Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Tamerlan Vahabzada, INSEAD

Tamerlan Vahabzada


“Always on the lookout for new challenges. A true believer in “impossible is for the unwilling”.

Hometown: Baku, Azerbaijan

Fun Fact About Yourself: I harvest wheat every summer in a combine.

Undergraduate School and Major: Marketing, Azerbaijan State Economic University

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Shell, Retail IT Portfolio Manager

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? As a young professional who aspires to become a global executive leader, I am convinced that being in a class of over 75+ nationalities will provide me access to a truly global network, exposure to diverse perspectives, and the opportunity to learn from different business practices and policies applied all over the world. Diversity enables innovation and having an opportunity to work closely with classmates from different backgrounds will foster an environment in which unique ideas are formed to solve real-life management challenges.

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? The exceptional alumni network of INSEAD has been a deciding factor in choosing INSEAD for my MBA studies. People make all the difference and having access to a highly effective and cooperative professional community will be an important differentiator in my future career.

What has been your first impression of the INSEAD MBA students and alumni you’ve met so far. Tell us your best INSEAD story so far. I have recently joined the INSEAD start-up Bootcamp with my fellow MBA classmates and executive MBAs (GEMBAs). Within 48 hours, each team took a different business idea from a concept on paper to a pitch to angel investors. The amount of learning in those two days has been nothing short of exceptional. I was amazed by the wealth of knowledge and experience that each participant brought to the table and felt privileged for having the opportunity to collaborate with such a diverse group of people.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at INSEAD? I come from the energy industry and fully appreciate the risks posed by climate change on the whole of humanity. I am keen to play an active role in the INSEAD Energy Club and further explore the issues faced by the energy economy and its political, social and environmental impact, as well as work on the potential solutions to mitigate the risks of global warming. I aim to raise awareness among my fellow classmates about the energy industry and encourage them to seek career opportunities in this sector, thereby helping the world to use energy sources in a more sustainable manner.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I failed in my first two attempts to realize my dream of studying abroad. My first attempt was when I graduated from high school and was the only Azeri student to secure an offer from Middle East Technical University (METU) in Management in Turkey. In that same year, my government introduced a full scholarship program for European universities, and I decided to wait for one year and apply to UK universities instead. Next year, I again failed to realize my dream, as this time, despite getting accepted to the target UK university, I could not secure the required government funding. I did not lose my motivation after either attempt and three years later, I managed to secure a full scholarship and graduate from a top business school in the UK. I consider this to be my biggest accomplishment as it served as a building block for all my subsequent career achievements.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? My career aspiration is to become a successful CIO and help organizations get the most out of their digital resources and capabilities, thus contributing to the overall execution of company strategies and maximizing the value creation for shareholders. With MBA from INSEAD, I aim to master the required skills, build a strong academic foundation, and expand my global network to succeed in my long-term career objectives.

What is one thing you have recently read, watched, or listened to that you would highly recommend to prospective MBAs? Why? I have recently read the book Freakonomics and highly recommend it to anyone who wants to build a critical mindset to challenge conventional wisdom (i.e., most drug dealers are wealthy) and understand how economists approach solving problems and analyze various aspects of our everyday lives.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? I applied to LBS, Cambridge Judge and Oxford Said, and received offers from them.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into INSEAD’s MBA program? I would advise all candidates to take enough time and reflect on 3 key questions before applying:


Why MBA?

Why now?

If you have convincing arguments for each of these questions, your application will have a higher chance to stand out among others.

Also, talk to alumni and learn about the INSEAD MBA from the people who actually did it. This will also give you a better insight into the business school and whether investing your time, money and energy will be worth it.


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