Closing the Books

Morroco Sunrise

One week into the program, we had our first quiz. Then, six weeks later, a frenzy came along: the final exam frenzy.

Only then, when you take a look at practice final exams do you realize the amount of material covered in such a short amount of time. (I heard the second term takes this concept a notch further, with an extra class in the schedule, but I digress. Let’s keep this topic for, perhaps, a few weeks from now.)

We all do an MBA for different reasons. The learning experience, diversification of your network, career promotion, and change in job sectors are a few that often get mentioned. It is essential for you to figure this out so you can sort your priorities, and these can serve as some sort of personal “MBA Handbook” if you will.

Over the program, the learning experience is usually on par with a series of other priorities. The academic experience is usually a setting for attending a multitude of networking or social events: on-campus corporate events and conferences, student clubs, playing a squash competition with your colleagues or even travelling off to a new country with 40 other classmates!

Coming into exams, however, the non-academic activities get brushed on the sidelines, and it’s a great relief to know you can count on classmates to review and explain more challenging concepts during late-night study sessions. It can be a stressful week, but you learn a lot through it, on an academic level as much as on a personal level.

Then you close the books, the exams finish, and the fun begins—rather, the fun continues. Immediately when the last exam finishes, everyone meets at the INSEAD bar and the champagne starts to flow. You discuss excitedly about all the fun that was first term, and all the fun to come in the second one. After all, recruiting for summer internships is right around the corner! Thirty minutes later, it’s already time to get onto that shuttle to the airport, and board a plane to Morocco, Prague, or Bali to enjoy the long weekend before the second term. It promises to be as eventful as the first.

It is in that state of mind that I write these lines, on the plane to Marrakesh to discover a new city, a new culture, a new country. I look forward to sleeping in the desert, straddling a camel and to better get acquainted with my colleagues which I’m sure will quickly become good friends.

Camel Riding is fun!

The INSEAD Entrepreneurship Club

Top business schools usually help MBA students prepare to land their dream jobs. The average increase in salary, a key indicator among many MBA rankings, is clear evidence of this dynamic. Entrepreneurship, however, has been gaining momentum among business schools lately. Schools have been introducing the subject to their curriculum through many avenues, from entrepreneurship electives to Entrepreneurship-in-Residence. Students, yet, have played a decisive role in facilitating this shift.

At INSEAD, one of the most vibrant student clubs is the INSEAD Entrepreneurship Club (IEC).  This Club has been promoting the subject via many activities: speaker series, startup treks, and pitching sessions, to name a few.  In February, IEC organized the 2015 IEC Entrepreneurship Week, which was an amazing opportunity not only to dive deeper into the subject but also to allow newcomers to understand how engaged the club is.

This experience made me think about writing a post related to IEC. Once I shared this idea with the president of the club here at the European Campus, my compatriot Breno Araujo, he promptly agreed to answer some questions about the club and its history. Doing so, we would raise awareness of a broader audience about the service provided by the club to students and vice-and-versa.

 

Bruno, for how long IEC has been around?

The club has been around for many years, at least for 15 years, maybe more than 20 years.

 

How is IEC organized? How do the interactions between Fontainebleau and Singapore occur?

The club has a pretty unique leadership team. Most INSEAD clubs hold a voting system that elects 5 students to manage the club. All the other candidates that want to help with the leadership and are not elected won’t be part of the leadership team.

In the IEC, we decided to do something different this year. We brought on board everyone that wanted to help with the club. As a result, we started the 15J leadership team with 20 students on it and now there are already 26 students on the leadership of IEC in Fontainebleau. The club kept recruiting along the periods, which was also something new.

In the club’s structure, I hold ultimate responsibility for the club, and together with 3 other students I am responsible for the administration team. We deal with all the typical club bureaucracy, such as treasury, communication with stakeholders, support, and e-mails. The other students are free to work on the initiative they most want to.

The club is structured as follows:

  • Marketing and Communication – 3 students
  • Speakers Relations – 4 students
  • Trek and Workshops – 5 students
  • Fund Development – 4 students

Each initiative has one student responsible for it.

Original 15J Fontainebleau IEC Team

Regarding the club in Singapore, we have a pretty good relationship with them; we have regular communication and organize simultaneous events such as the Entrepreneurship Week.

In addition, when students working on the leadership team exchange campus, they start working with the club on the campus they are based in.

 

What is the major differentiator of IEC, compared to other INSEAD clubs?

We believe that being inclusive rather than exclusive is the differentiator of the IEC.

Allowing anyone that wants to help to work on the leadership team and work on an initiative that they want to, was a game changer.

People constantly underestimate others’ intrinsic motivation. Because of that, they try to control and assign roles to people that do not necessarily want to take that role. They think there are roles that nobody will be willing to do. This is not necessarily true. If you open the club to whoever wants to help, you might find that there is at least one person willing to do each task. And that is where the IEC has excelled.

As a result, we managed to have amazing events, averaging more than two events per week, plus the Trek to Berlin, visits to companies in Paris and the Entrepreneurship Week.

All that was done during the four months we have been on the leadership, and in addition, we have worked on parallel initiatives such as building an external communication, we started with a Facebook page and now we are about to launch our external website.

