I hadn’t even finished INSEAD when I was approached by two international private equity funds.
Magdalena Svensson

Magdalena Svensson

Magdalena Svensson
Nationality/Passport: SWE Year of graduation: 2013 Current Role: Investment Manager at Keensight Capital (Private Equity)

Why and how did you decide to do your EMBA at INSEAD?

About ten years ago I looked into doing an MBA, but the time wasn’t quite right. Professional opportunities came my way and soon kids. Then, I heard about the GEMBA: modular, top-ranked and global. At around the same time, my firm had finished a round of investing, so I had the chance to wind down temporarily and only take care of my existing portfolio companies. Plus, I was pregnant with my third child. It felt like perfect timing!

Wasn’t it daunting to embark on an EMBA while pregnant?

Perhaps the GEMBA’s modular structure – over 14 to 17 months – made it seem less daunting than other top EMBA programmes. Or maybe what they say about women’s willingness to balance multiple priorities is true. All I know is that the programme really worked for me – and for the 30 or so other female students in the class of 2013.

What were your ambitions when you started the GEMBA? And what do you do now?

I loved what I was doing, which was working for a French private equity fund that specialised in smaller companies, but I wanted to move up and have a more international career. I hadn’t even finished INSEAD when I was approached by two international private equity funds, and I now have my perfect job.

How do you use what you learnt in the INSEAD classroom?

In private equity all the classes are relevant: finance, strategy, operations and supply chain. You name it, we work with it. I also used my final project directly to develop my career. I wrote about how French private equity firms can help portfolio companies to build an international profile. This enabled me to meet people and make contacts throughout the industry in France.

What advice would you give future participants?

The more effort you put in, the more you get out of it. But, don’t worry, that doesn’t mean you need to know exactly what you want to get out of the GEMBA when you start. If you put effort into the papers and the courses, work with the career coaches and make time in your crazy schedule, the Leadership Development Programme will clarify your potential and your ambitions – and the future will take shape. Above all, it doesn’t matter if you’re confused at times because that’s an essential part of the transformation process.

Was it tough juggling life and work with motherhood?

Let’s just say it was hectic. I had my third child during the programme and took him to INSEAD and sometimes to classes with me. The first two weeks of the programme were probably the toughest. It was hard work academically, physically and emotionally. We had a lot of material to get through in class – with exams at the end of the module. Then, we had to go out into the forest in our Leadership Development Programme groups for quite demanding team-building exercises. Finally, we had to come back inside and reveal what was hidden deep inside us in the group coaching sessions. But, as I mentioned, the more effort you put in, the more you get out of it.

How did the Leadership Development Programme (LDP) benefit you as a woman?

It helped me to attach words to my guilt about being a working mother and realise that I have no choice in the matter. I would be unhappy staying at home and the kids would be unhappy too. So, the LDP enabled me to understand myself, and then to manage my work-life balance more effectively. In fact, one of the reasons I chose my new job is that the office is just 150 metres from my older children’s school. We see each other for lunch once or twice a week and I'm always on time for the parent-teacher meetings. So, although I travel more, my work-life balance is far better than in my previous job.

Would you recommend the programme to other women?

I think it’s particularly valuable for women with children, because we have so little time for ourselves. Men seem more able to just take that “me-time”. If I hadn’t had the time and space at INSEAD to rethink my career, I’d be juggling too many balls and be dissatisfied with my life today.