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Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Maria Lia Magni, INSEAD

Maria Lia Magni

INSEAD

“Italian woman, passionate hiker, currently in consulting, taking time to reevaluate my long-term goals.”

Hometown: Monza, Italy

Fun Fact About Yourself: During my four years as an undergraduate student, I obtained three degrees in Business Administration from the three universities I attended: USC in Los Angeles, HKUST in Hong Kong and Bocconi in Milan

Undergraduate School and Major: World Bachelor in Business program at HKUST, also attending USC and Bocconi

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Business Analyst at McKinsey & Co. in Milan

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?
I am sure that being in a global learning environment will be truly valuable to my business education in the coming year. I have had several experiences in multicultural learning settings, and I have always found that diversity enhances the opportunity to learn. You get the chance to see things from different perspectives through the eyes of your classmates and friends, which in your daily life helps you seeing things from the perspective of the people you work with and the people you manage. You become more open-minded, you learn to challenge your own assumptions in a constructive manner, and you better appreciate the value of different inputs.

The exposure to diverse teams during my MBA will also help me become more effective when working on international projects, which are becoming every day more compelling for many companies. In my work, I have already been part of international efforts and I believe that these projects will become every day more relevant. Mediating between different work styles and cultures can sometimes be challenging, but with experience you manage to uncover the benefits of these types of diversity and to overcome the difficulties. INSEAD can be a valuable setting were to practice these skills.

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? Besides the global outlook and international composition of the class, I believe INSEAD stands out from other top business schools for how dynamic it is.

Being an intense 10-month program, students are really pushed to prioritize what is most important to them at that specific moment, challenging them to focus and to efficiently juggle all the activities in which they are involved. The possibility to spend time in different campuses also contributes to how dynamic the course is so that students can tailor it to their own preferences and needs.

I believe this aspect of the course is also very relevant to my life. In our jobs and lives we are always juggling between different priorities and different activities to carry out. INSEAD creates an environment where student can become more comfortable making choices on how they want to spend their valuable time.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at INSEAD? I am really looking forward to the opportunity to spend time in the different campuses. I have chosen Singapore as my home campus, but I will probably spend a period or two in Fontainebleau. This will give me the opportunity to get to know even more people from my graduating class and make the most of the INSEAD experience. The setting of the two main campuses is quite different and I believe there is value in experiencing both to get a more rounded experience.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: The most fulfilling experience in my career up to now has been working on a project focused on youth unemployment in Italy. My team and I created the Italian branch of a startup, whose goal is to develop training programs that would help young people find employment. In the course of the first six months, we had helped over 50 students find employment. By the end of the third year, the number had grown to several hundreds. I regard it as a great accomplishment as I have contributed to building a company that is changing many people’s lives, making a real positive impact on their future.

How did COVID-19 change your perspective on your career and your life in general? COVID-19 was an accelerator of change for many of the clients I have worked with. It has been a time where flexibility and endurance have proven essential to continue supporting them.

From one day to the next, their way of working was disrupted and so was mine. I believe the situation has showed me how companies can really change their ways if they put real effort in it. With COVID-19, companies had no other choice than change, but the lessons learnt in these few months will prove valuable in the future. From now on, I hope I will not hear the comment, “It will take many many years to implement this” as often as I have. The past few months have shown us we were all underestimating our ability to change and adapt. We can now leverage these newly discovered skills to implement other strategic changes to the way companies work.

On a more personal note, COVID has taught me the need for balance. Having spent many months in full lockdown in Italy, I had to put some boundaries in my life to make sure I was still taking time to myself. In the long term, I think these boundaries I have set for myself will help me achieve a sustainable work-life balance.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? Being at a turning point in my career, I believe pursuing an MBA is the best way for me to make the transition as smooth as possible. Up until now, my performance has been determined by my skills and individual contribution. From now on, my success will be determined by how well I can be an inspiring and effective leader and how well I can manage my team. I believe that pursuing an MBA at INSEAD can truly help me in making this transition as I am given the time and resources to work on myself at 360°, not only as a leader and a professional but also as a person.

After graduation I will return to McKinsey as an Associate and hopefully will soon become a manager, taking a leadership position in driving teams and clients to success and to make a difference.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? INSEAD was my first choice, and it is the only school I applied to. I sent my application in the earlier rounds so that I would still have time to apply to other schools if I was not admitted. Doing so, I was able to fully concentrate my best effort on the application I cared the most about.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into INSEAD’s MBA program? Be yourself and talk to alumni before applying.

During the application process, you will be asked several questions on your personal background and professional path. Take time to really reflect on what were the experiences that shaped you into who you are today and make sure it is conveyed into your essays. You are not just your job title; therefore you should give relevance also to other experiences as well.

INSEAD is not only about academics and career opportunities. Talking to alumni, I realized it can be a life-changing experience that goes beyond. I was always impressed by the passion alumni showed when talking about their time at INSEAD. While applying, I would suggest applicants to take time to talk to some of them to make sure this is the experience you are looking for and that you are a good fit with the school spirit and environment.

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