INSEAD is about understanding yourself and others and to find the courage to change.
How did your career lead up to the GEMBA?
I graduated in civil engineering then went into management consulting. From there I joined eBay and felt it was time to get some real business education at last.
And why did you choose INSEAD?
I wanted a school with as diverse a crowd as I could find. I was seeking to encounter people with different frames of mind as well as different nationalities. At work you surround yourself with people who are all similar, but the INSEAD diversity makes life richer and more interesting. And it opens your mind!
Did INSEAD live up to these high expectations?
The core course content was pretty much as expected. So was the hard work: there’s lots of preparation, reading and exams. But in class I discovered a lot more than I expected to. With 92 people in our section and an average of 10-plus years’ of work experience per person, there was a thousand years of experience feeding into each class. At the beginning, we were all trying to impress people, I admit, but after a very short while, people were authentic and sharing their experiences very honestly. And the more people share, the more you want to share. I think INSEAD is very good at finding a few people in each class who really can tell it like it is. It changes the whole dynamic.
Which were your favourite courses?
The ones that mess with your mind-set are the best! If I could single out two, Value Creation with Professor Kevin Kaiser and Identifying New Business Opportunities with Professor Karan Girotra, were the highlights. They were both totally different from each other but changed something about the way I do things.
And do you have a favourite memory?
During electives in July in Fontainebleau, we sat in a park and talked about the way INSEAD had cracked open a mental door enough for us to open it further and go through. It’s too easy to go through life with that door shut and just follow the same path you set out on. INSEAD is about understanding yourself and others and to find the courage to change if needed – the first step is to open that “door” and peek through it.
Can you give a concrete example of what it means to have a more open mind?
I don’t jump to conclusions as much as I did before. I try to always ask questions now. I know that everyone has something interesting to offer – something I can learn from. So when I meet someone new, I dig to find it. The programme also made me understand better why people act the way they do at work and in their private lives.
How did you fund your participation?
I’m fortunate that my employer was quite creative. They paid half the fees and lent me the rest through a deduction in my pay. Then I managed to get an INSEAD scholarship and some more funding from a Danish foundation. It has been a lot less painful than having to fund it 100% myself.
What was your final project about?
My project was about how we allocate the space on our websites and how we can improve the decision making of this process to increase our financial output. It’s turned out to be very useful and we are looking more into refining the initial project findings. So I think that eBay got a return on their investment in GEMBA as much as I did.