People say that you learn from your own mistakes, but it’s even more powerful to learn from other people’s insights!
What were you doing when you joined the Middle East section of the GEMBA?
I was working as a public policy professional for the Dubai government, focusing on the field of energy. It is unusual to be a European woman working for a Middle East government and even more unusual to be an INSEAD student working in the public sector. They say there is usually one person with an unconventional profile in every class. And in the Middle East section of 2014, it was me.
Why did you choose INSEAD for your GEMBA? Were you influenced by the convenient location of the Abu Dhabi campus?
I chose INSEAD purely for its international focus and reputation. I was also attracted by the leadership development aspects of the programme.
When you invest in a global EMBA programme at a top school, convenience is not the issue.
Did you have any specific career goals when you began the programme?
I’d been in public policy for 10 years and found that the public sector had too many limitations. I knew I wanted to transit to a private-sector role and I was interested to move to Asia. I just didn’t realise how quickly I’d succeed in making these changes, backed by the reputation of INSEAD. I had other classmates who wanted to transit to the Middle East, which was why some came all the way from the Turkey or Poland to do the first part of the programme in Abu Dhabi. Like me, they succeeded. The INSEAD GEMBA really does work in supporting career transitions.
Does the programme take on a particularly Middle Eastern flavour if you choose to do the core courses in Abu Dhabi?
The classes have the same content and the same standard, wherever you take them. But there are also events and conferences that bring in the UAE business community. Some of the professors bring in examples from the region too. I particularly remember one of the faculty members, who had great insights into corporate governance in the Middle East. But the beauty of the GEMBA is that you learn from the experiences of your classmates – and most of them had spent years in the Middle East.
How would you describe the profile of the Middle East section?
The class was very diverse. Most of the participants based in the UAE were expats from all over the world, given the size of the local population. A significant number of others came from other Arab countries, such as Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt. As I mentioned, I also had classmates from further afield. Two used to fly in from Nigeria and another from the US. So I gained insights from all their international experiences. People say that you learn from your own mistakes, but it’s even more powerful to learn from other people’s insights!
Did you meet up with participants from the Europe and Asia sections too?
We all came together for the elective courses and the Key Management Challenges modules. It made the experience even more dynamic for me. Also, although it’s not compulsory for the other sections to do courses in Abu Dhabi, most of the people in our year chose to attend for at least one session.
What was the highlight of the programme for you?
There were several memorable courses. I recall vividly Professor José Santos’s course on Managing Multinational Enterprise. It really helped the transition to my current job where I am managing virtual teams across several geographies. It also gave me the background and tools to deal with my transition to Singapore. This was backed up by our coach in the Leadership Development Programme, who helped me to understand what kind of leader I wanted to be and how to adapt my own model of leadership across cultures.
Finally, can you explain how the INSEAD GEMBA helped you to find your new role in Singapore?
In Singapore the brand is so well-known, even the taxi drivers recognise the name! As soon as I arrived, I joined the alumni network and got involved with the INSEAD community. Without INSEAD, the experience of finding the job I wanted would have been totally different.