Etienne de Geloes
“Filling the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run.”
Hometown: Versailles, France
Fun Fact About Yourself: In 2007, while working in London as an intern in a private charter company, I was contacted by a band manager to organize a tour in the US and in Canada. That’s when I received the scans of the passports, for customs, that I discovered it was for Bon Jovi. I did not know there could be so few intermediaries between an intern in its first year of business school and an internationally successful band.
Undergraduate School and Major: ESCP Europe, Master in Management. Special Military School of Saint-Cyr, Master in Management.
Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Company Commander in a light cavalry battalion of the French Army
Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of the school’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? First, INSEAD MBA is very diverse and international, with a wide range of electives that make it possible to really tailor your curriculum. This will enable me to focus on corporate management as well as entrepreneurship, two areas in which I am very interested. Then, I am bit older than the average MBA student (I will be 35 when the program ends) and I am married with three kids with no other source of income but my job. For these reasons, it was important to get an MBA as good and as short as possible. INSEAD MBA is the perfect combination of both!
What club or activity excites you most at this school? I am interested in the INSEAD Entrepreneurship Club (IEC), as I consider setting up my own business in the future. I am also considering creating a club around cycling or triathlon, to empty my mind before filling it with all the exciting stuff to learn in and around class.
What makes you most excited about getting your MBA at INSEAD? What makes you most nervous about starting business school? I am very excited with all the opportunities that come with an INSEAD MBA: meeting with fantastic classmates and faculty, entering a vast and vivid network of alumni, having a shot at companies and job opportunities which would have been very hard to get on my own. I am most nervous about not making the most of this fast-paced year, waking up in July thinking “It’s already over. I’m so FOMOed.”
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: In 2019, I led the recce squadron of the Force Commander Reserve – more than 120 soldiers split into five platoons – during a 4-month mission inside the United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon (UNIFIL). This was a very complex mission, both for the situation on the ground with the tensions that can arise quickly on the Blue Line and for the rhythm of the operation which can lead the soldiers to feel a routine, get bored, and ultimately cause disciplinary problems. From the first day of deployment, I decided to keep the soldiers busy and entertained, with sports challenges, discovery of foreign battalions, and regular technical evaluations. I had a strong support from my platoon leaders and, after 4 months, the results were beyond my expectations. The missions and patrols had been perfectly accomplished, everyone in the company had great memories of Lebanon and of an UN mission, and I was proud to be the only company with no disciplinary problem in the whole battalion. It taught me that you can get anywhere provided you get people to have the desire to follow you.
What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? After 10 years in the Army, I decided to make a career change and come back to the business world. In an Army officer career path, I was finished with the direct command of soldiers on the ground and I was heading towards strategic positions in headquarters which were of less interest to me than the opportunities and lifestyle I could see for me in the business world. An MBA was the obvious option to successfully make this career change.
What other MBA programs did you apply to? None, my only choice was INSEAD.
What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? The video interviews questions were challenging, mostly because of the short time allowed to prepare the answer. However, the most challenging question was probably “give a candid description of yourself” in the application form. It takes time and humility to reflect on what made the person you are today, and it is a necessary and unavoidable step to make sensible and relevant decisions regarding your future in the long run.
How did you determine your fit at various schools? I mostly considered the rankings – what doors the MBA would open – and the duration of the program to select a few schools where I would look deeper. I then tried to get in touch with alumni and navigate the school’s website and documentation to see what the culture was like and determine if I would fit into the school. INSEAD almost instantly became my one and only choice.
What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? My defining moment certainly was the posting of my dad to Gabon when I was 17. Until then, I had been growing up in a relatively secured and privileged environment with people and friends quite similar to me in terms of backgrounds, education, and values. Living in Africa was really life-changing. I experienced diversity, met with people I would have never expected to meet, and built life-long friendships; I discovered new places, habits, concerns, and ways to think and face life. I felt enriched as I never had felt before, and I decided to always give room for diversity in the choices I would make in my life. I am thrilled to study this year with such a diverse cohort as the INSEAD MBA class.
What is your favorite company and what could business students learn from them? I like very much the multinational hospitality companies, such as Accor. I find it very interesting and inspiring to see how what seems to be such a classical activity, with tangible assets and a pretty simple business model, had to successfully question its practices for the past few years to gain agility and to adapt to the new market trends, such as digitalization and new players with alternative business models such as AirBnB, where it was about personalizing an experience and not just selling a hotel room. Of course, Accor had to more recently adapt to the COVID situation. I think these companies, despite their considerable sizes which could cause some inertia, showed remarkable agility and adaptability.
DON’T MISS: Meet INSEAD’s MBA Class of 2021