It’s been a little over two months since I first stepped foot into INSEAD, and here we are: the last day of final exams. To say that time has flown by quickly is an understatement. As I look back at the whirlwind that the last two months have been, I can’t help but wonder what I would tell myself if I could do it all over again. And here it is: Don’t Play It Safe
When I was a little girl, I remember my father getting a birthday card from my grandmother, his mother. The card featured an exasperated elephant with turkeys along his back, on his trunk, and on his hump and was drawn by the famous illustrator and humorist, Sandra Boynton.
And like a flash, we are done with P1, i.e. our first academic period, i.e. one of the most intense two-month periods of my life. Highlights from this (very short) timespan include:
So wow. How do I begin to describe the last (and my first) month at INSEAD? Let me begin by telling you it’s doesn’t feel like a month – I’d say a solid three-four at least. The time dilation effect of a super-intense academic, career, social and introspective personal development calendar is real! I feel like I’ve known my new town, country, friends, housemates, study buddies and professors for way longer than four measly weeks.
B-schools are particularly well known for their all-consuming, high-pressure, and demanding environment, filled with ambitious young professionals. But is that all it is? What else is there in the B-school bubble? When I first talked about the B-school bubble, people thought I was alluring to the suggestion that an MBA degree is losing its value, that tuition costs are too high, or that there is an over-supply of MBA grads. (I completely disagree with all the above claims – but we can leave that for another post.)
Fifteen months ago, on June 7, 2016, I divorced my best friend of 10 years and husband of two years. I spent the next two weeks sitting on a seafoam green couch, staring at the half-empty, one-bedroom apartment on Michigan Avenue, and crying. Every morning, I had to remind myself that I was now divorced and that he was not coming back. At some point in the following two weeks, I wrote my essays and applied to INSEAD.
In 2011, then Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke sat opposite Republican Congressman Ron Paul at the Financial Services Committee semi-annual review. At one point, Representative Paul prompted Mr. Bernanke, “The price of gold today is fifteen hundred and eighty dollars...when you wake up in the morning, do you care about the price of gold?” Mr. Bernanke calmly replied, “Well I pay attention to the price of gold, but I think it reflects a lot of things…the reason people hold gold is as a protection against global uncertainties—what we call tail risk.”
INSEAD has just introduced a Personal Leadership Development Programme (PLDP) to their curriculum. The decision was made after collecting feedback from employers and I must admit, a convincing argument in choosing this Business School. The kick-off took place a couple of days ago, when Professor Derek Deasy made us ask ourselves important questions related to our true motivations and expectations regarding the year ahead. And so, with more questions than answers I went to school on Sunday morning (yes, on a Sunday), to meet my group and our PLDP coach for a group session.
I'm a week into the programme and I already need to catch my breath. What an experience! Inspiring lectures, meetings with high profile alums, trips to Paris, group work, soul searching, and some refreshing beverages in between it all. We are presented with so many thoughts, ideas, questions and opportunities that I am having trouble sifting through all of it. Most of the students are having a hard time with FOMO: with so many activities, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and lose your balance - gym, sleep, groceries, alone time, or otherwise.
I was sitting in a Cuban diner in South Beach, Miami when it hit me: we are now just a few weeks away from start of business school - this life changing experience that has been 29 years in the making. Why 29 years? Well, I think my dad had planned out this path for me before I was born: what are the odds that my father, brother and I share the same path from an undergrad in engineering to an MBA at INSEAD?!