 

What is The Mews, when INSEAD opened the space to IEC?

The Mews was originally created to be a first step towards having an incubator at INSEAD. Sponsored by Accenture, the Mews is a very recent space, created a little more than two years ago. Students who are working on a business idea can use this space to work on their ventures, have meetings, etcetera.

In addition, the IEC itself uses this room for holding most of its events. We consider it the house of the INSEAD Entrepreneurs.

The mews – INSEAD Entrepreneurship house

 

IEC recently hosted Entrepreneurship Week 2015. How was it?

This was the first Entrepreneurship Week at INSEAD, and we are very happy to say that it was a success. INSEAD is very happy with the result and how the week was managed across campuses.

We had some big speakers such as the recently retired Chairman of Microsoft Europe, Jan Mülfeiht. His talk attracted around 100 students. Another presentation from Index Ventures also reached the 100-student threshold. We got 120 students enjoying our Michel et Augustin breakfast.

Finally, we had some student-to-student events. We built a success gallery with Alumni profiles, we had our second celebrating failure event, and a week closing in partnership with the Arts Club.

 

What are the next steps for the IEC?

We are working on some very exciting stuff.

A new initiative was created inside the club, Mentoring and Coaching. This initiative will be helping students to prepare for the INSEAD Venture Competition.

We will help the Career Department on their Entrepreneurship Career Forum, which takes place on April 14th.

We are about to launch our website, an idea that began with the 14Ds and we have been working on it to make it possible.

 

To finish the post, nothing would be better than the video of the Final Act of the INSEAD Entrepreneurship week.

INSEAD Entrepreneurship Week – Short Version from Breno on Vimeo.

They Call Me Mr. Start-Up

“Well, it’s not so bad! I think I’m even going to have time to read a couple of novels along the way.” These are exactly the thoughts I shared enthusiastically with my friends back home when I received the course schedule a few days before kick-off.

Then the first week hit, leaving me only a few hours of sleep and a whole lot of networking and career workshops. A bit of wishful thinking and I figured that with all the activity associated to the beginning of the degree, things would settle down very soon. The interesting part is, you can choose to have it pretty laid back (relatively) at INSEAD! But is this what you want? What your heart truly desires? To have a laid back year at INSEAD? You can launch your professional or personal life in any direction you wish! You can choose from a plethora of social or professional activities, workshops, or sports and outdoor clubs, without mentioning anything about the low cost flights all over Europe or Southeast Asia.

It is in those spirits that I didn’t hesitate to join an intensive 48-hour Entrepreneurial Startup Bootcamp that was offered by a finance angel. My heart quickly took over, and decided for me: I’m not here to have a relaxing year off work. Bring on the challenges, workshops and never-before-seen activities!

With 34 other MBA candidates, the weekend was launched Friday night at 7pm where we touched base with dynamic duo consisting of angel Charlie Mason, bootcamp director, and start-up artist INSEAD alum Alexander Argyros. We set off to get acquainted with the three crucial start-up ‘P’s: People, Proposition, and Pitch. Within 4 hours, 35 ideas were proposed by participants and we got in teams of two to four with an idea to cherish and pamper over the next 44 hours. Fully aware the end of the weekend culminated with pitching the proposition to seasoned professionals of the startup sector, I wondered how we were to come up with a decent presentation.

Finance angel Charlie Mason in rapid-fire mode.

Starting Saturday at 9am sharp, we quickly got hands-on training on how to target a problem and transform it into a market opportunity. Through an ongoing iterative process, we developed a plan to acquire clients as well as develop the financial needs and requirements of the venture. The most crucial aspect I realized, was the importance of teammates all completing one another through the entire process. You close the books and go home in the middle of the night, to arrive once more, at 9am sharp on Sunday.

Masterplan!

One of the many appeals of the start-up world is the paramount importance of presenting to external parties to obtain funding. This is exactly what the third day focused on: How to pitch your startup venture to investors. How to capture an audience in only a few minutes, and keep your public hungry for more.

By the end of the weekend, the 10 teams proposed their idea to a panel of three, and five semi-finalist teams were shortlisted to present in a more detailed fashion. In the second round, a winning team earned the top spot, to close an intense weekend of learning and building new ideas and network.

Coming out of the fruitful weekend, I was totally exhausted, and took a few days to reflect on what I had gained through these 48 hours. Many people went into the workshop in order to develop an already existing idea, and to learn how to enhance their proposition. Others went out of curiosity, and in order to learn more about a fascinating sector. I was part of the latter group. After all, 53% of INSEAD alum go on to be entrepreneurs at one point or another during their professional careers. Before this weekend, I had always been afraid of entertaining a startup idea as I didn’t know how to develop it. I was scared that I wouldn’t know what to do with it, and that the opportunity would be ‘wasted’. Well not anymore! The bootcamp also convinced me an idea is only the beginning to starting one’s own company. It’s all about the right people coming together and completing one another, in order to build a project that goes in the same direction to stand the test of time.

Most of all: go out there and have fun!

