many of my MBA programme options felt like a strong departure from the unfamiliar mind-expanding experiences, on-the-job learning, and team-building challenges of start-ups into a world of conservatism, risk management, and generally-accepted best practices—except for INSEAD.
At the end of August, I had the opportunity to attend an elective in Silicon Valley, as part of my MBA. INSEAD has been a wonderful opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone and explore different career paths, and I signed up for the Building Business in Silicon Valley (BBSV) trek to do just that: explore the epicentre of tech startups, and what makes it so unique and successful.
It’s true that time flies when you’re having fun. Within the blink of an eye, I spent six weeks in Nairobi, Kenya, working at ALX, an education and talent development platform. I first came across this opportunity from an INSEAD classmate, Sue Xu, who like me, is keen on exploring a career in social impact. She had previously spoken to Victoria Peil, the head of ALX, and who happens to be the elder sister of another classmate, Christina. Sue then put me in touch with Victoria, and not long after, I was having a video interview with her.
Before I talk about my experience, I want to tell you about Ahmed (name changed). Ahmed graduated with a degree in hydraulic engineering from the UAE, before completing a traineeship with the Ministry of Agriculture in Gaza. Unsure about his career goals, he decided to open a supermarket with his brother, where he was the general manager in charge of inventory management, customer service and financial record keeping.
Having regarded my past few months at INSEAD as experimental grounds, the MBA’s 2-month break felt like an exciting new experimentation window. And with a “single” professional 4-year experience in management consulting, an internship seemed like the perfect opportunity to test new professional variables around sector and work setup.