Meet INSEAD’s MBA Class of 2017

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Do you aspire to someday be CEO? A generation ago, the road to the c-suite ran through a core discipline such as finance or engineering. Now, organizations have added a new demand: overseas business experience. Take European conglomerates. According to a September report from DHR International, a leading executive research firm, 87% of the CEOs in 30 leading public companies in Germany have worked overseas. The percentage is 63% among CEOs in France’s top 40 — with both numbers representing a 10% increase in the past decade.

There’s no secret why companies are pivoting toward leaders with successful international track records. And you’d be hard-pressed to find an MBA program that teaches global business better than INSEAD. Based in Fontainebleau, France, with campuses in Singapore, and Abu Dhabi, INSEAD tags itself as the “The Business School for the World.” That line is more veracity than vanity.Just how diverse is the program? According to Virginie Fougea, associate director of admissions, the incoming Class of 2017 features over 70 nationalities. However, you won’t find a dominant nationality at INSEAD, with Americans and Indians representing the highest proportion of the class at 9% each (and French and Chinese students each representing 7% of the class followed by Canadians at 6%). True to its cross-cultural vocation, INSEAD also requires students to be fluent in two languages upon entry and learn a third by graduation. That said, classes are still taught in English, which has replaced Mandarin as the top native language among students (with French, Arabic, Hindi and Portugese also ranking among the most common languages spoken by the 2017 Class).

Forget a world that’s flat and Western. At INSEAD, students enjoy a 360 degree view of business that covers every corner. More than that, the classes are taught by a faculty where 93% of its members hail from outside France (and 97% possess doctorates). “I have not seen a more diverse business or school, where students from all over the world come together to share their experiences and knowledge, says Serban Dick, a 2017 class member who climbed the ladder at PwC in both London and Papua New Guinea. His classmate, Evgeniya Armstrong, a native of Russia who holds master’s degrees in law and finance, was equally impressed. “Even if you are coming from a very international work environment, there is a good chance that you are still going to be challenged intellectually and emotionally because there are so many different personalities and cultures here.”

Virginie Fougea of INSEAD

Virginie Fougea of INSEAD

SKYDIVERS, KITSURFERS, SALSA DANCERS AND KAYAKERS

Fougea describes the Class of 2017 as “adventurous risk-takers yet humble individuals.” That cuts to the heart of the INSEAD experience: the class isn’t just diverse in term of its nationalities. The full-time MBA is equally rich in terms of personalities and life experiences. Armstrong, for one, describes herself as an “explorer, achiever, and creator, believing in constant development and bringing structure to chaos.” She’ll fit right in with Dick, who is “keen to explore the world and change the world.” As explorers, neither boast the chops of Singapore’s Kailing See, who hasexplored 42 (new) countries across 5 continents over the past 10 years.” However, the most fascinating terrain likely belongs to Ivo Vassilev, a man of myriad contradictions: “Humble, but confident; responsible/organised, but fun; finance oriented, but loves arts; realistic but spiritual.”

They also aren’t afraid to laugh at their own foibles. Turkey’s Eser Tireli, who studied engineering at Michigan and worked at Bain & Company, once locked himself in a fire exit…during a job interview. “Luckily, the partner interviewing me had a sense of humor and gave me an offer in the end,” he jokes. Dick was circled by a shark during a night dive in the famed Great Barrier Reef. “It was not fun at the time,” he notes.” During her first skydive, Armstrong decided she would rather plunge to Earth at 120 MPH solo than take her chances with an instructor pulling the cord in a tandem jump. “I just could not trust my life to someone else,” she says.

The class is adventurous in other ways too. Canada’s Jacquely Vanos taught herself how to kitesurf, while China’s Muzi Yu is a certified salsa dance instructor. Before entering INSEAD, American Lindsay Van Landeghem trained as a whitewater kayaker before hitting all seven continents. Not surprisingly, Vassilev greatest journeys take place in his mind. “I have recorded three songs and am also a play actor. I sometimes write poetry.”

CLASS INCLUDES FIRST FEMALE COMMANDER OF AN ISRAELI MILITARY COMPANY

Many have also overcome difficult odds in their professional lives to achieve smashing successes. Just put yourself in the shoes of Hila Shabtai, a woman who served in the Israeli army before moving to KPMG and Procter & Gamble. She had to bear the pressure of being the first female commander of a reserve company in the history of the Israeli defense forces. “In retrospective I completely underestimated the resistance I would face in my reserve unit,” she admits. “The combat company was made up of 120 men older than me that never served with a woman before, and could not have imagined serving under a younger woman officer command.”

