INSEAD helped me strengthen my leadership skills and taught me how to innovate in more ambiguous settings - attributes that are highly relevant in my venture building role.
Akash Sinha

Akash Sinha

Nationality/Passport: Indian Year of graduation: 2022 Current Role: Senior Product Manager

Tell me about yourself, and how you go to where you are today both on a professional and personal level?

I grew up in India and spent most of my early teenage years in the capital city of Delhi. Later, I moved around the country for my studies and internships. I majored in Computer Science and moved to Singapore soon after my undergraduate to work for a Japanese software firm.

Singapore was my first ever international experience, and everything felt new all at once - the people, the food, and definitely the weather. Despite the lack of familiarity, it felt exciting to meet people from the rest of Southeast Asia and learn about their culture, some of them are still close friends seven years later.

I was in a software engineering role, but the firm I was working for was expanding their market from Japan to the rest of Southeast Asia, exposing me to a mix of commercial and technical learnings.

Interestingly, the first time I heard about INSEAD was also in Singapore. My work was close to One North, and I frequently saw the green and orange "INSEED" badges (yes, I pronounced it INSEED at that time!) at the hawker centre nearby. I was an engineer at the time and never imagined myself going to business school. Look at how things changed :)

After Singapore I moved to The Netherlands to work for in their Amsterdam headquarters. Amsterdam really brought out my affinity for multicultural environments. I worked with colleagues from 63 nationalities, started learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and travelled extensively to compete in martial arts events across Europe!

At, I started as an engineer, but quickly discovered an aptitude for thinking across functions from engineering to design to business. Thankfully, Booking had a role for such people - product management - which felt like a perfect fit and I decided to switch to the new role. As a PM I had the chance to help Booking innovate on new products that resulted in revenues and market growth.

At some point in my product journey, I had started to explore the concept of Venture Studios. These are small firms that help entrepreneurs and corporations incubate start-ups to maximise their chances of success.

I felt that my product management background and affinity for innovation would make me a good fit for a venture studio, but decided to take some time off to properly explore the space, and strengthen skill sets around finance and commercial topics needed to operate early-stage businesses. An MBA felt like a good place to take this time off and explore how to move into this new space.

Soon after this, I decided to go to INSEAD where I spent a wonderful 10 months. I was a Fonty lifer, but moved back to Singapore post-MBA to work for BCG Digital Ventures - BCG’s venture building arm.

Tech and innovation aside, I am also pursuing my other passion in martial arts. Here in Singapore I am a part of the Evolve MMA team and hope to bring martial arts back to India someday!

What made you decide you wanted to pursue the INSEAD MBA, and why INSEAD in particular?

I had both personal and professional reasons to consider an MBA.

My professional journey before INSEAD had exposed me to technology and innovation. I was already managing teams and taking on strategic projects. For my next career step, I wanted to explore my entrepreneurial ambitions - i.e. either build my own start-up or join a venture studio.

However, I wanted to dedicate proper time to understand the start-up ecosystem, and enhance my leadership style to better handle the ambiguity of early-stage businesses.

On the personal front, I had been living away from my home country for six years, and wanted to use the time to meet people and engage with other cultures more in non-professional contexts. I always believed that being in diverse settings will push me to challenge my own assumptions and help me grow as a person.

At the same time, I did not feel like investing in a two-year programme, and INSEAD seemed like a perfect place to achieve both goals in 10-months. The school has a strong support system for entrepreneurship - Start-up Bootcamp, IVC, start-up treks, and plenty of alumni who are entrepreneurs and are willing to mentor others!

However, my biggest reason for choosing INSEAD were the people.

My conversations with alumni felt really authentic, and the community-like feeling that INSEAD classes are known for, really came out in these interactions. Each alum openly shared their experiences and memories, and assured me that INSEAD is a journey beyond the 10 months you spend there :)

What expectations did you have before you started the MBA?

I was expecting the programme to be fast-paced, but manageable with reasonable planning and prioritisation. Nearly all alumni I interacted with had told me that diversity is true in every sense of the word at INSEAD, and that I should really use the time to engage with my peers and learn from their unique backgrounds and experiences.

The 10 months went by in a flash, but I left with so many fond memories and learnings.

I was living in a shared house of 14 people from all over the globe, had a study group of five very diverse individuals from Chile, Germany, Australia, Ireland, and travelled together to seven countries. What’s special about these moments is that you learn so much about each other as individuals, all while supporting one another through academics, careers, and just life in general.

In hindsight, building deep friendships was the most important expectation that I managed to check off for my INSEAD journey!

Could you tell us about your experience with the Career Development Centre (CDC)?

I quite liked the exercises that CDC organises in P0/P1. Things like career themes exercise and resume reviews were quite helpful in navigating my strengths and matching them to employment opportunities.

For the later part, I worked mostly with my career coach, Gene Cleckley. Our relationship worked well in the way that I was clear on my post-MBA goal of venture building, and where I felt were some of the gaps that I need to work on while I am at INSEAD. Gene on the other hand gave me feedback on my plans, helped me network with alumni, and guided me in storylining my pitch.

The biggest value-add from CDC was their ability to match me with other alumni with similar backgrounds.

One example that comes to mind is when I needed to talk to someone with a tech and product background who transitioned to an innovation and design role in Europe after INSEAD. For context, that’s a very specific and niche requirement, but CDC was able to help me find someone from 21'D who was willing to help.

In some of my friends’ cases, CDC even helped negotiate salaries with employers. So, all around, quite helpful and it helps to have an initial plan with you!

Has the INSEAD MBA helped you in your career?

Certainly! I was recruited into my current role via a CDC job posting.

But more generally, I felt that the courses around Entrepreneurship and Organisational Behaviour helped strengthen my craft for innovation and leadership. In fact, I am still in touch with some of my professors, who helped me navigate my strengths and learn about career opportunities and interests I had not explored before.

The alumni generously offered career and MBA guidance. And beyond that, my peers from 22'J have been a constant source of support when it comes to making career decisions and finding ways to grow professionally and personally.

We still manage to meet in smaller groups all around the world to learn about each others’ experiences in other sectors and regions, but also to just reminisce on the INSEAD days!

Has the experience helped you remain relevant even after graduation?

I would say it has increased my relevance. Going into INSEAD, I already had some experience in innovation and team management.

INSEAD helped me strengthen my leadership skills and taught me how to innovate in more ambiguous settings - attributes that are highly relevant in my venture building role.

I picked up most of these learnings from Organisational Behaviour and Entrepreneurship courses, and have already had a chance to put them in practice in my current role.

Also, the fact that INSEAD is only 10 months long gave me the right amount of time to upskill, reflect on previous experiences, and rejoin the workforce without missing out much!

What advice will you give to prospects who are still considering whether an INSEAD MBA should be part of their career plan?

I would give three related suggestions.

First, really understand and articulate for yourself, why you need an MBA. An MBA is a significant investment in time and money, and your reasons should hold strong for at least the entire duration of the programme.

Second, take time to genuinely understand the different attributes of the programme - academics, extra-curriculars, people and network, and see how they fit into your post-MBA goals.

Finally, INSEAD is a community filled with immensely talented and diverse minds. You will likely learn the most from the people around you, and if you’re willing to engage with other cultures with an open mind, then it can really transform you as a person!