My first two periods at INSEAD are over. After tons of study group work, final exams and hours of classes, it’s time to share with you the key differences between these two periods, especially on the academic front. As INSEAD’s MBA only takes 10 months, I’ve come to realize that every period will be unique in some way.

In P1, I had six subjects: Financial Accounting, Financial Markets and Valuation, Introduction to Strategy, Organizational Behavior 1, Prices and Markets and Uncertainty, Data & Judgement (UDJ). The subjects had a more quantitative and theoretical approach, laying ground in some of the basics of microeconomics, statistics, enterprise valuation, among other topics. Having an engineering background helped me in these subjects, since I had already seen some of the topics in undergrad.

Professor Eric Uhlmann during Organizational Behavior 1 class

One of the top moments of P1 was certainly the “Master Strategist Day”, part of the Introduction to Strategy core course. There, my study group gathered to analyze the current situation of a real company and provide actionable recommendations for them. It was particularly useful to get a feel of how a consulting project works. During this day, we got mentors from Bain & Company that helped us formulate our recommendations.

Before coming to INSEAD, I was not sure of how repetitive some of the subjects would be for me. For example, in UDJ we saw how to build regression models, interpret the normal distribution curve and build confidence intervals. All of this I had already seen in college. Here at INSEAD, however, the focus is much more on the insights that can be taken from the calculations and applied in a business setting. In my engineering undergrad, the focus was more on the mathematical process to arrive to the correct answer.

In UDJ, it was all about the normal distribution

In P2, I also had six subjects: Ethics, Corporate Financial Policy, Managerial Accounting, Managing Customer Value (aka Marketing), Organizational Behavior 2 and Process & Operations Management. Here, I found that the subjects relied much more on cases that portrayed real business situations (4 of those subjects had a case to read for every class). Among the best cases studied, was one about Zara and how it maintains its leadership position in its segment despite the growth of e-commerce. Another very good case was about the emissions scandal in Volkswagen. The class discussed, from an ethics standpoint, why misconduct might have happened in the company.

The main difference between P1 and P2 is that, in the latter, you already know how things work. For example, it is humanely impossible to do all the assigned readings (if you come from Mars and sleep is not a necessity for you, maybe you can do it). In P1 I even tried to read it all, but after 10 days or so I quickly realized that it would be impossible. Optional readings were not an option for me. In P2, on the other hand, from the beginning I knew what I needed to read and do for classes: the cases. Without reading them, the classes could not be followed, and I would not fully engage in the discussions.

The other key difference is that, by P2, my study group already knew how to work together, and we were much more efficient in the work we did. For instance, in P2 we agreed to arrive to a group meeting having at least read the assignment and, if possible, having attempted the questions at hand. For some other bigger projects, we assigned a project leader who made sure that we were following the deadlines and assigned roles & responsibilities to the other group members. Having this group cohesion and knowing one another’s work style smoothed things to all of us.

In a nutshell, the experience gathered in P1 was used in P2 to make my life easier.

In a nutshell, the experience gathered in P1 was used in P2 to make my life easier. When we all arrive in the beginning, everything is a big question mark. Most of us are going to study after many years of “only” working, without knowing the environment, the colleagues and the study group. The good thing is that I forced myself to adapt fast because, after all, every day I reminded myself that INSEAD only lasts for 10 months. Let’s see what happens in P3, P4 and P5. I will keep you posted =)

If you are a prospective student that wants to learn more about INSEAD, feel free to drop me a note at or look for me at LinkedIn. You can find a complete overview of the INSEAD curriculum here.