View from the orbit

As P4 comes to an end, there is finally some time to reflect.

Looking back at the last 8 months, I notice how very different each of those months have been. The first two periods, when we get to know the people around us and study core courses, were really like a hurricane. Things were flying in front of my eyes with incredible speed – faces, cases, formulas, parties, national weeks, exams… Core courses were certainly useful, but not all of them particularly exciting. I was also not always sure I really captured what I had to capture, when flying by at this incredible speed…

In P3 things have changed. Now that you have a choice of electives to choose from, it makes so much of a difference – finally, more of the things discussed in class are closer to my true interests and are really engaging. The cases we studied have also changed – this certainly depends on the course, but many cases I read started with the main character being an INSEAD alum! Not only that – for many of the entrepreneurial courses, such as New Business Ventures and Realising Entrepreneurial Potential, the protagonists of the case would actually come to INSEAD on the day of the case discussion, stand in front of the class in person and participate in the discussion together with us. It is amazing to hear the guest speaker start by saying “I was sitting in this very same amphi in your place X years ago…” In some cases X is 2 years ago and in others it was 20 years ago… For me personally, not only did this make the discussed case more interesting, but it also helped us better understand the potential of our post-INSEAD career and life choices.

Another aspect which stands out in the way the courses in this second part of INSEAD year are being taught (again, this mainly relates to entrepreneurial electives), is that in many cases we learn from FAILURE. The more I think about it, the more I am convinced, that there is no better way to learn entrepreneurship than through failure – by digging deep into the stories of various businesses that failed or went in the wrong direction, INSEAD gives future entrepreneurs a unique opportunity to learn from someone else’s mistakes. This certainly does not mean that you will not go out and still do your own mistakes, but hopefully you will do them less…

With less than 3 months to go until graduation, it feels like for the last 8 months I was living in a virtual world – a world with infinite concentration of professional and personal events and emotions, all happening here and now. With the end of the program approaching, it is often scary to look out of this virtual world into the real one. I feel like an astronaut, who has been out in the orbit for 8 months and is about to return to earth. What will I see and how will I feel when I land?

Metamorphosis Underway

After almost 3 months of job hunting, course cramming, and networking-like-my-life depends on it (it does!), I see green shoots to a more structured mind, a broader hustling network, and a business gun-belt filled with powerful weapons. Now, I just need to get my fat ass in gear and close a job deal. Oh, it’s so stressful…

Unfortunately, I did not survive the consulting house-of-horrors. While I was impressed with the sheer number of interviews my classmates obtained (great job….best friends), I failed to convince any firms of my entrepreneur-turned-business guru value. Still, supposedly, internships are more difficult to obtain than full-time offers and I do have a grisly, tenacious streak (think of Lloyd from Dumb and Dumber-“So, you’re telling me there’s a chance!”). In fact, most of my entrepreneurial successes were built around brushing off the first 100 no’s. So, I’m recalibrating, seeking Zen, and renewing my focus. With a calm mind, I shall move forward.

But back to metamorphology, INSEAD is paying off big time for me. My initial pre-MBA goals were to build up my network in Asia, advance my understanding of important business concepts, and re-brand myself away from frantic deal-making entrepreneur to wise corporate and strategy “badass”. I already feel like I have gained a foothold towards reaching these heights. In discussions with my former partner at my last (and still alive) venture, I can see how the strategic frameworks I’ve studied: Blue, Green, Brown, and Yellow Oceans, are helping me view the firm’s problems through the “competitively advantageous Harry Potter’s 5 Magic Forces ” business lens. Eureka! Business knowledge doth flow-eth from my mind. In reality, I do think the quantitative and communication tools are, indeed, very valuable despite our cumbersome handling and not-so-“out-of-the-box” application. Unfortunately, every time I hear someone say “Blue Ocean” in class now though, I pass a kidney stone. What’s the value proposition to this post for the key strategic stakeholder’s takeaway you might ask? I’ll email you the answer and deliverables in a cash cow matrix later…..Peace.

Moving at the speed of INSEAD

Only eight weeks have passed since we first stepped foot onto INSEAD’s Singapore campus, wide-eyed and over-eager, but already it feels light years away.  Orientation week gave us a taste of what the rest of the year would be like. Each day was packed with presentations, events and social activities. We fought to handle the flood of information breaking over us. We tried hard to memorize our classmates’ names and backgrounds. But by the end of the week we were positively exhausted, both mentally and physically.