Photo credits: Edouard Chehade; Jane Venet Fellowes

We are never alone

A very pleasant call

Months ago, riding my bicycle down through Av. Faria Lima in São Paulo, I received a call from INSEAD. That was the yes-you’ve-been-approved call I’d been anxiously waiting for. Applying for a top business school is definitely not a solo job. Some help you to choose the school with the best fit. Others take you out when you are too GMATired. So, I immediately started calling, pinging, and messaging most of those who had helped me throughout that process. I knew the MBA would be a similar experience in terms of helping and being helped, but I didn’t know how powerful this virtuous cycle would be.

 

Before the start of the program.

Moving to another place always is a lot of hard work, and moving to another country can potentially reach another more tedious level of work. Details and paper work can be very annoying. I was starting the preparation to tackle all of this bureaucracy and other details such as: where to live, renting a car, buying a bicycle, and so on. And suddenly I was added to an instant messaging group of other Brazilians who were also coming to the MBA. For a start, I didn’t know, and still don’t, how one of my classmates found my mobile number. I also couldn’t imagine how helpful the insights people were sharing there would be. The mutual help did not stop there. The more friends and colleagues knew I was about to come to INSEAD, the more help I received from my friends and  friends-of-friends. My move ended up going smoother than I could ever imagine.  Before the class, it happened that I even ended up being invited to a lunch prepared by Brazilians of the previous intake and to my very happy surprise they prepared FEIJOADA, which is definitely among the dishes I enjoy most.

 

First Week and Splash Project.

During the first week at business school, I already came to meet the team I would be working with during the core part of the program. To foster camaraderie among the students while improving the life of the surrounding community, the school involved us in a Splash Project. The main activity is to build or improve a local facility that is used by the community.

 

Before Splash Project Later on the day

 

The following weeks and my MBA Group.

To me, the Organizational Behaviour class has been one of the best surprises in terms of academic and personal development here. The practical approaches we have in classes along with the quality of faculty have been making a huge difference in my overall experience. One of the practical jobs we had was to deliver a contract to the group, with our group name and logo on it. The debate we had to design this contract helped us to understand how five people from four continents could work better together. We had two more activities thereafter, giving us even more opportunities to improve the way we worked together. And why is it important?

As Steve Jobs once said:

“Great things in business are never done by one person; they’re done by a team of people.”

Until another post.

Takeoff

Dear Reader,

One week into arriving in Fontainebleau to tackle this one-year MBA, and I am already deep into activities, classes, and social events. It feels like it’s been ages since I’ve put my other ‘regular and normal’ life on the sidelines 6,000 kilometers away but it’s only been seven days.

The “Integration Week” has been the most intense, action-packed week I have ever lived! Three months ago, I received the thrilling phone call from my Admissions Officer announcing the great news. After having spoken to many alumni, but also in light of all the accepted students of my cohort reaching out to me, I had a feeling I was entering a world of its own. In fact, only a few hours after receiving the official letter from INSEAD, my future colleagues were already contacting me to get acquainted. I already felt I was right there on campus! Getting to meet everyone over the web, and through reading the different introductions of my peers on different social platforms, I instantly understood I had entered a special community. My future peers were a group of overachievers and self-motivated leaders in their respective fields. I realized I had stepped in a unique world, an organization where the sum of all individuals is so much stronger than each single person.

It is in this state of mind that I left snowy Montreal, in the first few days of the New Year. I thought I knew what an intense first week lay ahead me, but it turns out I had know idea.

We had 20 different conference speakers talk to us over the course of the week, all of them passionate at communicating with their audience and involved in the development of the students. The personnel and professors take great pride and interest in contributing to INSEAD, and their doors are always open. Furthermore, you’re encouraged to reach out to them for help or to expand on subjects of interest.

I must also talk about classmates: I wonder how it is that so many talented people as my peers ended up in the same establishment. In my former universities, at work and in different activities, I met lots of driven people, but never that many in the same environment. The students bond right away, whether it is with your 7 roommates in a 17th century country house, with the previous intake in student clubs, or with teammates from your project team. Each one is there to help you push your limits, get out of your comfort zone, and support you. This culture of empowerment among the student body comes from each MBA participant, but it is also fostered by INSEAD through policies such as non-grade disclosure and the explicit encouragement for all to have an open mind and an inclusive mindset. Having more than one hundred nationalities on campus helps promote this acceptance culture as well.

During a discussion on general management, I spoke up and mentioned that I was surprised to see as many people interested and curious about so many diverse subjects as I was, and that I could really associate with the student body unlike any other environment before. At this point, the professor addressed the 75 students and made us reflect: “Show of hands—how many of you came here at INSEAD to be led in the group?” I didn’t see one hand stick up. “You are all leaders here. You want to take charge and want to get results, and that’s why we want to help you develop this leadership, and that’s what makes you feel so at home here.” I take it that’s the environment I associate with here, and I’m pretty certain this self-enlightening journey is just getting started.

Not even one week after starting the program, and I fully realize the depth of what all the alumni are saying when mentioning their year at INSEAD changed their lives.

I am really excited at the prospect of starting other classes next week, and I’m looking forward to sharing different stories with you for the coming year, a year that I am sure will make me a transformed man.

Cheers,

Ed

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