Once you're at INSEAD, you'll realise that time is your most precious resource. The abundance of opportunities means that days can feel incredibly short.
Mademba Diop

Mademba Diop

Nationality/Passport: Senegalese, French Year of graduation: 2024 Current Role: Maintenance manager at AGC Glass

Could you share something unexpected or a fun fact about you? 

Until I was 21, I didn't know how to swim, despite my fascination with water. I was born in Senegal, which is almost an island, yet I never learned to swim. The reason is quite simple: swimming pools are scarce there, and the Atlantic ocean is notoriously dangerous. Many young people drown every week, prompting my parents to strictly forbid me from venturing into the sea.

Four years after moving to France, I made the decision to learn to swim and joined a swimming club. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I've ever made. I absolutely loved it. 

In 2023, while vacationing in Cassis, a charming town in the south of France, I experienced something incredible. Following a three-hour hike, my girlfriend and I swam 1.5 km across the Mediterranean Sea and settled on a large rock. It was an extraordinary adventure that brings a smile to my face whenever I think about it.

Tell us about yourself, and how you got to where you are today both on a professional and personal level

I will be 29 in a few months and feel incredibly fortunate in both my personal and professional life. A combination of hard work and luck has propelled me to where I stand today. 

Professionally, I was lucky to discover my current company AGC Glass. I joined as an apprentice during my engineering studies and was blessed with a great mentor, the maintenance manager at the time. He not only shared technical knowledge necessary for running 24/7 operations but also emphasised the critical human aspects of management. 

Having been the maintenance manager for the past three years, I look back with pride at what my team and I have achieved nearly a decade later. With proven experience in operations, I am now eager to transition into a strategic role, finding the fields of management consulting and strategy particularly appealing.

On a personal note, I consider myself fortunate to have been born into an educated family in Senegal, where the importance of academic excellence was always stressed. Moving to France at 17 for my studies marked a significant turning point, exposing me to a new culture and proving once more the importance of values like respect, honesty, and grit. 

The past two years with my partner have been remarkable, sharing a mutual love for nature, sports, and family. I am deeply grateful for their unwavering support during challenging times. My family, especially the strong bond with my sisters, plays a significant role in my life. 

Sports is my sanctuary, offering escape and stress relief; I enjoy running, swimming, bodyweight training, and immersing myself in nature through walks and hikes. I really love being in the nature. My personal life could be summarised in a sentence: healthy and fun relationships, nature and sports.

What motivated you to choose the INSEAD MBA, and how do you envision it aligning with your future goals, even at this early stage?

I chose INSEAD for three key reasons. Firstly, I sought a robust and comprehensive business education to complement my engineering background and facilitate my career transition. 

INSEAD's rigorous curriculum promises to equip me with essential tools for my future endeavours. 

Secondly, the remarkable diversity at INSEAD captivated me—every individual is part of a minority. This environment promised exposure to new ideas, backgrounds, and cultures, allowing me to learn daily from peers with extraordinary experiences. 

Lastly, INSEAD's prestigious reputation and its extensive alumni network, especially strong in Africa, align with my long-term goal of contributing to the development of manufacturing on the continent. This network represents an invaluable asset in achieving my aspirations.

What were your impressions of campus life so far and how did you navigate accommodation, and sorting out all the admin? Any tips for incoming students?

I absolutely adore the campus! My life here encapsulates everything I value: a challenging and meaningful journey, vibrant and healthy relationships, and a deep connection with nature and sports. 

The academic experience is exceptional, with world-class professors who invest significant effort into making complex concepts accessible. The staff is supportive and welcoming, contributing to a positive atmosphere.

I've formed strong connections with my peers, particularly within my study group, and have encountered incredible individuals through various activities. The proximity of the forest to the school adds a unique dimension to campus life, offering an immediate escape to nature. The school's excellent gym facilities, complemented by the city gym right across from the school, which features a basketball court, enhance the experience. 

Additionally, in front of the campus, there is a swimming pool, track field, soccer field, tennis court, and more, with the Fontainebleau Forest as a stunning backdrop. To me, the campus is nothing short of paradise.

From an administrative perspective, the transition was smooth. The school's team excels at providing all the necessary information, particularly during the launch week, ensuring a seamless integration into campus life.

Could you share a little about your application process, securing financing, and making your way to Singapore/Fontainebleau?

The application process has been a great introspection journey. 

The different essays force us to really think about our career, reflect and express in a very comprehensive way where we want to go, how INSEAD can help us to get there, and what we can bring to the community. I believe that it is important to take the time to have that deep reflection. This can be very challenging; I sought the help of a coach in that endeavour. 

Once that work is done, the application is straightforward with the essays and then the alumni interviews. For me, those interviews were great moments of exchange and sharing. When I got out of those interviews, it was clear to me that I wanted to go to INSEAD. I humanly connected with the alumni; their honesty, respect, and humility made me want to be part of the INSEAD family. 

On the financing part, I was once again very lucky. I am very grateful because I received an IAF (INSEAD Alumni Fund) grant and a partial sponsorship from my company in cooperation with the French government's TransCo mechanism. Thus, I have a small loan. Those financial aids have made this journey possible for me. I am again very grateful.

In your first few weeks, what aspects of the INSEAD MBA have stood out to you as unique or particularly appealing?

The most striking aspect is the diversity. INSEAD is renowned for this, but experiencing it first-hand truly brings its significance to light. 

The student body is not only internationally diverse, but also rich in varied backgrounds and interests, making discussions exceptionally enriching. INSEAD excels in bringing together individuals who, despite their differences, are open-minded, eager to contribute, and learn from one another.

The collaborative mindset is equally impressive. The atmosphere is genuinely friendly, with everyone keen to assist, fostering a positive and stimulating environment.

Lastly, the emphasis on career development and coaching is remarkable. An entire team is dedicated to helping us delve deeper into understanding ourselves, the markets we aim for, and securing our dream jobs.

Aside from your academic pursuits, what extracurricular interests or activities are you exploring at INSEAD, and how do you see them enhancing your overall MBA experience?

In addition to the clubs, students have formed various WhatsApp groups to cater to diverse interests. For instance, we've established the TEASEAD group, which provides a space for members to engage in deeper conversations, moving beyond career-focused discussions to truly get to know one another on a personal level. 

For me, sports and these various activities are invaluable for a balance life.

Entrepreneurship is also a significant aspect of INSEAD, with initiatives like the INSEAD Entrepreneurship Club (IEC) and the INSEAD Centre for Entrepreneurship. With one of my long-term goals being the creation of a manufacturing company in Africa, I am keenly exploring this avenue and have already attended many related meetings and events.

Any parting words of wisdom, and are you willing to be contacted for more information by prospective students?

I would advise prospective students to be very honest with themselves about their motivations. 

It's important not to overthink. INSEAD is a unique place where diversity is celebrated as a strength. Do your best, but also be prepared to embrace uncertainty and the role of luck. Even if you feel your profile deviates from that of the typical business student, as long as you have a clear vision, understand your motivations, know what you want to gain from an INSEAD MBA, and how you can contribute to the community, I urge you to apply.

Once you're at INSEAD, you'll realise that time is your most precious resource. The abundance of opportunities means that days can feel incredibly short. However, don't hesitate to reach out on LinkedIn; I will do my best to help.