I keep in touch with both class members and faculty. It’s a powerful network.
Denis Shafranik

Denis Shafranik

Denis Shafranik
Nationality/Passport: Russian, British Year of graduation: 2011 Current Role: Activist venture investor at Concentric

Why did you choose to do the GEMBA?

The GEMBA was my catalyst for career change. I’d been in investment banking for nine years and felt I’d been doing similar work for too long, but had too much experience for a full-time MBA. My main motivation was to discover new possibilities. So I did my research and went to open classes at two or three schools. INSEAD stood out, thanks to the diversity of cultures, the experiences of the people attending and the quality of the professors.

Were there any surprises when you started?

Despite all my research, I wasn’t prepared for the intensity of the work, both on and off campus! It’s not just the quantity or the difficulty. The Leadership Development Programme involves full-on, psychometric and 360-degree analysis – with 20 people filling in questionnaires about you. It doesn’t get much more intense than that.

What were the highlights of the programme?

Finance, I knew – all too well. Operations management, marketing and the psychology of leadership were revelations. Even though I still work in finance, these new subjects have had a huge impact on my work. However, looking back, it’s the people that stand out even more than the curriculum: the peers, as well as the professors. I keep in touch with both class members and faculty. It’s a powerful network.

Do you have any advice for potential applicants?

It’s important to have a good relationship with your boss, I think. Most banks won’t sponsor you through an EMBA these days. But the investment bank where I was working gave me time off unpaid, which was very generous.

Was the multi-campus structure of the programme very important to you?

Well, if you’re in the Europe section, it’s particularly good to graduate in December in the warmth of Singapore! More seriously, it was a great experience to study in different countries. I went to Singapore twice and Abu Dhabi once. The great benefit of the GEMBA is that it has multiple locations but at a single school. That means you get consistently high quality across all the campuses.

Has the programme left a lasting impact on you?

The INSEAD network has changed the way I make decisions – and even the way I behave at work. With hindsight, my move last year into a private equity role that is largely self-employed was a huge leap of faith. It was a good decision that the GEMBA gave me the courage and insights to formulate. Also, before I went to INSEAD, I’d barely heard of social entrepreneurship. Now it’s my long-term ambition. Contributing to society was the goal I set myself on graduating.