“I am unapologetic, honest and straightforward person. That’s what my friend said while crying. Those are compliments, right?”
Hometown: Beirut, Lebanon
Fun Fact About Yourself: I am able to fully return my arms backwards (Yes, over my head!)
Undergraduate School and Major: B.S. in Economics, Universite Saint Joseph (USJ), Beirut
Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Management Consultant at Strategy& (formerly known as Booz&co)
INSEAD is one of the most culturally and professionally diverse MBA programs in the world. How do you see these global perspectives enhancing the value of your business education over the next year? My favorite photos series are the ones showing you the same photo from different perspectives, like for example the famous picture of prince William and the confusion around his hand gesture. When I scroll through these series, at every picture, I wonder whether I would have taken it at face value or would have looked for other perspectives. I would try to anticipate the next picture and imagine the other side of the coin. And every time, I would be surprised by the new lens and story the second picture provided.
Now let’s take this to a higher level. I see each INSEAD’s classroom as one series of the same photo. The cultural and professional diversity would enrich the conversations and discussions providing new perspectives that I do not believe can be anticipated. It would enable me to take my thinking and analysis further than the boundaries defined by my background and experience.
Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of INSEAD’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? Inspiration. I personally chose INSEAD because I am looking for inspiration.
At this point of my life, I am ready to take it to the next level. I am ready to start a new adventure. Living and working in Dubai, I am exposed to all key European and American companies. A couple of years later, I cannot think nor look beyond my surroundings. However, I had never lived, worked, or been exposed to Asian companies and culture. I believe the new hub of innovation and creativity lies in the heart of Singapore and hence my decision to pursue an MBA at INSEAD and nowhere else.
What course, club or activity excites you the most at INSEAD? I am looking forward to the Innovation and Design Club as well as the global leadership one. I believe INSEAD’s courses will build on my studies in economics and experience in consulting, yet I foresee these two clubs fostering my deep interest in innovation and leadership, and to sharpen my skills and toolkit.
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Throughout my consulting career, I worked on multiple projects with actual impact on the ground, especially when it comes to projects with the public sector. However, I believe that impact would have been achieved whether I was the consultant on the project or someone else.
Therefore, I find my biggest accomplishment in my career to be the relationships I built with my clients. On some projects where I used to be the most junior member and working with teams representing multiple top tier consulting firms, I was able to assert my presence, build a relationship with my client, and have positive fallbacks on my team’s work.
How did COVID-19 change your perspective on your career and your life in general? It is very simple: my entire perspective on life changed post-COVID.
Prior to COVID, I used to work on average 15 hours a day and travel twice a week. I used to spend one weekend in Dubai with my partner and the other with my family in Beirut. During those weekends, I used to make sure all my matters are in order, my long to-do list completed, and the little free time I had left spent with my loved ones.
With the pandemic, the workload did not change but my overall lifestyle did. I started spending longer periods in the same country leading to more quality time with the people who matter. It shed the light on how my priorities shifted over the years and reminded me of the small things that I took for granted. It showed me how precious life is, too precious to be lived in a rush, on planes, and disconnected.
With the world adjusting to COVID and the restrictions easing up, I am keen on not living but celebrating life, spending more time with my partner and family and starting to work on my dreams TODAY.
What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? Growing up, I never settled for halfway effort and never took a gap year. From constantly being an honor student to moving and living in unfamiliar cities and landing challenging jobs within the consulting industry, I have never settled for less and always set my eyes on a new target directly after achieving the previous one.
It was time I pause this rushed cycle of life.
I need to take a break, to breathe, and then to charge back into the world. Today, I have a better understanding of my capabilities. I have worked across industries and have been exposed to many cultures. Therefore I also need to define what adult, mature and experienced Maria wants to do next. With that being said, pursuing an MBA felt the solution to my needs. INSEAD is the perfect environment to enjoy my time, connect with motivating people and get the inspiration I am looking for.
Once I find my northern star, I will have a clearer idea on to what I hope to do after graduation. I might go back into consulting with a fresh perspective, switch industries or build my own startup. I think that is the beauty of INSEAD MBA program. It opens all types of doors and enables you to do whatever you want.
What other MBA programs did you apply to? I have applied to Harvard MBA program as well. My dad always taught me to never put all my eggs in one basket.
What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into INSEAD’s MBA program? To all potential applicants, I would advise you to believe in yourself. You can’t sell yourself if you do not believe in yourself. And you can’t expect people to buy if you don’t know how to sell.
Beyond the academics’ requirements (i.e., GMAT, CV etc.), YOU play a crucial role in your application. Don’t overburden yourself with the scores and checklists when you can have a greater impact with your stories. They reflect your experience, your character, and your potential.