I just imagine how my life would have been last year without INSEAD and I believe doing the MBA was one of the smartest choices I could make.
Gonzalo Santaella

Gonzalo Santaella

Nationality/Passport: Argentine Year of graduation: 2021 Current Role: Associate, Investment Banking

So Gonzalo, you recently graduated from the INSEAD MBA programme. What have you been up to?

I’ve been doing an internship in the UK during the summer and now I’m traveling around visiting family and friends until the beginning of next year where I’ll start working full-time.

Could you share a little why you decided to pursue the MBA in the first place?

I wanted to broaden my international experience and continue my professional career in Europe. In this sense, doing an MBA was a necessary step to achieve that goal.

Was there a reason you chose INSEAD?

There were quite a few reasons I must say.

First, I knew INSEAD is known for having diversity as a foundational value, with cohorts comprised with 100+ nationalities.

I found this fascinating, and I was amazed learning from everyone’s story that brought my classmates to INSEAD. Second, I knew that the network INSEAD has built with more than 61,000+ alumni were a very important asset which I certainly used a lot even before starting my MBA. Third, INSEAD is considered one of the top universities globally for the companies I was aiming to work for and the alumni network in those places was quite strong as well.

Can you share your thoughts about the class experience, professors, the curriculum?

By the time we started the MBA, the whole idea of having online classes or classes on a hybrid mode was still quite new. Given the pandemic, there were a few weeks in which we had to move fully online, but I must say it ended up being better than expected.

The professors in general made a big effort to keep everyone engaged and, as a class, we managed to take some classes together which allowed us to spend more quality time with each other. In addition, I believe we were one of the smallest cohorts at INDEAD in the last few years (even though we were still 300+) which made it easier to become closer to everyone.

Regarding the class experience, INSEAD offers a wide range of topics so that you can explore or improve whatever skill you feel like, and professors really make a difference, especially in such a challenging time as these last two years have been. Just to name two examples, I learnt a lot from Sharon Katz and Winnie Jiang. Sharon’s classes, Financial Statement Analysis, were very useful in terms of the skills I needed to develop to get an opportunity in Investment Banking and I learnt a lot from his personal experience and the path that led him to teach at INSEAD. I joined Winnie’s classes, Physiological Issues in Management, to reflect about how our professional and personal lives are deeply intertwined and explore on how it can affect us and what can we do about it. I have to say each class was an insightful experience.

Did you benefit from the PLDP?

I believe the Personal Leadership Development Programme (PLDP) is a powerful tool that INSEAD offers so that you can explore any aspect of your life but also to explore the cultural difference you had within your study group.

We come to the MBA with an immeasurable number of assumptions about how things should be done and how we should communicate among each other which naturally creates conflict.

In my personal experience, PLDP helped me understand those differences and work with them. We all come to the MBA to expand our international experience and PLDP plays a key role in creating awareness on how to deal with people from different backgrounds and cultures.

What is one important lesson that you learnt from your MBA experience that was especially useful?

I saw a type of leadership from both faculty and students that I believe is extremely powerful. We are all ambitious individuals, and we all want the best for our lives. However, one’s success or failure is not determined by how much better or worse we perform against someone else. The outcome of what we get depends on our own decisions. This is extremely important because recruiting season is tough but is much easier to get away with it if you just share your experience, help others improve theirs and work with them to improve yours.

As co-president of the Investment Banking club, I tried to promote this environment, encouraged everyone to apply and helped them as much as I could. I’m also very grateful for the people who worked with me, listened to my concerns, and advised me when needed. I had friends who were by my side all the way, and I’ll always be very grateful. “Business as a force for good” can have different meanings for each of us but we will all agree that whatever we do must be done in a constructive way that works for everyone and not just one person.

Any tips for those who are considering an INSEAD MBA?

DO IT. I still remember all those fears I had before I applied such as the cost, the language, the change in region or the pandemic itself but everything was worth it and I do not regret it for a second.

And finally, any memorable moments from the programme, or anything unexpected?

I believe last year will certainly be remembered for the pandemic and everything around it. Many people decided to defer for different reasons, either they were afraid of an unknown disease, they wanted to have a "normal" experience, or they were just uncomfortable to make a switch in an uncertain job market.

I just imagine how my life would have been last year without INSEAD and I believe doing the MBA was one of the smartest choices I could make.

One unexpected thing I guess was how lucky we were with the exchange programme that INSEAD offers. When in France restrictions were a little tighter due to the pandemic, each of us had the possibility to switch campus and go to Singapore. In my case, I’ve never been to Asia before and so that exchange improved my experience significantly.