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Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Amanda Michel, INSEAD

Amanda Michel

INSEAD

“I thrive on unchartered territory. I am energized by new opportunities. I invest in people.”

Hometown: Monthey, Switzerland

Fun Fact About Yourself: I competed in Olympic Weightlifting and was Swiss National Champion in my weight class in 2015.

Undergraduate School and Major: École hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL), Bachelor of Science in International Hospitality Management

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Vogue Fitness – Head of Operations for Market Segments

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? From building an international sporting event organization in Europe, to working for four years in the Middle East, I have grown rapidly with international experience. Ever since I visited INSEAD’s Abu Dhabi campus in 2020, I have felt INSEAD to be the natural environment for me to accelerate that growth, especially with learning opportunities that bridge Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. My background puts me in a unique position to share my experience of the cultural customs and differences that I have encountered as an expat in the UAE, while my classmates in Fontainebleau and Singapore will help me become familiar with theirs.

As my first relocation outside Europe, the UAE immersion taught me that different cultures have values that are often diametrically opposed and navigating this complexity requires a level of maturity and openness that I did not have prior to this exposure. Living abroad, I was very quickly confronted to the tough reality of cultural challenges for which none of the books I read had prepared me. I believe INSEAD will provide a similar fast-paced learning environment in terms of cultural awareness; while I have had to adapt my direct Swiss way of doing things, interacting with students from the 88 countries represented at INSEAD will challenge, stimulate, and enrich my perspective.

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? INSEAD’s mission starts with “a force for good”, and mine does too. My personal mission is to have a positive impact by helping others live more fulfilling and healthy lives. Based on conversations I’ve had with alumni and classmates, I believe INSEAD provides exceptional experiential-learning opportunities to refine self-awareness, explore several dimensions of interpersonal dynamics, and approach life and work with authenticity.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at INSEAD? I have joined INSEAD’s Women in Business Club, and we have been working on launching a series of podcasts interviewing 10 women from 10 different industries in order to share insider tips and inspire the next generation of women. This topic is close to my heart and I look forward to participating in the discussion on gender in the workplace.

INSEAD’s Personal Leadership Development Program (PLDP) is another activity I can’t wait to dive into. The PLDP runs parallel to the MBA and consists of personal and interpersonal assessment tools, communication effectiveness, leadership skills development, and professional and peer-based feedback on experiential learning opportunities. As an incoming MBA student, we’ve all spent a few hours in introspection when completing the Personal and Professional Identity Narrative (PPIN) survey, which forced us to deeply reflect on values, drivers and what we want to get out of our careers (and life). I strongly believe that emotional intelligence has become key in being an exceptional leader; the PLDP is designed to provide us with self-awareness that will be precious to enhance our career success.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: As I have lived all my childhood life as a girl in an old-fashioned community at the base of a mountain, it felt surreal to welcome a veritable ocean of international visitors to nearby Villars, another small alpine village. I felt extremely proud that what had begun as a passion project by me and local friends four years earlier had become the Swiss Alpine Battle (SAB), a priority stop on the CrossFit calendar for the sport’s elite athletes from over 17 countries.

If not for being thrown into the deep end of this leadership responsibility barely a year after graduating university, I would not have so quickly confronted my limitations and fears. For example, as a leader, I struggled with whether to do the following: take credit for my achievements; let good work speak for itself; issue directives or trust individual team members to follow through on their own initiative; and be direct and active in my language or to be more passive to elicit greater cooperation. I had to face these choices and their consequences as trial-and-error exercises without first having the benefit of business school courses to guide me.

This sport was not my profession, but the lessons I learned from leading and running an international event, as well as building and managing the organizational structure that supported it, rippled across all aspects of my life. It made me realize that what mattered more to me than anything else was to test my boundaries and grow through learning from other people who were further along in their journeys than I was in mine. It heightened my self-awareness. It made me humbler. Most of all, it helped me realize that by learning through new experiences, particularly shared ones, I could become better at creating positive effects both in my life and the lives of others.

How did COVID-19 change your perspective on your career and your life in general? For me, like for many people, COVID-19 has been an opportunity to reflect my values, reassess how I operate, and make the necessary adjustments to better align those.

On a professional level, COVID has forced many businesses to quickly pivot and adapt their offerings: our company moved to e-commerce and diversified by adding new services and products. It has forced us to creatively and rapidly design and implement solutions which were vital for the business’s survival.

On a personal level, this period enhanced personal connections with colleagues, family, and friends with empathy and care at the heart of all interactions. I also believe the topics of well-being and mental health took center stage and I hope conversations around these themes will carry on as we ease out of the pandemic.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? It is safe to say that my career to date has not followed a traditional progression. In some ways, the speed with which my path took shape was due both to my assuming underestimated leadership opportunities and developing them where they did not yet exist. I have spent the last six years challenging myself and taking measured risks professionally without the help of business courses; now felt like the right time to further accelerate this growth.

By interacting with multicultural teams and customers in recent years, my v-shaped personal development has helped me turn a simple desire to lead the growth of a consumer brand into a focused mission. Whether tapping how people globally treat their health and goals or understanding their relationship with their communities, I have been making marketing decisions that start with individual customers but could end up affecting larger groups. With an MBA from INSEAD, I will prepare for that mission by spending several years working in the consumer products industry before moving to wellness tech.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? I applied to INSEAD, Harvard Business School, Stanford Graduate School of Business.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into INSEAD’s MBA program?

1. Be clear on why you want an MBA from INSEAD and what you hope to get out of the program. This will both help you during the application process but also in making decisions while you’re in the program.

2. As with many things in life, you get what you give. I find that having more work experience rather than less adds a lot of value for both yourself and your classmates.

3. Be your-best-self. I think it’s extremely important to present your authentic self in the application as well as to your classmates. Trust is a requirement to build strong connection, and that won’t happen if we people don’t get to know you. With that said, INSEAD is a competitive environment, and you want to make sure to present your best self. Reflect on your accomplishments, what you learned from your mistakes, and how you plan on making a difference in your class and beyond!

DON’T MISS: MEET INSEAD’S MBA CLASS OF 2022