One of INSEAD's three campuses in Fontainebleau, France

One of INSEAD’s three campuses in Fontainebleau, France

Despite some doubts, she was inspired by the words of her commander: “Where else in the world at the age of 21 would you be able to be a ‘CEO’ leading a company of 100 people?” To earn her company’s respect, she “endured the same physical training as everyone and didn’t accept any special privileges.” Her “determination” and “professionalism” eventually wore down their misgivings. “Over time, I gained their trust and appreciation and I am today an integral part of the unit’s officer group. Over the past eight years, I believe I’ve changed mindsets and attitudes that were deeply rooted and created a precedent for other female officers to serve in various reserves combat units.”

Shabtai isn’t the only pioneer in the Class of 2017. Germany’s Claudia Kampel made the unlikely jump from classical guitarist to management consultant. After conducting intensive research and doggedly pursuing opportunities, she landed an internship with McKinsey, which she converted into a job offer. “I think it is most important to keep going and not get de-motivated when your original plans don’t work out or when you experience drawbacks during an application process — there always is an alternative and it might turn out to be a much better fit than what you originally wanted to do!”

The incoming class is filled with similar stories. China’s Shu Shu oversaw asset valuation, due diligence, and portfolio integration in Shell’s $4.5 billion acquisition of Repsol…while pregnant. Armstrong launched a practice group in her law firm that became one of its top revenue streams. And Vassilev is better prepared than most for INSEAD after the “culture shock” he faced moving to Dubai to work as an auditor (while studying for his accounting qualification). “I never gave up and continued to work hard both academically and in terms of my job, ultimately getting promoted year on year, while also obtaining two Middle East awards for highest scores in my accounting qualification exams.”

  • Tiago

    Larissa is real, she was my classmate..

  • Tiago

    I can verify this statement. INSEAD grad, most my teachers were native English speakers, but they spoke super slow, pronouncing every syllables as if everyone was mentally retarded (NOT)

  • Tiago

    I chose INSEAD over an M7 school, and I know people who turned down Harvard for INSEAD..
    Everyone has their own personal reasons, for me it was money (1 year vs. 2) and reputation outside of the US market

  • Yaniv

    very well written and solid comment. Thanks

  • Sam

    First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

  • NoGEM

    When a-holes like Trump can become billionaires, what is stopping this woman from earning 175 K.

  • EJ

    Good point. thank you.

  • EJ

    Meeting expectactions is a concern of mine; however, I certainly initiated my job placement post undergraduate and graduate schools. My only concern is how to maneuver in Europe as an American who wishes to remain in Europe post-graduation, notwithstanding that it is likely I will leverage my experience abroad and return to home (US). I’m conducting a tour of European schools in November (LBS, IE Business School, IMD and INSEAD) to meet with existing students and speak to instructors. My inclination is to ensure placement in a top 10 US MBA program, but my professional and personal goals (at the moment) have me wanting to live and work abroad. I’m trying to balance the want for an adventure (as a 32yo single male with an existing masters degree who works in real estate development as a contractor to the US Fed Gov) with being practical.

    I sincerely appreciate your unbiased response. Thank you.

  • RTCC

    quite often, most articles about INSEAD draw a low quality discussion and responses.. why ?

  • Sam

    Haha… You clearly have bigger issues to deal with. Met with a Psychologist, on INSEAD’s campus ? I hear they are good and free…

  • Warren

    have you considered a career in entertainment ?

  • TheFakeDonaldTrump

    Once I become president, I will send the Secret Service to find you and put you behind bars for a lifetime. No one will know how you disappeared.

  • GEM

    “Use your BRAINS” 🙂 that is why someone asked earlier about the offer of $175K she talked about!

  • TheFakeDonaldTrump

    Billy Bush, grab them by their P. Oops.

  • radish

    This is very realistic post. Every MBA aspirant should read it. Thank you.

  • C. Taylor

    US programs count those starting their own company and returning to their previous employer as “not seeking employment.”

    Do the math on a ‘recruiter’ who can’t do long division.

  • Greg

    That is locker room tallk

  • TheFakeDonaldTrump

    If any US national decides to go to a non-US B-school, the school there must be held accountable for their recruitment be it within or outside the United States. I will not let them go easy and make their home governments suffer if they let my people go unemployed. These US nationals should be the source of foreign investments in the US. They should bring foreign remittances from abroad and make America great again.

