I’ve learnt about Pakistan, India, Russia, Canada, Mongolia, different parts of Africa and more – places I’d never been to – through my classmates.
Why did you decide to do an MBA?
I’d been working in Shanghai for seven years and realised that if I stayed, I wouldn’t learn anything new. I wanted to broaden my horizons and perhaps work in private equity or asset management somewhere else – like Singapore, Hong Kong or London.
It’s unique. It’s not just the best school in Europe and Asia. It matched mine and my family’s expectations perfectly. My wife is Asian, I’m European and my baby is both. I applied only to INSEAD. I had also planned to go to CEIBS in Shanghai, as well as Singapore and Fontainebleau. I spent the first eight months in Singapore and then moved to Fontainebleau for the rest of the programme. Being in the middle of the Fontainebleau forest was a ‘magical interlude’. The purifying and re-energising surroundings were such a plus, particularly so for my wife and child, that I changed my mind about going on exchange to CEIBS and to stay put instead.
Did the school live up to your expectations?
It was better than expected. However, the intensity of the workload certainly caught me by surprise. I didn’t realise how much I’d need to rely on my wife for support and looking after our baby.
Having experienced both, how does Fontainebleau life differ from Singapore life?
Fontainebleau is about nature, introspection, harmony and peacefulness. Singapore is city life, travelling on the weekends, swimming pools after class, restaurants and clubs.
How would you describe the learning environment?
It’s very competitive but also, paradoxically, very collaborative. It’s a great place for developing and pushing yourself to the limit but also to become a nicer person. I’d studied in business schools in France, China and Australia before, but the teamwork at INSEAD was very different and the learning through diversity is unique. It busts myths and egos. The quality of the faculty is also world class and the systems behind the scenes – like the administration and the library – are highly efficient.
Has INSEAD changed the way you think at all?
Other students talk about opening to the world, which is true. I’ve learnt about Pakistan, India, Russia, Canada, Mongolia, different parts of Africa and more – places I’d never been to – through my classmates. But I’ve also looked inside myself and my subconscious. One course on psychological issues in management was particularly influential in that respect. So, it’s been a process of both inner travel and outer discovery.
Can you describe the INSEAD culture in one word?
That’s impossible because it’s all about contrasts like “competitive yet collaborative”, “broad yet deep”, “European yet Asian” or “diverse yet homogenous” and it’s rich, colourful and intense too.
Do you have any particularly vivid memories you’d like to share?
The dragon dance we had on campus in Singapore for the Chinese National Week was more inspiring than what I’d seen living in China. I also founded a new student club for travel, hotel and lifestyle industries and managed to recruit more than 100 members, all while my son was just three months old and me not sleeping through the night.
Any good advice to share with future students?
Join an industry club and be part of its leadership team, if possible. It gives you the opportunity to contact senior professionals and to network.