Before coming to INSEAD in January 2017, as I was preparing for a year filled with extraordinary experiences, I made a promise to myself – this was going to be the year to be brave, to think about the long term, and to really attempt to discover myself. With a consulting background and having worked in the US for the entirety of my professional career, I was keen to broaden my horizons and experience something new in my INSEAD journey.
The mission of PeoplePods is to provide dignified and affordable housing to low-income workers.
I came to INSEAD with the goal of consolidating my skills as a Consultant and at the same time explore new sectors and expand my horizons. So when I saw the job post published by ASTI and Endeavor, a small robotics company located in the city of Burgos (Northern Spain) and an NGO pioneering the concept of high-impact entrepreneurship in growth markets, I applied straight away.
Excited, optimistic and slightly naïve I arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa to work on my summer project to deliver world class, affordable healthcare. The last six months of INSEAD have been a wild rollercoaster, and the two summer months are a good break to reflect and take a step back from Financial Markets & Valuation, Marketing and Macroeconomics and what not. The latter topic was completely wasted on me, but I do remember South Africa having the highest Gini Coefficient, a measure for inequality in an economy where 0 is total equality, and 1 is total inequality.
This summer I was lucky to get an opportunity to intern with World Food Programme in Kampala, the capital of Uganda. It was my first time in Sub-Saharan Africa: vaccination, difficult conversation with family and full luggage of ammunition against mosquitos. In 2016 Uganda had the world's highest malaria incidence with a rate of 478 cases per 1,000 population per year. My excitement helped me to overcome these difficulties in few days.
The first time I ever heard of an MBA was when I was 13 and my brother was showing me around his university. "There's the Teachers College. And there's the Law School - many top lawyers come out of there. And that building houses the MBA programme, which is famous for producing some of the world's most evil people." OK, so I'm not getting an MBA, I thought at the time. At least not from THERE. (Out of respect for the many fine people who went 'there', I’ll leave out the name.)
It must have been sometime in early February, one afternoon while sitting in my office at World Vision Georgia in a small town east of Tbilisi, when I received the call that I had been admitted to INSEAD’s MBA programme. I quickly betrayed the cool I kept while on the phone with the INSEAD admissions representative by sending my fellow Peace Corps friends all cap messages using my agency-provided, T-9 typing Nokia phone.
Whenever I introduce myself to my fellow classmates here, the most common response I hear is “you were made for INSEAD!” While I’d believed this myself when I was applying, it’s reassuring to hear it from the Admissions Committee when I was accepted and again from my classmates now that orientation is kicking off!
Like many of my peers at INSEAD, one of the many reasons I applied to the MBA programme was to test out my own venture ideas and test the entrepreneurial waters on my own. Of course, any successful entrepreneur will argue that beyond the basics, very few entrepreneurial skills can be taught in a classroom, rather they are learned through experience.
Below is Pauline's latest email: “Raconte.” One word that calls for many. Pauline is French and she lives in Paris. She is a friend of mine, and a former colleague. We used to work for the same newspaper, she as a journalist and I as an art director. Her one-word e-mail means roughly: "Tell me how it goes". When I first read it, my reaction was panic: Time has been so scarce since the MBA has started! I was about to write back: "all great — will tell you all next year — love— C."