    MBA is a concept that was invented by us. Respect that, you imitators.

  • CokeStudio

    A very balanced answer. I like it.

  • MBA-Recruiting

    You should be aware that INSEAD MBA program is the largest in the world. With more than 1050 MBA every year, it is pretty usual to find at least 20% of the graduating class don’t get what they were hoping for before they enroll in the program. I’ve heard a lot of such stories of disappointments, going back to the same jobs, unemployed for long time, etc.. This is the downside of the International fast MBAs, be aware to have the credits needed for your future job before getting the INSEAD MBA, otherwise you will be struggling. Don’t be so naive to just focus on the success stories that will absolutely mislead you and get trapped later on. On employment reports, schools tell only the good stories, they don’t tell the other side. On employment reports, see the school contribution percentage in securing jobs for its grads, at INSEAD it is just 50% or less, on contrast with, for example, Darden or Tuck, where the percentage is usually 80%. This tells you how grads secured jobs. At INSEAD, largely it is the students duty to secure their jobs, schools contribution is a complement. I strongly believe that a well rounded, rich, and more valuable MBA experience will be always in a top 20 US school. European schools are much less in quality and value. MBA is an american invention and it is highly regarded in american corporate culture. In europe, it is the master of management the one they admire. they don’t like the american product that is against the social values..etc.. you know the arguments..do your homework very well..MBA is once in a lifetime..

  • Guest

    I have a registered account that is fake. There are fake FB accounts too. Registering will not stop all this. Use your BRAINS.

  • Larissa Keiser

    This is a great opportunity to use concrete judgement. Do you believe someone using a registered Disqus account or random “users” registered as guests with poor communication skills (see examples below)? I encourage all users to post under registered accounts.

  • EJ

    I’m applying to INSEAD in March 2017 for the January 2018 intake and the threads below have me very concerned. Is anything below 1/4 true? I’m planning on getting accepted. Did you think the 12 month program was long enough? thank you.

  • INSEAD-MBA-Alum

    As an INSEAD alumni I am always surprised at how highly INSEAD is ranked on the league tables. The INSEAD MBA has been a zero value add for me. INSEAD is a for profit school just like Hult or the University of Phoenix, INSEAD has all of the same issues and problems as any for profit school. Nobody has ever failed, you pay your fee you get your MBA.

    Who owns INSEAD and are there any conflicts of interest? This should be investigated. The school is heavily orientated towards participants from strategy consultancies. The strategy consultants have on average 2 years of experience vs the non strategy students must have approx 7 years of experience. Could the owner of INSEAD be the partner in charge of education at one of the strategy consultancies? I made a mistake; I bought an intangible product from a seller I knew nothing about and that product was useless.

    The first few days of INSEAD were interesting, I had many interesting discussions; but then the welcome week hazing event started. This consisted of the upper class playing a series of weird and often cruel pranks on the incoming class. For example; people were forced to fight each other and others were abandoned in the middle of the forest at night. This in a program were the average age is 28. This hazing ruined what might have otherwise been a good year. After the hazing event no one takes the school seriously. Since this hazing event was not listed on the brochure and this event negatively impacted my experience I feel that INSEAD was a bait and switch scam.

    The final part of welcome week is the Dean’s speech during which the Dean told us: ‘INSEAD offers a general management MBA but if you want you can say that you have a specialization. If a background investigator calls the school, staff are trained to always answer ‘yes’. You should try this; call INSEAD and ask does a specific alumni have an MBA with a concentration in Taxidermy or any other ridiculous subject, the school will say ‘yes’!

    After welcome week the place feels like a cult, no one will say anything against the school, facilities or social life. Descent is discouraged, those that fall foul of this rule can find themselves ostracized. People display symptoms of being brain washed. Hundreds of students, average age 28, get drunk in barns and tell each other that these are the best parties they have ever been to. However; one on one, in hushed tones, people said to me ‘I thought I was the only one that didn’t like the social life’.

    The career service didn’t seem to actually exist; there was an office labelled careers and there were people working there but it was a sham. The alleged career service did not even maintain student records, nor a job bank nor interview preparation materials. My undergraduate university offered this level of career services, I had expected INSEAD to exceed this standard. The careers services released reports on their own performance that read like North Korean harvest reports. In my promotion apparently a large percentage used the career service to find jobs and almost everyone changed career. We see the external economist report contradicts these assertions. After graduation when you cannot get a job that is when the careers service start their victim blaming: ‘you need to be more of an entrepreneur to get a job’ or ‘you didn’t try hard enough’.

