INSEAD provides a golden opportunity for a “time-out” where one can really achieve higher levels of awareness
What made you decide to do an EMBA? Why the INSEAD EMBA?
In my career, I worked across three continents in different industries. In 2017, I took a hard look at my career path and personal development and realised I need to gear up for the future, both in terms of hard skills but more importantly, in terms of my approach to leadership. I wanted to develop a holistic view of how businesses operate, both from a macro-economic perspective and an organisational behaviour standpoint, but I also wanted to better understand how to bring the best out of individuals and teams.
Do share with us your class experiences.
Classes were extremely demanding but equally rewarding. Each one of us had to cover an enormous amount of academic material and case studies before we stepped foot into the classroom, and even then, it felt like running a marathon at sprint pace.
INSEAD’s unique mix of students and their high level of calibre makes all the difference inside the classroom.
We had 53 extraordinary people from all sorts of backgrounds and cultures. For every topic we explored, someone would bring up examples from their own careers which would enrich the learning experience.
How has the EMBA helped you in your career – during the programme and post-graduation?
I was bold enough to make a radical career change right in the middle of my EMBA journey. I was working for one of the largest airlines in the world and moved to one of the leading travel technology companies. I tapped into INSEAD’s resources to ensure that I was making the best possible decision and confirmed that I will extract the maximum value out of it.
I worked with the career office and INSEAD’s career coach to revalidate my decision, make sure I was true to my objectives, and gear up for the negotiations. I tapped into my Leadership Development group to go through some of my concerns and deeper, inner thoughts. Each one of them played a critical role which make the move happen.
I believe that INSEAD gives you the right framework to fine-tune your career path and make sure you follow your true calling.
In the long run, I do see myself potentially outside the traditional “corporate” environment, as I want to explore more entrepreneurial elements.
INSEAD is playing a key role here, with ongoing education (either through electives or Key Management Challenges), start-up boot camps, conferences, and of course the ongoing support of the Leadership Development group which goes on even after the completion of the programme.
How did you juggle studies and your busy work schedule at the same time?
I believe that we can all make time. It’s just a matter of priorities. As we are constantly exploring new ideas and taking on new work, we should be ready to “cut” other things and let them go.
In my case, I didn’t take any time off for almost two years. I didn’t see my family and friends back home, and I did miss out on many other social aspects of life. But I did manage to maintain a healthy balance between INSEAD, home, work and exercising. I've been blessed with an amazing wife, who took on so much during the programme, and also two really supportive line managers, both at Emirates and Travelport (when I changed jobs).
One advice for people joining the programme or considering it, is to make sure that your close personal and professional circles are aware of the heavy workload you will be having going forward and really ask them to support you in any way possible.
How has the INSEAD EMBA helped you change your life/perspectives?
During those 15 months, I was exposed to many different cultures and work styles. Whether it’s through the Leadership Development Programme (LDP) or through regular interaction with other people in the programme, I saw myself through different lenses.
I better understood how I react under extreme pressure, I had to make difficult decisions as a leader of groups or follow other leaders even when I wasn’t completely aligned with their plan. I received open and sincere feedback from people and got the opportunity to do the same.
When we are locked into our daily life we can’t see clearly how our behaviours affect others. INSEAD provides a golden opportunity for a “time-out” where one can really achieve higher levels of awareness and improve massively towards the desired direction.
Personally, I think I came out of the programme being a better friend, a better husband and a better father.
All of those go beyond my career and executive leadership profile.
How do you balance personal life (family), studies and work?
I am a huge fan of scheduling. Even during the EMBA programme, I made sure that I plan my day in a way that it always allows time for physical exercise, personal time with family (even on skype), studying and once in a while, quality time with friends. I would always have one hour in the calendar for studying on weekdays, four to five hours during weekends, and on top of that, an hour of work out every day.
Surprisingly enough, during the programme I made friends and we started exercising together, even running a marathon in Singapore right before our final module. I met people who helped me prepare for classes as we studied together – and some of them went to the extreme of running webinars to further explain a topic (i.e. financial accounting) before the module and make sure that others were well prepared for it.
Even our families came closer during the programme, and often times we would be meeting for dinners with our spouses, or have play dates where kids would enjoy some quality time together while the parents would work on an assignment.
Did the LDP make an impact on you?
Absolutely. My key objective for joining the INSEAD programme was expanding beyond the academic knowledge, and the LDP was a key point of differentiation when I made my decision. During the LDP experience, I got the right tools and support to feel comfortable with vulnerability and further explore my strengths and weaknesses.
I was able to see how my words and action often mismatched. I received open and constructive feedback, I developed a very concrete development plan and I had a professional coach and my peers to keep me honest and on track.
The LDP experience goes on even after the end of the programme. Our group communicates constantly, we seek support from each other for items related to work or life overall. We are planning a small reunion with our coach from 2017 to see how we have evolved since then. The LDP brought a lot of clarity, self-awareness and helped me improve on areas that I wasn’t even thinking I had to improve on, before INSEAD.
What is one key takeaway you have gotten from the programme?
choosing what you will stop doing is equally (if not more) important than choosing what you will start doing.
It was part of one of my favourite classes, called “Cuts, Intents and Stories” where Professor Neil Bearden took us through an extraordinary transformative journey in two and half days. Especially in today’s fast-moving, connected world, choosing what we will stop doing and putting intention behind the things we actually do, is more important than ever before.
What advice will you give to potential participants looking to do an INSEAD EMBA?
For potential participants I would like to share three pieces of advice: 1) be prepared for change, be open to change and be as open as you can to feedback, 2) you will get out of the programme as much as you put into it, whether it is time or effort – so plan accordingly and 3) be prepared to exit the programme with more questions than you had before you entered.
INSEAD will open so many new horizons and options – the impact of the programme will not be visible right after graduation, but it will keep on giving back to you for months and years after that.