Every lesson created new paths and connections in my mind.
Sylvia Epaillard

Sylvia Epaillard

Nationality: German Year Graduated: 2018 Current Role: Managing Director, Digital Ad Services (a subsidiary of Goldbach AG and TX group)

Tell us a little about yourself.

I'm from East Germany, formerly known as GDR. Like many others, soon after graduating from college, I started an international career in some of Europe's economic hot spots such as Paris, London, Dublin and Zurich. I studied computer science, communications and languages. Today I work in the digital platform industry with a special focus on advertising and marketing technologies.

What made you decide to do an EMBA, and what is your opinion on the value of an EMBA in your country?

I tried meditation, I read all the top-selling business books, I founded a start-up, I started investing, I moved into senior management, I ran several marathons. But still I was in a bubble with my own frameworks and acquired behaviours. So I couldn't understand everything that was happening. I knew there was more to learn.

My parents (who are teaching themselves) advised me to do a PHD but this is a very German thing to do. I wanted to learn about international business, real-life cases and expand my network. The key was to get out of my comfort zone. An EMBA felt like a better choice than a PHD.

How has the GEMBA helped you in your career so far? 

Massively! The GEMBA was an engagement I entered into together with my employer and which became part of my career planning within the group. Together we agreed on a path which let me follow a large M&A project and step in as managing director post-acquisition.

In just one month from now I will start a new job which came through my GEMBA network. I will work on the executive board of a newly founded corporate venture with one of my fellow students. Let's see if we can apply some of the learnings from class in real life as a team!

Tell us more about your Leadership Development Programme (LDP) experience.

The most interesting part was the group coaching and one of our first learnings was: other leaders have problems, too! Helping others in their struggles made me feel more objective about my own reality. My LDP group is still in touch regularly and we became friends and constant advisors to each other.

What was the class experience like, how did you interact with your classmates during the programme, and have you kept in touch since?

The modules were quite stressful. I know this very well because I tracked my stress levels with several wearable devices at the time and compared the data to situations at work and at home. I think I was never so focused and full of ideas. Every lesson created new paths and connections in my mind. Every theory or case I learned about had an immediate impact on how I dealt with situations at work.

I am still in close contact to many of the people I met in class. We also organise trips together. And whenever someone is over in Zurich - where I am based - we have a drink or coffee.

What were your thoughts on the faculty?

I have never had such inspiring and demanding teachers. My parents are teachers and professors and I am myself teaching adults alongside my job. So I know how hard it is to perform in front of a class. The energy and wisdom of INSEAD's faculty was contagious.

I appreciated the mix of maths and philosophy in Decision Science, the real-time data application in Macro Economics, the story of climbing Everest in Organisational Behaviour and the poem that was shared at the end of Strategy class. These voices stick. And with many decisions I have to take today, I try to think of "what would professor X say, think and do ...".

Is there a particular module that you enjoyed the most, and why?

Personally I enjoyed every module that brought me to Asia - a continent didn't know much about before.

What are your thoughts on the multi-campus experience during your electives and Key Management Challenges (KMCs)?

This is why I went with INSEAD. At the time, I had no experience with Asia whatsoever. And I couldn't imagine if and how I would need it later on but I wanted the school to show me. Asia gave me lots to think about around my industry and its outlook.

How did you juggle studies and your busy work schedule at the same time?

That was hell. During the first six months I used to wake up at 5am, study, then wake up my kids, prepare for school and work and go to the office. I was lucky that my employer fully supported me during that time. A lot of what I learned at INSEAD could immediately be applied to my daily business. It was much harder to manage family life at the same time.

If you could relive a memory during your EMBA, which one will it be and why?

The pricing exam! Just kidding! I think it would be the first day. When you come in after you prepared and waited for so long. When you first see your name tag, meet the crowd, feel the energy.

What is your biggest takeaway from the programme?

I am a lucky person in this world. I was gifted with support from family and work to actually do the programme.

What advice will you give to potential applicants?

If you have all those burning questions deep within yourself, then just do the programme. You won't find all the answers, but you will know who, where and what to ask for.