    The actual education was a joke e.g. the finance professor stated ‘the school has had feedback that some graduates don’t know what bonds are; therefore, we’ll spend the next 15 minutes on fixed income. Before INSEAD I had completed the CFA level 1 – I had expected my ‘intense’ INSEAD MBA to be a similar level of challenge to the CFA, INSEAD was trivial in comparison. The education was neither wide nor deep, the classes were pitched at the high school level.

    The participants can be split into the following groups:

    Wealthy global elite (top 0.1%)
    Strategy consultants (non native English speakers)
    Developing world (non elite,non strategy)
    Developed world (non elite,non strategy)

    The wealthy and strategy students are well served by the school. These people want to have a good time and get a rubber stamp MBA. Students from the developing world have language skills that will enable them to get jobs in growing markets that are underserved by other business schools. Developed world students get a very poor deal from INSEAD; the INSEAD MBA is just not sophisticated enough to compete in the MBA job market in the developed world. During INSEAD you will be a resource for other students, you will probably have more experience, be educated in leading universities and have a wealth of other experience. This will be sucked out of you and fed to people in the other groups. Employers will laugh at your MBA. Also INSEAD uses the word entrepreneur to mean unemployed. If you couldn’t start a business before INSEAD how could you start a business upon graduation with all that debt?! Becoming an entrepreneur right after business school doesn’t make sense; no pay for a year, spend $150,000, then start a business whilst servicing that debt?! INSEAD reports how many graduates go to the top consultancy firms; what they don’t tell you is that almost all of those people are sponsored by those firms and already have those jobs. In reality very few people (1 or 2 in my class) get a new job upon graduation.

    If you are there as a career changer from the developed world you are being scammed. You share your experience with the strategy consultant and family business students and when you graduate there are no jobs for you. The only logical explanation for the consistent large minority of students that do not do well post INSEAD, is that INSEAD is ripping of one group of students for the benefit of another.

    INSEAD is constantly asking for donations – a ‘for profit’ business asking for donations! How is that not a scam?

  • INSEAD-ALUM

    I chose INSEAD over an American school and regret my decision. Am still trying to get my first post MBA job interview. INSEAD is an English as a second language school; the instruction progresses at a snail’s pace to benefit the non native English speakers. Native English speakers graduate with less knowledge than competitors from other business schools whereas non native English speakers graduate into job markets with much less competition.

    The INSEAD brand is very weak in the US, the network is extremely weak, have been to many events and rarely does the conversation move beyond work visas and accommodation. The US is a transitory place for many INSEADers and locals are treated like localization service providers. One recent arrival even suggested that my kids should befriend his for the duration of their stay! Given the fact that native English speakers are treated like TA’s at INSEAD I can see why I am still treated like part of the service.

  • Alcazar

    anglo-american is language-heritage orientation not a race !!
    are you sure the number in the contract was $175K? what is the name of the company?

  • charles

    I am really sorry if my post was inappropriate. I am an open mind person and hard to feel offensive. I just thought other people just like me. From now onward, I will be very careful in dealing with INSEAD grads and make sure I pick the softest possible words..

  • C. Taylor : C stands for C**T

    Poor you.

  • CokeStudio

    Obviously, there is a non-zero probability of a US Citizen who may have gotten into top US Schools (OTHER THAN H/S/W) and INSEAD, and may have decided to go to INSEAD. No big deal.

  • Larissa Keiser

    I will not engage in your race-oriented discussion and have flagged your comment as inappropriate.

  • Warren

    again C. Taylor, it seems hard for you to get it. When you feel others do not see what you see in your “tunnel”, that does not mean they are bad people and you should behave childishly ! just try to train your “unstable” behavior to avoid clash and meaningless personal attacks. It looks so ugly..

  • charles

    It is quite normal to find INSEAD popular among those with the attitude of anti anglo-american

  • C. Taylor

    Thanks for sharing your experience. INSEAD has an incredible program and dovetails with your narrative.

    Larissa Keiser wrote: “I’m not sure why people feel a need to disparage the program
    It’s one guy. He just changes his pseudonym multiple times, replies to himself, etc.

