Meet INSEAD’s MBA Class Of 2020

Shiraz Akbarally


“Always looking to learn, and up for trying anything once.”

Hometown: Colombo, Sri Lanka

Fun Fact About Yourself: I can recite the entire V for Vendetta speech.

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Melbourne, Mechanical Engineering

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Senior Executive at Akbar Brothers

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Implementing a completely automated manufacturing solution into an otherwise low technology industry of tea packaging. This helped save costs and improve quality standards, but required a large investment which I managed to convince the Board of Directors to pursue.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Open-mindedness. Even though the class is extremely diverse, everyone seems ready to discover and experience everything the year has in store.

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? Working in my family’s business, the day-to-day interactions are very different from those of public corporations. Naturally, INSEAD, known for being very experienced in the subject, was the best choice for the MBA, with the bonus advantage of the expertise in Asia region thanks to its Singapore campus

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I’m looking forward to the whole 10 months! In terms of clubs, I think the Family Business Club as I will get the chance to grow with others who have a similar outlook

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? During the video interviews, with only a 60 second prep time, I was asked to define what culture means to me. It definitely took me by surprise and I hope I answered it well.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? Having worked for six years, I felt to take the next step in both personal and career development would require further learning. The MBA was the obvious choice because of the multi-faceted training for business specifically.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? I put all my chips on red – I applied only to INSEAD.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? Time away from work was the key reason, with INSEAD being the most intensive but shortest of the top MBAs in the world at only 10 months as opposed to two years in most other programs. Another was the attraction of two campuses, being able to network across Europe and Asia. Finally, INSEAD has a strong reputation for experience with Family Businesses, which would be very beneficial to me for my long term goals.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? My belief is that we are constantly being defined by our experiences and the decisions we make. One key transformative moments was back in university when one of my friends attempted to take his own life. It was a harsh awakening to the world of mental illnesses. From it, I took the lesson on how even when situations change incredibly quickly, we are responsible for our reactions to it.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? In ten years I see myself heading the family business, which will be very agile and have a strong international presence.

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