What do you think is the hardest part of being the leader of a nation?
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far.
Selling my first aircraft. It was an exhilarating and eye-opening experience. We managed to orchestrate a complex deal where an aircraft with a technical compliance issue, based in Germany, was sold to a buyer in Canada. Everyone involved was so crucial to bringing the deal across the finish line after multiple setbacks. The support I had was next to none. I have a model of the aircraft on my desk to remind me of the lessons learned in that triumphant deal:
You are only as good as your team.
What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career?
As my network and family office has grown, I’ve sourced and been exposed to a lot of great investment opportunities. While I was a mathematics major in university, I took one economics course and the only exposure to the world of finance I’ve had is through aircraft financing. I like to be detailed in my approach to things. In order to better my due diligence process of the sourced investment opportunities, I need to effectively approach investing with more structure and better business and financial acumen. I wanted to be able to learn from those in that space, whether colleagues or professors and also be exposed to those who are in the industries where I want to invest. The plethora of trades and experiences represented at business school are simply something to marvel at and really take in as much as one can.
What other MBA programmes did you apply to?
NYU and Columbia.
How did you determine your fit at various schools?
I only applied to INSEAD and the top New York-based schools. If I was going to do a two-year American programme, I was going to stay at home where my life was plain and simple. If I was going to leave, I had to do a programme that was incredibly international and intense. There really was no better pick than INSEAD. Furthermore, I have never lived in Asia or my birth country of France, so I figured this was a perfect opportunity to do both. On top of being able to finish up the programme in 10 months and get back to my projects and contributing to the family office, I was going to be exposed to so many new experiences in new places. I was going to go through all of this with amazingly interesting and capable people. I had researched both schools by getting in contact with alumni and asking them about their experiences. There’s only so much you can learn from websites and forums, and I found learning about the schools through live discussion was more effective.
What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why?
Diverse. INSEAD is known to be the business school of the world – and rightfully so. So far, I have met my roommates and others within my class and I’ve already lost count of how many countries are represented. Every person has such a different background and story. We all bring something unique to the table. The diverse set of minds and cultures represented will fuel fierce debate and provide unique learning experiences that I am extremely excited about.
Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this INSEAD MBA and why was it so important to you?
Intensity. It is intensity in the form of the 10-month programme. I am a large believer in if you want to truly learn something, you need to be fully focused on it at a high-intensity level. Boot camps tend to be high intensity for a short period of time for a reason. The more entrenched you are in the process, the more immersed you are in the culture, the more deeply-ingrained the concepts and experience will remain with you and the closer you will become with your colleagues who went through the same thing.
Being able to complete a full MBA in 10 months without losing any quality of education is remarkable. Why take twice as long to do something when you have the option of doing it in half that time? We like to say in private jet sales that we don’t sell machines, we sell time. INSEAD sold me on the same concept we sell to our clients.
What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school?
I think the National Weeks at INSEAD is so unique. I went to a boarding school where International Day was so amazing because it truly opened your eyes to how beautifully diverse your environment is. When people can show how proud they are of their culture, that joy and enthusiasm they experience are contagious and you can’t help but experience it with them. National Weeks, from what alumni have told me, is like that but jacked up a hundred times. I cannot wait to see my fellow INSEAD classmates wave their flags and show us what their cultures are all about, letting us get to taste (both literally and experientially) where they are from.
What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process?
I remember the video question that stuck with me the most was the following: What do you think is the hardest part of being the leader of a nation? To have 45 seconds to prep a one-minute answer on such an intense question was daunting and my heart was racing for some reason, but I remember being happy with my answer: ‘At least in a country with a fair democracy: Being able to make the tough and unpopular decision because you are convinced it is the right one. If you are the leader, you are there because a majority of the people trusted you to lead them, and sometimes leading means making decisions others would have not made because you are convinced that it is for the greater good of those you are leading.’
What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are?
I wanted to pick a story of triumph and comeback in my career, but sometimes the defining moments in one’s life are the ones you have no choice but to experience. I was on a bike ride training for l’Eroica and a car hit my head on cutting a corner. I broke 11 bones including my femur and three vertebrae. I was hospitalized for three months. My first surgery was botched: my leg was shortened an inch. After four months of recovering from the second corrective surgery, my plate snapped because I had a staph infection in the bone. I started from zero, a third surgery, five months after my accident, and the fight was harder than ever before since I was now fighting an infection. Now 14 months later, I am still working to get back to 100%, but I am walking again and I couldn’t be more grateful and now motivated for the next goal: running. The biggest lessons I have learned through this experience have mainly been:
Remain patient, progress is measured in millimeters, not kilometers.
- It is okay to get down on yourself at times, as long as you understand that you need to remain positive in the grand scheme of things.
- Greater empathy. Most of us are so lucky to be able to get up and do little things like walk wherever we want when we want. Once you lose that ability for a while and are at threat of losing it forever, you understand how much we take our health and well-being for granted. I have so much respect for those who don’t have the opportunity to do what most of us can do so easily on any given day.
I’ve been shaped by this because if I can make it through and come back from this trauma, then the things I choose to do and fight for will pale in comparison. We are all stronger than we are led to believe.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I honestly have so much trouble answering this question because if I look too far ahead, I’ll lose sight of what’s in front of me right here, right now. I know the immediate goals I have are excel and learn as much as I can at INSEAD, make long-lasting relationships, come back to help build the family office in an impactful way, and be a great partner to my significant other.
A crack at the question for the question’s sake: In 10 years, I see myself enjoying a bike ride through the Tuscan hills with some of my fellow INSEAD alumni.
This interview was originally published on Poets&Quants Meet INSEAD's MBA Class of 2020.