  • Larissa Keiser

    As a Silicon Valley native (born, raised, and educated in Palo Alto) and 8th generation American, INSEAD was the best choice for my MBA. I was accepted to other top US (California) schools. My experience at INSEAD was deeply personally fulfilling, academically rigorous, and I graduated with three job offers in tech and consulting in California with salaries starting at 175k, not including signing bonuses.

    I’m not sure why people feel a need to disparage the program in the thread below, but I can say from first hand experience that the INSEAD experience is phenomenal. Everyone’s story is different, so apply to the programs that are a good fit for you! Good luck!

  • GoldmanBoy

    Thanks, a-hole.

  • C. Taylor

    GoldmanBoy wrote: “Dreaming is important. Steve Jobs said so. And I am not Warren.”

    QED

  • GoldmanBoy

    Dreaming is important. Steve Jobs said so. And I am not Warren.

  • C. Taylor

    OK, Warren aka GoldmanBoy aka Hedge. Keep dreaming. 🙂

  • GoldmanBoy

    Assuming you are correct, even then your point put forth is insignificant. You are a nobody. You will not make a mark in the books of human history. You are merely a blip in the evolution of mankind. A blip that would not even be detected on a nano-scale.

  • Warren

    C. Taylor,
    We are here to learn from each other and exchange ideas and knowledge respectfully. I have noticed that you have the habit of diverting the debate into personalities and start attack your opponents once you feel they don’t agree with what you assume. Please, don’t be like your friend, the “irritable” Boscheck. It is just an exchange of ideas on the virtual space. The man is right that three languages requirement at INSEAD is in fact irrelevant and useless.

  • The new ranking is scheduled to come out on Thursday of this week: Oct. 13th. We’ll be doing a very thorough job of covering it. So stay tuned.

  • C. Taylor

    Funny how you are not a native speaker speaker of English yet you pretend to have worked at Goldman Sachs and pretend to not speak a foreign language.

  • Frank

    Although there are number of good international MBA programs such as INSEAD and London Business School, I think that doing the MBA in its birthplace, the USA, is much better and richer experience. Schools in america are mature, have history, strong and loyal alumni base, global recognition, and much higher quality overall. It is a waste of time and money to study MBA outside the top 30 US MBA programs.

  • Rimond

    Relax?! with admission rate of 50% you think they should relax ?! INSEAD is known as the “guaranteed” school to get in. It would be highly unlikely that someone will take INSEAD over any of the top 15 US schools, let alone M7..

  • GoldmanBoy

    Perhaps.

  • GoldmanBoy

    Not at all. I have acquaintances from INSEAD.

  • GoldmanBoy

    You are so foolish to think that number of applicants means the whole world.

  • GoldmanBoy

    Learning 3 languages does not make you a genius. I can join some learning program and get a basic certificate in French or Spanish, but that amounts to nothing great.

    I know a Goldman woman who did that to apply to INSEAD but rejected the B-School once she got an admission offer from Wharton.

  • Sam

    Rat race of reducing the form length to 1 essay just doesn’t make sense… Good schools should respect the process!
    And not be in race to make it easier to apply hence gaining numbers. Next, these schools shall make it one-click? ?

  • Sam

    Haha.. So INSEAD should relax the admission process to be in the rat race?
    3 languages required to graduate.. Most run of the mill grads don’t even qualify to press the submit button on the forms!

  • Hedge

    That is why INSEAD don’t and will never release its acceptance rate.

  • S.Smekens

    Such a nearsighted comment !

  • GoldmanBoy

    If you cannot get into a top B-School in the US, then you go for INSEAD.

    Can’t imagine someone getting accepted to HBS or GSB and deciding to go to INSEAD unless that someone is an a-hole.

  • GlobalMBA

    The title is misleading. INSEAD has two intakes per year. So, the 2017 class should be the sum of both July and Dec classes with size of >1000. But 523 is July class. It is unfair to put it in the table this way.

  • gregoirepost@gmail.com

    Thanks for the in-depth article.
    Not directly connected, but quick question: any idea when the new NBA ranking by The Economist will be published?
    Thank you!

  • Jeff Schmitt

    Great catch! Fixed. Thanks!

  • C. Taylor

    Maybe the INSEAD GMAT range ends at 780, rather than 710?

  • Jeff Schmitt

    Summer. Thanks!

  • Remo

    at INSEAD, the class is either july or December. which one is this?