Participating in the Middle East section was a great opportunity for me to get to know a new region and also understand a different way of working.
Do share with us your background – which industry you are working in, your field of study, etc?
I am French and I have been working in the tourism and airlines industries for almost 12 years after a double bachelor degree in business administration and management from NEOMA (Reims, France) and Tongji University (Shanghai, China). I’ve held various positions from sales officer to sales manager and general manager in French, Chinese, Austrian and Italian companies. I am currently working in a family business that I’ve created with my wife: a tailor-made travel agency, as strategic and business development manager.
What made you decide to do an EMBA and why the INSEAD EMBA?
Initially, I thought of doing a full-time MBA but after a discussion with INSEAD’s recruitment team, it was clear that an EMBA was more apt for my career development. INSEAD was my only choice because, for me, it was the most international business school compared to the well-known American or French ones. INSEAD provides a good balance of nationalities and a global mix is in the school’s DNA.
You are based in Europe and have chosen to study at the Middle East section: what benefits do you see in taking your core courses on the Abu Dhabi Campus?
I already had exposure to Europe and China as part of work and during my studies. Participating in the Middle East section was a great opportunity for me to get to know a new region and also understand a different way of working.
What is your experience as a participant in the Middle East section so far?
As we share a lot during class, I am benefiting in every session from the experience of my other classmates. It is so diverse in terms of nationalities with Indians, Lebanese, Nigerians, South Africans, Singaporeans, Italians, British, Moroccans - 32 nationalities all together!
Our cohort has a very good spirit; we share a lot between the sessions via our WhatsApp group and the people in Dubai see each other quite often. I’ve been able to get in touch with the European cohort and therefore I benefit from both networks. I also love the flight time as it is a real break between work, family and the beginning of the module. It is also a great time for finalising the pre-reading as I am not distracted by calls or emails.
How do you keep your life-work-study balance when you have to travel for each module?
In my view, the programme schedule for the Middle East section is better spread out in terms of days. The longest session of core courses is 10 days, which is intense but manageable for the family. My wife is running our business and we have three kids aged six, three and 18 months old. Therefore we need to anticipate the time I’m in Abu Dhabi but it is feasible. Commitment and support from the family is key to succeed in the programme.
My recommendation is that you need to prepare yourself for the substantial amount of work you need to do during the module, but also in between, with pre-readings and group work. As long as everyone in the family and at work is aware and giving you the room to do it, you can really enjoy this journey.
Do share with us your class experiences.
I’ve been through two-thirds of the core courses and I just enjoyed it! The quality and style of teaching and learning is so inspiring. It is a well-balanced mix of fundamental knowledge and real-life case studies that lead to group discussions, exchanges and therefore management tools.
I’m now more confident in fields like finance because the faculty teaches these subjects really well. I already applied some learnings from the courses at work.
This journey is all about sharing with peers and thus, you are in a safe environment (with no judgment) and can only benefit from the diversity of the cohort. We have engineers, finance experts and consultants from various industries so you can always find someone who will contribute or share. I’ve also seen people helping each other in developing their business in the region by giving tips or contacts. This is also part of the INSEAD family “benefits”. I’ve also been contacted by a GEMBA alum based in Singapore to discuss about my current professional field.
Is there a particular course that you enjoyed most until now?
It is hard to make a choice! The strategy module has been very intense. It is related to other courses, as strategy uses a bit of marketing, finance and pricing. It was also an opportunity for me to discover more about Blue Ocean, an INSEAD-developed concept in strategy. I also applied some learnings at my current work by stepping back and setting up new objectives for the company.
Tell us more about the Leadership Development Programme (LDP).
The LDP is a key part of our journey as you are in a group of peers with whom it is safe to discuss and share. Here, you can address your concerns, feelings and get feedback without judgment. We called our group the “circle of trust” and I can guarantee you that you will be waiting for the next discussion with your group. It is also an individual learning process to develop as a leader. The coaching process is well-designed, and you identify your own drivers and blockers and work on it to grow.
What advice will you give to potential applicants looking to do an INSEAD EMBA?
First, take time before applying. It took me two years before I actually started the process. For me it is important to have good alignment, especially with the family. It should also complement your work, as you should be able to implement your learnings; that’s why the programme is so impactful.
In terms of preparation, I was very conscientious with the preparation recommended by the recruitment team for the INSEAD assessment. I took the time to go through all the exercises and case study. It is sufficient as the assessment follows the same structure, so no surprises, but you should dedicate some time for that. I also asked some friends to conduct some mock interviews but in the end, what matters the most is your motivation and why you choose to be part of the INSEAD family. Take also the time to write your essays and ask friends and peers to give you some feedback about it. It is a good learning process as well.