Dear All,

What a start! The program kicked-off two weeks ago and I am still thrilled.

On the one hand, it feels like I arrived just yesterday and on the other hand, the amount of experiences I have already had makes it feel like it’s been months.

But let me start where I left you the last time – at New Year’s resolutions. As usual, I was planning to have some quiet reflection time before the big festivities and was making up my mind on the things I wanted to achieve and experience. Here is where I landed:

  • Meet great colleagues and make many friends, only true BFFs of course
  • Develop as a person and become a better leader, quote from the INSEAD website: “The accelerated full-time MBA programme curriculum develops successful, thoughtful leaders and entrepreneurs”
  • Discover new career opportunities and find the sector I am most passionate about
  • Learn from great faculty and develop a deeper general business understanding
  • Get to know Singapore like a local
  • Travel a lot and experience new cultures – after all, the Singapore airport is world-class!
  • Work out a lot and sleep sufficiently to re-energize and be able enjoy all these things, very important!

My list was getting only longer. Would I be able to have it all? What was even more unsettling, all the items were not naturally quantifiable in a KPI. How will I measure success and know that I can tick off the item and focus on the next one? I decided to rephrase my list into SMART objectives – specific, measurable, actionable, relevant and time-bound. And then I realized that I was only a week in and was already overthinking the next year.

Instead, I have decided to enjoy each day, and each experience, as it comes – to live in the moment; to be present; and to act on opportunities when they present themselves and of course to cherish each and every moment. In order do to this, I need to be free of lists, open-minded and curious.

Now, let’s come back to the experience of the last few weeks. The year kicked off right after New Year’s Day, on January 3. Heritage (the condo where most of the students live) started to fill up. There we were, all marching to our first event, the campus tour, at 10 am. There were so many new faces and so much positive energy!

The days continued with more kick-off events and exploration sessions, introductions to future classes, receptions and many, many interesting conversations. Many of us are here to launch a new career and it was apparent that the recruitment efforts had kicked-off, too. Company branded locks and journals as well as newsletters are probably just the beginning of the war for talent. Returning home after a day full of new experiences and lots of information, I fell asleep immediately. It made me realize why children sleep so much longer than adults, because they have to learn so much!

Instead of giving you the chronological list of events, let me summarize my core insights from these first weeks:

  • Each one of us has our own reason or story for the INSEAD MBA, however, this story might also be holding us back from or even make us blind for other opportunities
  • As we decide to take distance from our stories and start to discover, we need to be careful not to get lost or pulled along by the pressure of our colleagues
  • While having a tight bond in the community will help us grow our network, the real strength of our group will be in preserving the independence of each other as individuals
  • We are in charge of our culture, as well as our development, and we need to take time to reflect, both as a group and as individuals, to learn from our experiences
  • Our experiences have shaped us and we can understand a lot about ourselves when answering a hypothetical question of “what should the case character do”, as in reality we implicitly answer the question “what would I do in that situation, what would be my concerns”
  • Being generous with yourself and sharing honest feedback is essential to making the MBA a special place for everyone to grow and develop; respect is worth more than politeness
  • It is crucial to make decisions and then to execute; we should stop thinking whether this was the right choice or whether you should have done something else, especially if you are beyond the point of no return

Finally, I not only learned but experienced first-hand that the INSEAD life is indeed like a spaceship. That is, you embark and then your INSEAD rocket carries you away and you are both the driver as well as an observer of your journey.

Let’s hope for a safe landing in December 2018 – although the next stop is break after Period 1! Port of disembarkation still to be determined.

Until next time,
Ekaterina