Meet INSEAD’s MBA Class Of 2018

Roni Semaan


Describe yourself in 15 words or less: A resilient go-getter passionate about bringing structure to chaos and emanating positive energy in group settings

Hometown: Beirut, Lebanon

Fun Fact About Yourself: I am a determined shameless person willing to face any challenge as long as it is on the ground and does not involve heights. Last year, I decided to face my fear of heights and went for adventurous air park and zip lining…it took me one full hour, partial agnosia and high-levels of adrenaline to complete a 5-minute air park track. I’m hoping to check skydiving off my bucket list while at INSEAD. So, my determinism helps me improve as an individual but often lands me in shameful situations; I once kept going in a TV-broadcasted national swimming competition after my swimsuit fell off just to finish 1st.

Undergraduate School and Major: American University of Beirut, Lebanon – Mechanical Engineering

Employers and Job Titles since Graduation: From oil and gas engineering to a startup and finally to the corporate life! In 2012, I started my career as an Expediting Engineer at “Petrofac”, one of the leading oil & gas service providers in the Middle East. In 2013, looking to exhaust my full potential in a more fulfilling career, I joined “Tanfeeth”, a Financial Services Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) startup where I worked as a Strategy & Transformation Assistant Manager. In 2015, I moved to the parent company, “Emirates NBD”, the biggest bank in the Middle East in terms of assets, where I occupied the role of a transformation manager, working on flagship projects such as digital transformation program and international operations transformation

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I was a key lead in running a holistic diagnostic on Emirates NBD digital transformation in 2015 and I led the implementation across Retail Assets work-stream. With a portfolio of 30 projects and a US$ 15 million budget, the Retail Assets work-stream promised to deliver US$ 50 million in savings over a period of 5 years. With a team of just two assistant managers, I oversaw the entire project lifecycle from design to implementation. Within a year of taking charge, I have led cross-functional teams to achieve US$ 10 million savings and introduce cutting-edge technologies, significantly improving customer experience.

Looking back on your experience, what one piece of advice would you give to future business school applicants? Start early and allow enough time for personal reflection and prioritization! Most applicants focus on perfecting their GMAT scores or essays because they believe they lack the special unique background that B-schools usually look for. This is a common misconception! Each one of us has his own special story, but it simply boils down to how well you know yourself. I recommend applicants focus on reflecting on their past experiences during their application preparation period to connect the dots, get to know themselves, and be able to showcase their well-rounded unique identities. This is a time-demanding process but it will help applicants identify the weakest link in their profiles upfront and get their priorities straight in their preparations. Getting a 700+ GMAT score is not always enough! By the end of the application process, if you amazed by how your life trajectory all of a sudden makes perfect sense, you’re already one step closer to getting accepted in B-school.

What was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? DIVERSITY at work! It is no secret anymore that INSEAD has become a melting pot where students from different cultures and backgrounds converge meet and befriend each other. This is why INSEAD is labeled today as “The business school for the world”. However, the key factor that led me to choose INSEAD is that it stands out in the way it leverages diversity to offer exceptional global perspectives and experience learnings to its students in a one-year timeframe. As a matter of fact, especially nowadays with all the cultural conflicts, I believe that the world can learn a bit from INSEAD.

What would success look like to you after your first year of business school? I would gauge my success at INSEAD on three factors: the network, the job and the personal experience. Personally, I would be successful if, by the end of my MBA, I have built strong friendships and connections that broadened my professional network, have landed myself my aspirational job and have lived the memorable adventure that INSEAD alumni keep reminiscing about.

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