2021 Best & Brightest MBAs: Sonia Agbézouhlon, INSEAD

Sonia Agbézouhlon


Striving to be the best version of myself by stepping outside my comfort zone.”

Hometown: Sannois, a small town with a lovely old windmill near Paris

Fun fact about yourself: I started to practice ballet and learn how to play the violin when I was 30.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

ISIPCA (France) MSc in Flavours Industry

University of Le Havre (France) MSc in Chemistry of Fragrances and Flavours

University Paris X (France) MA in Philosophy

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school?

I worked as a Flavourist at Takasago GmbH in Germany. Takasago is one of the largest manufacturers of flavours, fragrances and aroma ingredients. I managed flavours creation for the top 5 largest dairy and alcoholic beverages companies in the world.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? NA

Where will you be working after graduation? I am in the exploration phase. I am particularly attracted to roles in business development, strategy consulting and impact investment.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: I am a member of several clubs at INSEAD. In the upcoming months, I aim to join the leadership of Africa Business and Women in Business clubs.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? With three other classmates, I have been selected to represent INSEAD in the 26th Roland Berger – IESE International MBA Case Competition. Final presentations are in two weeks and I am very confident in our success. Case study is a new and very stimulating exercise for me. I really enjoy developing business solution on relevant case at hand.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In my evolution as a Flavourist, I wanted to join a company where I could work in closer relationship with clients and Salesforce. By joining Takasago, I achieved that goal. Through effective communication and feedback culture, I was able to create a strong network within our salesforce in order to offer reactive answers to our key clients. Also, since taste description can be very ambiguous, creating direct and close collaboration with the client is crucial to understand its real needs. By implementing tasting sessions and coordinating sensory analysis of benchmark samples, I successfully co-created tailored flavours with our clients within short deadlines. I am very proud to have contributed to the satisfaction of Takasago’s top-3 strategic clients within the dairy segment.

Why did you choose this business school? One Word: Diversity. Having had the opportunity to work and live in multiple countries such as, Brazil, USA, Austria, Germany, and Hungary, I have become the open-minded and humble woman that I am today. As I see it, diversity in culture, academic and professional background is an absolute must to be a successful and thought leader in today’s global world.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? We have amazing and passionate teachers at INSEAD therefore it is not easy to choose. I must nevertheless admit that I am a big fan of Ithai Stern, who teaches Introduction to Strategy. Ithai knows how to cook our intuition, feed us with tools and skills in order to understand the spice that makes certain strategic choice so hot. He is also a funny teacher who knows how to captivate his crowd with interactive content. The core course ended with the Master Strategy Day, where we were challenged to practice strategy in a very limited time for an organization – Miracle Feet – aiming at fighting clubfoot in low-income countries. Applying frameworks, we have learnt in class, and exploring sustainable funding to make a meaningful difference in communities’ life, has been such a powerful experience.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? I can’t wait for INSEAD National Weeks next month. It is an event to promote a country or a region. Since INSEAD is well-known for its diversity, national weeks provide opportunities for everyone to explain their backgrounds and perspectives while embracing every culture. Campaign activities before the final vote were so diverting. I look forward to celebrating Lebanese, Italian and Chinese cultures next month.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Passionate about languages, I am fluent in French, English, German and Portuguese. I also speak Hungarian (A2 level) and Hebrew (B1 level). Working for Takasago made me want to learn Japanese. I wish I had taken regular classes before the MBA to validate Japanese as my exit language for INSEAD.

What is the biggest myth about your school? It is definitively diversity. With 76 nationalities and a wide range of backgrounds, many non-traditional backgrounds included, 21D cohort reflects what makes INSEAD so unique. Each day, I am delighted to discover my classmates’ professional experiences and personal goals. No one is the same as another and not one day looks like the other at INSEAD.

What surprised you the most about business school?I am positively surprised by INSEAD’s commitment to social and environmental impact. Weekly webinars as well as active students’ groups and clubs dedicated to these issues are a great source of inspiration.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? Besides live Q&A sessions hosted by member of the INSEAD MBA, informal conversations with current and former alumni have been decisive in my choice. Based on their experience, their career progression and my expectations, it was clear that INSEAD was the perfect fit for me.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Everyone at INSEAD is exceptional, which is what makes this experience so valuable. I particularly admire my classmate Kasek Galgal for his commitment to his community in Papua New Guinea. It is so rare for a Pacific Islander to be at INSEAD and in top B-school in general that he is a great asset to our cohort. Moreover, his perspective and insights on the challenges of the Pacific region open new and unique horizons to think about diversity and economic development. Prior to the MBA, he worked to protect Pacific Island interests in fisheries trades, a vital economic sector there. He also advocated for affordable access to the Internet in Papua New Guinea. Indeed, the internet is very expensive there but essential for the development of communities that often have low-income and are geographically isolated from the rest of the world.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? INSEAD has done an unbelievable work to ensure that most of our classes are on campus. I am very thankful to INSEAD’s staff for their efforts.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My best friend has through his constructive feedback and positive attitude given me the necessary boost to get after the career change, I was longing for. He undeniably supported me to acquire a greater business acumen, and to develop my leadership skills to transform business as a force for good.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? First, I would like to become a role model. I want to Inspire other women from under-represented minorities and non-traditional MBA backgrounds to go after that career change (no matter their age) with top B-schools such as INSEAD.

Second, I would like to become an outstanding business strategist. In analogy with my experience as a Flavourist, I want to select the best available ingredients in the business world, mix them with rare internal material to create inimitable value for the next company I will work for.

What made Sonia such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2021?

“Sonia is the perfect illustration of a non-traditional background student. After several years of solid experience in her own field, she demonstrated in her application that she was now ready for business development and leadership experience. Therefore, INSEAD appeared to be the natural next step. Even if Sonia is coming from a non-typical background, she managed to demonstrate in her application traits that the Committee is looking for: adaptability, creativity, openness and passion.”

Admissions Committee


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