INSEAD ticked all of the boxes that I was looking for
Haif Zamzam Al Hammadi
What made you decide to do an MBA, and why INSEAD?
I knew that I wanted to pursue my graduate studies when I was still in school. It was unwritten, but frequently reminded of a rule in our household that my parents expected that my three brothers and I continue to at least a Masters. I decided to start pursuing an MBA once I started working in the Private Equity space. I was constantly being exposed to people that held MBAs from top schools. It seemed natural that I was going to continue my studies in the business field and I didn't want to settle for any school that was not within the top ten.
INSEAD ticked all of the boxes that I was looking for: top school, international student base, emphasis on women in business, would give me experiences way out of my comfort zone (learning a new language, living in the middle of a forest with wild boars running around, the constantly changing classroom given the number of campuses and options that INSEAD gives students etc). I was ready to go!
What is one important lesson that you learnt from your MBA experience that was especially useful?
I learnt that it was okay to do something and not be great at it. This simple idea is probably one that some people pick up in their early school years, but for me, having the ability to choose from a long list of potential interests and classes made me realise that my time abroad would be wasted if I didn't give the variety of options a shot.
How has the MBA programme helped you in your start-up venture after graduation?
After returning from INSEAD, it took me some time to actually jump into starting a business. It took me about four years to realise that there is never "a right time" to do something such as starting a new venture. The idea of a minimum viable product gave me the confidence and the assurance that it is OK to start something that isn't 100% there - nothing will go as per plan so it's best to keep focused and stay agile.
Was there someone - classmate, alumnae or faculty - whom you look up to? Why?
Everyone I met in INSEAD inspired me in one way or another. Speaking to classmates who came from so many different ends of the world and a wide array of industries was a priceless experience.
Being challenged to connect with, share ideas and views with classmates and professors helped me grow in ways I could not imagine.
Could you describe the diverse culture at INSEAD?
Everyone has their own story and every single one is interesting. That is one thing I found with my classmates in INSEAD. You will not find two profiles that are similar and the challenge of INSEAD is trying to connect with everyone before graduation.
What were some challenges you faced in your career so far, how did you overcome it?
The concept of work-life balance was and is something I continue to find challenging. By nature, I tend to be "all-in" when it comes to a new opportunity. At this point in my career, I think I have found a schedule that works for me, my loved ones and my job.
Continuous prioritisation and open communication are pivotal.
If you could relive a moment at INSEAD, what would it be?
If I had to choose just one moment, it would have to be springtime in Fontainebleau in P5. The deck chairs were out on the lawn and everyone around seemed to be sharing a beautiful moment of cloud-watching. We were close to the end of our time at INSEAD and felt the need to stop and just enjoy time slowly passing us by.
Any tips for those who are considering an INSEAD MBA?
Do it! It is a life-changing opportunity and no other school gives you the chance to create a network of close friends that nearly five years later, contact each other on a daily basis. To go through a 10-month course with the option to have a backdrop of a French castle or Singaporean skyscrapers doesn't hurt either!