Meet INSEAD’s MBA Class Of 2018


Kristin Karlisch


 Describe yourself in 15 words or less: Focused on finding ways to make things happen and constantly trying to improve myself.

Hometown: Munich, Bavaria

Fun Fact About Yourself: Before getting into the business world, I started out as a professional dressage rider and trainer for young horses.

Undergraduate School and Major: Double Degree International Management at ESB Reutlingen and Business Administration at NC State.

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation: Business Development Consultant at Hannoveraner Verband e.V. in Verden, eComm Analyst at PepsiCo in New York and Warsaw, and Business Development Manager at Banovo GmbH in Munich.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I see my biggest accomplishment in my career as the development of an International Exchange Program for Young Riders. During my time at university and after graduation, I served as a consultant for the Hannoveraner Verband, a German Horse Breeding Association that engages in breeding as well as education, presentation, and sales of sport horses.

In the course of their international expansion, I created a program that allowed four young riders from the United States to spend a little over two months in Germany in the form of a summer program. The main aim was to provide young talented professionals with deeper knowledge in profound topics like trainings, physiology, breeding, veterinary medicine and others; offer them the possibility to train with the riders of the Hannoveraner Verband and receive lessons from well-known teachers; and to network and create contacts that help them grow their own business back in their home country. The program was fully funded, which was an essential part in order to focus the participant selection solely on ability, talent and motivation without being limited by the family’s financial background. Especially in the US, most of training and development opportunities in this sport are very expensive. Therefore, many talented young riders do not get the opportunity to receive access to the good trainers or build their network to grow a business on their own.

I am especially proud of this program because I came up with the idea and carried it through to execution despite many people not believing in my idea. I received all necessary funding and was able to recruit well-known lecturers to make the program worthwhile for the participants. Beyond that, I created content for different lectures and used this to teach existing employees of the Verband to hold presentations on technical topics in English, an essential skill to carry their business out to other countries and being able to operate in the professional environment. Lastly, with the limited resources of a non-profit organization, we focused on social media and blogs to spread the word of the program and advertise the participants. We generated broad interest for the program, in the US as well as in Germany. This helped the reputation of the Hannoveraner Verband as well as the four participants who also became more broadly known. Of the four young riders who were included in the first round of the program, three are now successfully running their own businesses.

Looking back on your experience, what one piece of advice would you give to future business school applicants? Be yourself. You want to be accepted into the school that is the best fit for you and is aligned with your goals and preferences. In the essays and admission interview, convince them with who you are, what you did, and what you believe in. Do not bend over trying to be someone else because someone thinks you should. You are here because you are NOT someone else.

Many friends of mine had multiple people proof-read their essays and provide input, they drafted interview answers and practiced to present those. In general, this is a good approach and should lead to a well-rounded presentation of oneself. In the end, for some applicants, what they said to do and claimed to be did not sound like the person I was familiar with. Some were so eager to present the optimal experience and mindset that they presented a standard mindset any consulting book might have suggested to have. As optimal and nice as it sounded, it was in no aspect unique; it could have been the essay, the experience, the opinion of anyone. It would not offend anyone, nor would it inspire. In the ambition to be perfect, in my opinion some undervalued themselves and the power of their uniqueness.

I had an awesome interview partner and we had a lively discussion about challenging topics across the board from business over ethics to politics. Our discussions were honest and controversial and we obviously had different opinions on some matters. Maybe it was his way to not make me feel like I was being interviewed that encouraged me to speak my mind, but in the end, I am sure it was me speaking my mind what brought me his recommendation. I am convinced standardized “perfect” and noncontroversial answers would have bored my interview partner and I might not have gotten his approval!

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? Thinking about my life, I grew the most by stepping out of my comfort zone and working with other cultures I was not familiar with, by going to places and learning how other people view the world. INSEAD, for me, is the place that combines this with the business school experience, preparing us for the work in a truly international environment.

Before starting my undergrad, I engaged in an Equestrian Consulting Project in Jiangsu, China. We worked with a predominantly Chinese company and I got to know some local people also outside the office. Spending time with a Chinese family and experiencing how they live, how their children grow up, how they experience their everyday life and their environment was very eye-opening for me. I started understanding how different parts of the world can form fundamentally different views and opinions, how one sees the exact same thing totally different depending on the own perception. This applies to business as well as to politics. To me, this experience was a game changer in communications, not only across cultures, but in the end applicable to each individual person, regardless of background and origin.

To me, working with a variety of different people broadens views, brings new perspectives and creates a different approach to problems. That does not only concern cultural variety, but also all sorts of different educational and professional backgrounds. Through each discussion with people adapted to a different way of thinking, communication and business, I will learn a new way to look at a problem and to approach it, I will get a better understanding of the other person and will therewith be better to predict the other person and increase my ability to act instead of having to re-act on things I have not been able to anticipate.

INSEAD is the school where I expect to receive most of this variety.

What would success look like to you after your first year of business school? With INSEAD being a 10-month program, I will have finished business school after my first year. By then, I will have gained further knowledge about different cultures and will be confident to grow my own business across borders. I will also be able to rely on the connections made at INSEAD to help me expand and get important tips to gain ground in their respective countries.

 The academic knowledge and the way of thinking acquired and shaped during the time of business school will be undoubtedly helpful and necessary to grow a business that becomes stronger and expands in a competitive ever-changing world. My personal growth through the INSEAD experience will help me lead my team more efficiently and provide maximum output with personally satisfied and therefore highly loyal employees.

That means after my time at INSEAD, I will lay the groundwork to grow the business I currently work in, Banovo, a home restauration and renovation specialty firm that wins the market through smart and efficient processes, the use of advanced software and online opportunities and the combination of a very traditional established market with the advantages the web has to offer. I will be able to apply the knowledge I gained to expand the business into different countries and combine more aspects into the service.

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