Meet INSEAD’s MBA Class Of 2020

For the fourth consecutive year, INSEAD topped the P&Q ranking of the best full-time MBA programs outside the U.S. in 2018.

Impressed? In college, Anuj Karkare designed and built a “life-size, solar-powered house” as part of team decathlon competition – and even lived in it for several weeks. Those talents came in handy after graduation when Karkare set up his company’s first overseas manufacturing facility. Shiraz Akbarally turned the painstaking process of tea packaging into a high tech operation, while Peter Vaculciak earned a Rising Star Award at the Boston Consulting Group…along with two fast-track promotions. Not to be outdone, Isabel Weiner ran point on the second-largest philanthropic investment – $200 million dollars – of her organization. It was the exclamation point to a life-changing event that she experienced in 2013 working for a human rights organization in Cairo.

“I was unexpectedly there during the military overthrow of Egypt’s then-president, Mohamed Morsi. Witnessing a nation-wide uprising fueled by economic instability led me to shift my career focus from the right to health for women and refugees to economic justice. By working to create economic opportunities through investing and other channels, I hope to address some of the root causes fueling issues of global health.”


Outside work, Kevin Diehn has reached the summit of both Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Fuji. Peter Vaculciak collects vintage cars, even setting up a sales and repair shop when he was just 12. Jon Alexander Lindman Andersen was a contestant on a Norwegian TV show, “Shopaholic,” where he had to assemble a fashionable outfit on a tiny budget.


INSEAD is unique in that it maintains two student intakes, with classes starting in January and September. This fall’s intake features 500 students who averaged a 709 GMAT. Women represent a 35% share of the seats, with non-French students comprising 91% of September onboards. Academically, a third of the intake majored in Business Administration as undergrads, followed by Engineering (28%), Economics (13%), Sciences (8%), Law and Political Science (7%), and Arts and Humanities (6%). In terms of professional experience, the largest bloc of students – 36% – hails from the nebulous “Corporate Sectors.” Consulting holds the second-largest share at 28%, followed by Financial Services (23%) and Technology, Media, and Telecom (13%).


Overall, INSEAD has enjoyed a fruitful year in 2019. For example, the school ranked 4th among the world’s Top 40 MBA programs in student satisfaction according to a 2018 Economist survey, ranking just behind Chicago Booth, Virginia Darden, and IESE Business School. In the 2018 Bloomberg Businessweek alumni survey, for example, the program earned high marks for Prestige and Academic Quality. In fact, W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne, INSEAD faculty members and authors of The Blue Ocean Strategy, ranked as this year’s most influential thought leaders in business according to Thinkers50 (with four INSEAD professors total appearing on the list).

Recruiters also sang the praises of INSEAD. In the 2018 Bloomberg Businessweek recruiter survey, the school ranked 2nd for Most Diverse MBAs, 6th for Best-Trained MBAs, and 7th for Most Innovative MBAs. According to Associate Dean Katy Montgomery, recruiters regularly cite an innate sense of curiosity as one distinguishing trait of INSEAD MBAs – hardly surprising considering the majority of students are looking to make a transition in terms of industry, function, or location (often a combination of the three). Montgomery adds that courage – a willingness to speak up and challenge the status quo – is another quality that recruiters associate with INSEAD grads.

Montgomery ties this to INSEAD’s dynamic and diverse environment. Not only do students interact with 90 different nationalities, but faculty hail from 40 different countries, whose academic and professional backgrounds include a wide range of industries and functions. On top of that, full-time MBAs tend to be slightly more mature, with the average student age falling in the 29-30 year range. Thanks to the dizzying discomfort of these differences – and students raising their performance to meet the standards of their classmates – INSEAD students grow increasingly confident in themselves over time.

“You are really being dropped in the middle of a diverse place,” Montgomery observes. “So you are having your assumptions challenged. You are being exposed to ideas or cultures that you might not have ever come across or have experience with. That leads you to learn more and be even more self-aware. We have a classroom that celebrates diversity and differences of opinion. You’re going to feel comfortable to speak up and learn from others.”


Employers are paying a premium for these skills. The Class of 2018, for example, earned $109,800 to start, coupled with a $27,000 bonus. However, it is the long-term where INSEAD cash in. Exhibit A: In Forbes’ latest data, INSEAD grads experienced a pay gain of $154,700 within five years of graduation. Don’t assume iNSEAD grads are here just for the money. As Dean Ilian Mihov notes in a 2018 interview with P&Q, the school’s ultimate purpose is acting as a force for good.

Fontainebleau, France

“We want to change the way that people think about business. The mission of the school is very simple: train people to be the best intrapreneurs, leaders, managers that can change the world.”

It won’t just be INSEAD MBAs driving this change. In May, the school announced that it would be launching a 10 month Master in Management (MiM) program to start next fall. It will feature an initial cohort of 80 students and be split between the Fontainebleau and Singapore campuses (along with excursions to China, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates).

What else is on the horizon at INSEAD? Recently, P&Q reached out to Virginie Fougea, the school’s director of recruitment and admissions. From a revamped curriculum to new offerings in social impact, this is what future applicants can expect at INSEAD.


P&Q: What are the most exciting new developments in your program?

VF: “At INSEAD, we hope that future leaders of the world involved in business and businesses themselves will deliberately account for societal and environmental impact in their decisions. Our mission is to develop responsible leaders for organisations and governments.

The Hoffman Global Institute for Business & Society develops new theoretical frameworks, new strategies, new analytical tools, new business models, and new ways of teaching and disseminating knowledge. The aim is to align business with the values of those who lead them with the societies they serve.

The Hoffman Institute contributes to integrating these questions in our research and programmes. The Institute’s strategy articulates around the Sustainable Development Goals listed by the United Nations. It has resulted in a number of efforts and activities for staff, students, faculty, and alumni.

For example, the INSEAD Energy Club and Career Development Centre have led community work. Our campus renovations in Singapore, Abu Dhabi and Fontainebleau are receiving green certifications.

Virginie Fougeau. Courtesy photo

Over the last academic year, the Hoffman Institute supported curriculum innovations that bring SDGs into the classroom – such as the SDG Bootcamp – or that bring students closer to SDG needs – such as the Force for Good Practicum.

In addition, the Institute positions INSEAD as a thought leader on how business can contribute to the SDGs by organising conferences on campus and promoting INSEAD work in the SDG tent in Davos.”

P&Q: What is the most underrated part of your program that you wish prospective students knew more about?

VF: “We regularly have conversations with prospective students who are considering a post-MBA career in industry sectors like Fintech, pharmaceutical, automobile, retail, e-commerce or else. They ask us about opportunities at INSEAD outside the consulting sector.

While quite a good number of our students will consider the possibility to join strategy consulting, I wish prospective students knew that the vast majority of them will decide to join other industry sectors.

We are extremely grateful for the numerous opportunities offered by the consulting firms to the INSEAD graduates who want to join this sector. However, I am also very pleased to have conversations with prospective students who consider other domains and functions with different industries.

I often encourage applicants to be curious and to be true to their values. There are many opportunities available to our graduates, sometimes outside the traditional path of consulting.”

To access 10 profiles of INSEAD students, go to Page 3. 

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