Meet INSEAD’s MBA Class of 2017


Hila Shabtai 


Describe yourself in 15 words or less: I am a passionate and ambitious woman who gets energized from people and ideas.

Hometown: Tel Aviv, Israel

Fun Fact About Yourself: My engagement ring is quite unique, it is made from a wine bottle cork! …my husband literally hand-made it from the same bottle of wine we drank the first time we met.

Undergraduate School and Major: Tel Aviv University, major in Accounting and Economics

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation:

  1. Procter & Gamble, Corporate Finance, Business Model Compliance Controller
  2. KPMG Advisory, Corporate Finance, Senior Associate
  3. Carmel Ventures, Venture Capital, Portfolio Manager
  4. D.F. Army, Intelligence Field Officer (reserves), rank: Captain

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Following 3.5 years of active military service as a field officer, I was offered a unique opportunity to join a new experimental project led by the military to integrate women, who served in field roles into combat units in reserves service. I excitedly responded positively. In retrospective I completely underestimated the resistance I would face in my reserve unit. The combat company was made up of 120 men older than me that have never served with a woman before, and could not have imagined serving under a younger woman officer command. As the only woman, I relied on my determination, professionalism, and asked them not to treat me differently than any other officer or soldier. I endured the same physical training as everyone and didn’t accept any special privileges.

Over time, I gained their trust and appreciation and I am today an integral part of the unit’s officer group. Over the past 8 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.

Looking back on your experience, what advice would you give to future business school applicants?

  • Develop your personal MBA application strategy: What are the 4-5 key messages you want to deliver? Articulate what is unique about yourself. Use different parts of the application to highlight and communicate the key messages you developed for yourself (i.e. recommendations vs. essays vs. test scores.).
  • Essays are very important, and your best vehicle to differentiate yourself. My GMAT score was not as good as I expected, so I had to nail the essays. I wrote them in a manner that conveys who I am, highlights my personality, and captures the uniqueness of my personal journey. Write your own unique story, and just be yourself.
  • Prepare, prepare, prepare for your interviews: do mock interviews and be able to tell your life story in a way that emphasizes your strengths implicitly. Don’t say things like “I have leadership” or “I am a great team player”, but instead use life examples that demonstrate these capabilities so that the interviewer can understand it through the stories. Lead the interview and use specific examples so the interviewer can assemble a well-rounded perspective of who you are. And finally, be ready for some tough questions.

What led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA? After working in several environments — P&G global organization, KPMG advising to clients and VC working with start-ups — I wanted to expand my knowledge beyond the finance function, and more in an international context. To get more exposure to international setting, I decided to apply to a top-tier MBA program. After an intensive research that included talking with many alumni I decided that INSEAD is where I want to do it.

For me, it’s all about the perfect combination that INSEAD offers: on one hand, an intense one-year program, where you are constantly challenged by vigorous academic program and highly talented and intelligent peers. On the other hand, doing that in the most international MBA program among the top business schools is even a greater opportunity.

Tell us about your dream job or dream employer at this point in your life? After I graduate, I would like to change the finance function into a more general management role within an established company and hope to reach senior management roles over time.

I served 3+ years as a field Company Commander in the army and managed a company of 100 soldiers, including 10 officers and senior staff. I was the first woman Company Commander of such a unit in the history of the Israel Defense Forces. At one occasion, when my Company had to execute a complex field exercise under my command, I felt that the pressure was very high. I remember my commander motivating me by saying: “where else in the world at the age of 21 would you be able to be a ‘CEO’ leading a company of 100 people?” it did not occur to me until he said it.

When I reflect about my ambitions and values and how to integrate them from a business perspective, I realize that leading people is what I enjoy the most. I believe that in any business environment people are key and if you take care of your people, the business will take care of you. Later on I have a dream of doing something more on the entrepreneur side and start my own social impact venture in education sector.

What would you like your business school peers to say about you after you graduate from this program? They were inspired by my personal and professional background, and that they sought my company and appreciated my perspectives. But most importantly, that they found a life-long friend.

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