Meet INSEAD’s MBA Class Of 2019

Tanja Duester


“Bombastic with tact. Highly coachable, hard-working and focused. Not afraid of challenge.”

Hometown: Grenzach-Wyhlen, Germany

Fun Fact About Yourself: I can fly helicopters and put a 250 lbs person on my shoulders … in heels.

Undergraduate School and Major: West Point (United States Military Academy) Geospatial Information Systems Major

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: U.S. Army as the Deputy Director of Aviation Operations

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Leading, managing, and guiding over 150 Soldiers for 18 months in the garrison – which in my experience is more challenging than combat because of all the distractions.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? The diversity and backgrounds of my classmates at INSEAD have exceeded all expectations. Being around this group of people is truly improving me and expanding my world view: Not a day passes without learning about a classmate’s culture and how they see things differently.

Aside from your classmates, 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? Time! Other than my classmates, the condensed program attracted me the most. As a mother and wife, I did not want to be separated from my husband longer than I had to, but I did not want to sacrifice quality. Also, let us not forget the opportunity cost of no making money for a year versus 2 years! INSEAD offered the best of both worlds.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? The Rugby Club. I was a very active Rugby player in college, so I am just excited to get back to rucking and scrumming.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? The desire for change. Though I loved the Army, I needed something different. An MBA was the perfect springboard into new professional opportunities and life as a civilian again.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? I’m following in the footsteps of veterans who made the transition before me. The ones that took on the MBA had a smoother transition into civilian life and found their footing in a new career quicker. In my opinion, having that structure is priceless. After that, it was just a question of where to apply.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? HEC Paris

How did you determine your fit at various schools? It was important to me to make a good transition and expand my network to Europe – it’s where I grew up, and I wanted to have a good chance of working there. I contacted other vets that were in various MBA programs, and I read a bunch of Poets & Quants. Ultimately, INSEAD is very focused on getting us from “here to there.” My here was Army officer in the USA and my there is working back in Europe. INSEAD struck me as the perfect place to make that transformation and expand my network. I am not going to lie, but obviously the rankings were important to me as well.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? Becoming a mother in February changed everything. When I was pregnant and applying for the MBA while wrapping up at the Army, I had to learn to ask for help. It has made me reconnect with much of my family back in Germany – especially my mom, Susanne, who has been an irreplaceable member of my team and my go-to babysitter.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? Dive into consulting and keep expanding the new toolkit that I’m learning at INSEAD through hands-on work with clients.

Where do you see yourself in five years? Principal at a top consulting firm.

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