Make an effort to mingle with people in the INSEAD community.
Carlos Ignacio Velasco
Why did you decide to do your MBA at INSEAD?
After a hectic six years professionally and with my daughter on her way, I didn’t have time to “abandon reality” for two years! So I looked for the best top-tier school with a one-year MBA. I knew alumni from many top schools – and those from INSEAD consistently gave positive feedback.
In fact, with the benefit of hindsight, the intense INSEAD programme is a much more profound experience than a two-year MBA given its intrinsically intense nature, so I think you may learn even more this way. Plus, having worked in Europe and the US, my wife and I wanted to experience living in Asia.
Wasn’t it tough to move to the other side of the world with a baby?!
Good timing wasn’t an option! Having a baby adds complexity to managing life, but my wife and I had long decided that having a baby wouldn’t prevent us from following our ambitions. So Madalena was five months old when she experienced her first long-haul flight. And Singapore has turned out to be a great place to live if you have a baby – with great weather. Not surprisingly, I can also be at home much more than when I was working.
Apart from the weather, what makes Singapore a good place to have a young family?
The main thing is that everything works. It’s clean and safe. The healthcare system is a global reference. The public transport system is cheap and efficient with ramps everywhere for strollers. Probably the fact that many expats choose to raise their families here created a virtuous cycle that benefits everyone. It is definitely one of the easiest places I’ve known to raise a family.
Do you miss your extended family support system?
Living in the age of Skype, we speak to our families every day. Ironically, in Portugal, we could go several days at a time without speaking to our parents!
What kind of support does INSEAD offer parents?
On a basic level, there’s a well-equipped family room with lots of toys and essentials. Also, during the integration week, the school runs sessions with the partners from the previous class to share tips and information. Campus has become a strong part of my wife’s life. It’s a very welcoming place to hang out with other partners and children. And as we’re planning to go to Fontainebleau in September, she didn’t need to look for work or build a strong social network beyond INSEAD.
What advice would you offer other parents planning to come to INSEAD?
The INSEAD experience is so intense that everyone realises that they can’t do everything. Something’s got to give! In some ways it helps to have a family, because it forces you to be disciplined and to prioritise. Sure, at the beginning, you feel you’re missing some events, but you soon learn to be focused on your family and the academics – with a bit of sport, social life and career activity on top. Having a family anchors you in reality and stops you from getting lost among all the opportunities. So my advice is: focus and prioritise.
What will be your key INSEAD takeaway as a family?
In some ways, my wife’s experience has mirrored mine. I’ve had my multicultural work group, and so has she. There are Chilean, US, Pakistani, Belgian and French partners in her group of friends. They talk about cultural and religious differences – and learn from each other just as I do with my group. The culture sharing has been very enriching for both of us.
We’ve both realised that people from very different backgrounds can have similar thoughts, while people from very similar backgrounds can think completely differently. And we’ve both concluded that it will help us to deal with difficult situations in our future careers – wherever we go.