Then P1 came and went in a heartbeat. While in the beginning it still seemed feasible to manage the course load with all the student activities, career events and parties, it soon became evident that the “magical triangle” of sleep, studies and social life is indeed elusive. So we simply try to squeeze in as much as possible into the meager 24 hours the day holds (and up the coffee intake). This leads to very busy schedules and often times, feeling like a hamster running in a wheel, forever trying to catch up with time.

Now we’re already halfway through P2, fretting over internship applications and fantasizing about the next break. The pace at INSEAD is breathtaking and leaves you feeling like you can never accomplish everything you set out to do. However, it is also exhilarating because it forces you to set clear priorities and stretch yourself to the maximum. And once you reach the limit, you realize it’s actually not the end and that you are capable of more than you ever thought possible. So you just take a deep breath and continue to move forward at the speed of INSEAD…

Me, myself and I…discovering identity at INSEAD – part 1


“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” 
― Aristotle

Less than 100 days left of INSEAD. Reality is kicking in. Recruiters are milling all over campus. Suits and ties, groomed hair and go-getter heels have replaced the relaxed student attire of jeans and a t-shirt. All of a sudden I discover a new side to my classmates, another facet of their identities.

Identity. Such a powerful, yet very ambiguous, word. Our identity was created at birth, and has since that day been with us, wherever we go. 

Still, when I think about my identity, it has a sense of unfamiliarity to it, like something unknown yet to be discovered. 

Not sure if there is such a thing as the right time to discover yourself, but as we are running out of time at INSEAD, faced with those difficult questions about where we want to live, what job we would like and what makes us happy has at least prompted me to look inside for a guiding compass, a way to navigate this myriad of opportunities and choices. 

What if knowing my identity and myself can shape the internal compass? If so, who am I? 

A few years ago I went through a major life change that forced to start exploring these aspects of myself, and it was probably one of the hardest, yet the most rewarding, experiences I have ever had.

As I have come to learn, there are two main parts of ones identity; the external and the internal.

Until a few years ago, the only way I used to see and describe myself was through my external identity. As I later came to realise, I meant I had left a significant part of who I was at the kitchen table every morning.

The external identity is composed of objective definitions like gender, nationality, work, hobbies and relationship status.

Is this me?

For a long time I was Louise, the blonde, Swedish banker living in London, who spent her weekends travelling to new places or in the CrossFit gym. It was easy to define myself that way; I always knew how to introduce myself in a party or a business meeting. But as I soon came to realise, this was only half of the story of me.

Deep inside I felt that something was missing. I was always busy doing things, but yet not fulfilled. Because of the company culture and nature of my work, I fronted a composed façade and hid the bubbly, energetic and emotional sides of me.

At the time I didn’t understand that I had locked up aspects of myself behind bars. I was puzzled as to why my ability to be creative was diminishing and why I constantly felt fatigued. It is called identity-depletion. 

In addition to the lack of stamina, a little inner voice had awoken in my head, and I couldn’t ignore it. 

It told me to go and change the world and leave a legacy. I suddenly understood knew that my career as a banker was never going to get me there. It was an excruciating, but at the same time a revealing aha-moment. 

I knew I had to break free.

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P1 to P2

Hello!

I finished exams, visited my special lady-friend in Shanghai (fiancée), started P2 classes, and attended some of the world’s top consulting companies’ campus presentations all in the space of a few weeks!

P1 was great. P2 looks even more awesome!

P1 takeaways:

•             I will find a job…patience is a virtue. My P1 internship  hustling has started to pay off, so I need to relax and enjoy the process.

•             I can’t do everything….INSEAD has a truly overwhelming number of opportunities, events, and attractions. I have a post-MBA strategy and I need to stick to it. While I would love to attend start-up presentations or every industry networking event, I have realized I need to commit to activities strategically.

P2 Goals:

•             Stay on top of course work

•             Hustle every company possible for a summer internship

•             Branch out from my social circle.

The start of P2 is both exciting and intense. With 6 classes instead of 5, the course load has increased and now all non-sponsored students need to hustle for jobs. There are corporate presentations and networking events literally every day. I’ve been sleeping in my suit and my 30 second “why Trey House” pitch is improving exponentially.

With 7 weeks to go until finals, we shall see if I am as upbeat after I endure this punishing P2. I’m already looking forward to a Thailand or Philippines break between P2 and P3.

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