I am already three weeks into my INSEAD experience and it feels a little late to be writing my first blog entry and to still be talking about my “initial impressions”. Having already packed in four parties, countless social dinners, one test, three assignments and 21 classes, I don’t know if I can still call myself a new student. One thing is clear though, the intensity of INSEAD is not overstated and as the time whooshes past, I will try and occasionally pause to document my experiences on this blog.
Coming from a non-traditional MBA background – i.e. not being a former consultant, banker or engineer I was really worried about not fitting in at INSEAD. Most of my career has been in the government sector and I have a strong interest in public policy. Before coming to INSEAD I was sceptical about how many people like that I would find at a business school. I should not have worried.
A recurrent theme of these first weeks has been meeting my classmates and those from the previous promotion. This equates to lots and lots of new people. At this stage, I feel like I have the standard INSEAD conversation opener down pat. For the benefit of the uninitiated: this begins with a greeting and then generally inquiries on background – nationality and past work experience and finally the why INSEAD question. Depending on how interesting/interested the other person is these questions can sustain a conversation for hours. But importantly, they are very useful for getting the basics on my classmates.
From my scores of conversations with my classmates based on this standard template, I have learnt that there are people like me at INSEAD! I have met MBA candidates with a passion for public policy and who are motivated to explore the intersection between the private and government sectors to drive social development. I shall call this group “my tribe”. Beyond my tribe, I have also met scores of classmates from very different backgrounds including bankers, consultants and engineers (who are not so alien).
The value of the inherent diversity at INSEAD is that you can challenge the boundaries of your thinking through interacting with people who are not like you. At the same time, there are enough people like you that you can find your niche and still pursue your personal interests.