2018 Best MBAs: Fatoumata Sy, INSEAD

Fatoumata Sy


“Woman with dual French and Senegalese culture and sound experience in Finance and Social Development.”

Age: 33

Hometown: Dakar, Senegal and Paris, France

Undergraduate School and Degree: EM Lyon Business School – Bachelor of Science in Business and Master of Science in Management

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? I was working as an Investigator at the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the Global Fund in Geneva, the world’s largest financier of anti-AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria programs. I was supervising international investigations of complex financial frauds and human rights’ breaches perpetrated by the Global Fund grants’ recipients ranging from ministries of Health or Finance to International NGOs, in Africa, South Asia and Eastern Europe.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? Not Applicable

Where will you be working after graduation? Being passionate about social development, I would like in the short term to pursue my mission at the Global Fund at a more strategic level, through becoming Manager at the Strategy and Policy Executive Department, in order to drive the implementation of the Global Fund’s corporate strategy and optimize the management of the USD 4 billion invested each year to fight against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Member of INSEAD Africa Club, Women in Business Club and INDEVOR

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? During the launch week of my INSEAD MBA, my classmates and I participated to a community activity named SPLASH, aiming at building within 5 days a playground for handicapped children. Despite being challenging, this experience is by far my greatest achievement from a personal and collective side. Over a day, not only did I learn how to use construction materials and build a playground, but I also learnt a lot about team cohesion and about each of my study group peers. This experience was enriching and enabled to strengthen the team spirit and dynamics of my study group. Seeing the emotion and happiness of the director of the handicapped children center once me and my MBA peers finished to build the playground was my biggest reward.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? The biggest achievement I am most proud of is having managed to finalise complex investigations on fraud and mismanagement of Global Fund’s grants in several countries, to ensure that each dollar distributed to fight against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in the world actually reaches its final beneficiaries, meaning the millions of people in this world affected with these three diseases.

What was your favorite MBA Course? The Uncertainty, Data and Judgment class is my favorite course and probably the one where I learnt the most about how to increase my comfort and intuition with numbers, and to interpret and make use of data. But the main reasons why I love this course is the fact the professor managed to deliver key concepts, which might seem complex at first sight, in a really simple way through practical exercises like real bets on the number of people having the same birthday in the classroom, or counting number of smarties per type of colour.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose INSEAD as it is the only cutting-edge business school offering advanced management skills in a global environment thanks to its presence on three campuses (Fontainebleau, Singapore and Abu Dhabi) and the cultural diversity of its students and faculty, and the whole thing in only one year. This also perfectly meets my employer’s requirement, as I am not allowed to exceed one year of special leave from my position to come back in the Global Fund.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? I would advise an INSEAD MBA applicant to remain authentic and to value his or her international background, work experience and strong academic records.

What was your biggest regret in business school? One of my regret in business school is not gaining salary over a year. Which was quite difficult and sometimes challenging for me. But my biggest regret remains not having more than 24 hours a day to enjoy my MBA experience at its deepest level!

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I don’t have any admiration for someone in particular. But I would say that I have a lot of admiration for the cultural, social and professional diversity of my classmates. Each day at INSEAD is unique in a way that at each moment of the day, I meet so diverse people from whom I have many things to learn from a cultural and professional side.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My father is a keystone of my life and he definitely influenced my decision to pursue an MBA. He notably thought that to push my career in social development to the next level, I needed advanced management skills, which would give me a competitive edge necessary to survive in today’s uncertain economy and build a better-consolidated business network. I followed his advice and closely looked for a business school, which could help me acquire the leadership skills to make a difference in the social development sector. And definitely, INSEAD is the school that perfectly meets my goals.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…I would pursue my career as an Investigator at the Global Fund, while continuing to develop my managerial skills.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I would develop a strategy to make INSEAD well known in Africa in order to attract more talented African applicants and potential future leaders, and therefore increase the diversity of the MBA class.  

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Create my own company and travel the world.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like my peers to remember me as a friendly African-French woman with the determination and resilience to make a difference in social development.

What is your favorite movie about business? The Social Network, describing how Mark Zuckerberg has created Facebook. The main lesson I gained from this movie is to keep believing in my dreams or ideas, even when no one believes in them at first, and to pursue my entrepreneurial fibre, whatever the obstacles.

What would your theme song be?“Sky Full of Stars” by Coldplay

Favorite vacation spot: Côte d’Azur (South of France)

Hobbies? Travelling, Theatre, Dancing, Political debates and Basketball

What made Fatoumata such an invaluable addition to the class of 2018?

“The Admissions Committee was impressed by the fact that Fatoumata started her career in a traditional way in audit and then moved to an untraditional career as an investigator of frauds at the Global Fund to Fight AIDS. Before INSEAD, she was also working towards her future goal of launching a company with social impact.”

Virginie Fougea

MBA Recruitment and Admissions Director


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.