The Leadership Development Programme has really helped us become better leaders.
Abrar Hussain

Abrar Hussain

Abrar Hussain
Nationality/Passport: Indian Year of graduation: 2021 Current Role: Regional Sales Head at Oracle

What made you choose the INSEAD Global Executive MBA (GEMBA) amongst all the other programmes out there? 

INSEAD is undoubtedly one of the leading business schools in the world. I chose the INSEAD GEMBA because of the below differentiators:  

  • Diversity: INSEAD GEMBA has a very diverse class mix with students from 50+ countries across the GEMBA programme and most of them working outside their home country. This is a very powerful network. 
  • Three campuses: The presence on three mains campuses across Fontainebleau, Singapore and Abi Dhabi is a great advantage. We get to study on all the campuses and learn how business is done in different regions and continents.  
  • Brand name: One of the leading schools across the world – I would say the best international business school.  
  • Professors: The professors are excellent and well-known in the academia and industry. They are doing lot of amazing stuff such as research, advising large MNCs, etc.   
  • Programme structure: The choice of Core Courses, Electives and Key Management Courses (KMC) offers well-rounded learning to us. KMCs offer a choice to take this course / management challenge across different countries such as China, US, Brazil, etc. and that offers great understanding of the landscape of business in these countries.  
  • Leadership Development Programme (LDP): One of the key differentiators is the LDP which runs throughout the year. This is the best learning experience that provides you a safe environment to uncover your fears, learn about leadership and know your enablers and blockers. LDP has really helped us become better leaders. The peers in your LDP group become your closest friends.   

What are the challenges you faced having to manage work, studies and family? 

It’s quite challenging to manage work, studies, family and travel part at the same time. The first thing you have to do is to get the support of your spouse and I am grateful that my wife (Amreen Liaqet) supported me in this journey and actually motivated me to take this step. She was very helpful and kind in offering a hand in taking care of the kids and manage household chores during this journey. Without her support, it would have not been possible.  

The second important aspect to manage your journey is support from your boss, employers and colleagues. As you will be required to travel often, you will need support from them and managing that is also part of the learning curve.

You have to be efficient to manage your time. I remember that I used to find time to study during the flight, over the weekend, during off days - whatever time you can find will be needed as you are required to put at least four to six hours per week to complete assignments, do pre-reads before classes, prepare for exams, etc.

What was your career and experience when you first joined the GEMBA?

I was working as a Lead Account Director with Oracle when I started my GEMBA journey at INSEAD. In total, I have over 13 years of experience in Sales and Business Development across emerging markets working with Oracle, Cisco and Global MNCs. 

What is your current role/title and how did you get there?  

My current role after promotion is to lead the Oracle cloud team across four countries (UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain) as a Regional Sales Head. Now, I am managing a team of more than nine direct reports and another 15+ people as indirect reports.  

I started discussing with the Career Development (CDC) team at INSEAD early during my programme to plan my next steps that time. After a set of discussions with the CDC, members of my LDP group and GEMBA classmates from the tech industry, I started exploring either an internal promotion or an external option. I zoomed in two locations – either in Dubai or in Singapore.   

  • For the external option: During every visit to Singapore to attend GEMBA classes, I met three to four VP & SVPs to network and I must say that the INSEAD brand, CDC and the connections of classmates came handy in this process and were quite helpful. 
  • For the internal option: I started to network with various VPs within Oracle and raised my hand for promotion. I reached out to my connections and people who worked with me in the past for recommendations. I also leveraged my INSEAD learning and new-found LDP skills to position myself as a business leader. In addition, I also found two mentors (Cherian Varghese, VP at Oracle) and Mr Binu (GM at Large Systems Integrator) who were very helpful. They advised me on various occasions during the promotion process and helpt me built the confidence required.   

Any advice to current GEMBA participants on career change? 

  • Expect that career change takes time: Have an understanding that finding a right role will take time, be patient and plan for the long term. Don’t be harsh on yourself and expect that career promotion and realising dreams take time.  
  • Find a mentor: There are many leaders in the industry who want to make a real impact on society and are ready to lend a helping hand. Find a mentor who can guide and mentor you during various steps. The mentor will also help you see a bigger picture that will help you in your long-term career.   
  • Fully engage with LDP team: LDP team is a great forum to socialise, exchange ideas, share your feelings, take advice and find alternative solutions to any setbacks that you have during the process. It’s a safe zone so make it effective for you and your LDP group.  
  • Engage with the CDC team: Engage actively with career development team and start the process early in your GEMBA journey. The CDC team will share with you the trends in the market and will advise you where to focus to have maximum impact.   
  • Networking: Reach out to network and take advice from your friends and mentors in order to network effectively. Networking will never go waste – it will come to use either now or after few years.
  • Don’t give up: I too suffered massive setbacks but at last, resilience, hard work and persistence paid off.  Firstly, after joining INSEAD, COVID-19 hit us. Then, the largest (three-digit million) deal of my career with an airline fell through at the final stage, and that resulted in a massive loss in my bonus and two years of effort. To top it off, I interviewed for various internal roles to move to Singapore/Dubai and both were affected because of logistics/visa challenges due to COVID-19. These are few major setbacks followed by many smaller ones. 

Despite all the setbacks, I decided not to give up and not to settle for less even though I got very few options. I turned to my family and INSEAD friends who helped be remained positive.

To cut a long story short, I got a great role to lead the sales for Oracle Cloud for UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain in June this year amidst COVID-19. So my message to everyone is don’t settle for less and don’t give up. Be bold and chase your dreams!