Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Julia Schulz, INSEAD

Julia Schulz


“A German who embraces her A-type-ness, but is learning to live her Australian laid-back side.”

Hometown: Munich, Germany

Fun Fact About Yourself:  I have run at least 6 days every week for the past three years

Undergraduate School and Major: Stanford University, Bioengineering

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: McKinsey & Company, Fellow Senior Associate

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? (Preamble) No doubt that over the past two years, business leaders have had (and continue) to demonstrate resilience in adapting to a changing world – from cushioning the impacts of a global pandemic to an ongoing war in Europe. As these challenges were not isolated to a single country, business leaders were required to navigate cross-cultural nuances to adapt business processes – an example being the supply chain shortages. In many ways, the past two years highlighted the global interconnectivity of our world.

I foresee the classroom at INSEAD, which will be marked by my classmates’ diversity of perspectives and experiences, being the perfect for building leaders with the skills to navigate future cross-continental challenges. Not only will each member of the incoming INSEAD cohort have a unique experience to share from the past two years, but we will also have the luxury of being one of the most global student bodies. As a result, we will be able to simulate a global business setting in the microcosm of our classroom. It is special to the program that so many perspectives are concentrated in a single place, and I am sure that the intensity of the 1-year program will mean we will make the most of our time together.

I could not be more excited to be challenged (and challenge) my classmates, helping one another to become culturally aware, ethical, and inspiring global business leaders of the future.

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 long-lasting spirit of the INSEAD community – I have yet to meet an INSEAD alumni who does not immediately light up at the mention of INSEAD. One of the biggest reasons I chose INSEAD is that the community outlasts the program. Perhaps it is the intensity of a 10-month MBA that fuses together unbreakable bonds or the mix-mash of the many different cultures that makes the experience unforgettable, but INSEAD alumni seem to be involved much beyond the program. For me, the vibrant spirit the alumni share recollecting and investing time back into the community speaks to something truly remarkable.

As an example, there is a very active INSEAD alumni WhatsApp Group in Munich, where daily former INSEAD students help one another, such as apartment hunting for Ukrainian refugees in the competitive housing market or providing immigration advice. As someone who has spent life across three continents, I know how hard it is to find a community when entering a new country – it is unique that the INSEAD experience opens the doors to being able to find a community anywhere across the world, literally.

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. INSEAD alumni and students are people’s people. They exhibit a curiosity and profound understanding of what others need. Whether during my interviews, meeting alumni at McKinsey, or meeting up outside of work, INSEAD alumni stand out within groups by being able to drive inclusive conversation with anyone sitting at the table.

One of the INSEAD alumni who has had the most profound impact on me was a project leader named Nils, who I worked with extensively at McKinsey. We worked together on an engagement with an international team of clients. Nils had an exceptional capacity to navigate the cultural diversity of our clients, adapting our means to communicate with exceptional grace. During any disagreements between clients, he could chime in and provide a voice of reason that would quickly settle the discussion.

Nils was also profound at motivating the individuals in his own team. Throughout the duration we worked together, Nils always assembled his team with people from diverse backgrounds and levels of experience. To accommodate to the needs of individual members, Nils continuously adapted his leadership style. For example, he would increase the level of guidance to individuals who desired it, while leaving others that were more independent to create their own solutions (but still providing input where needed). Nils’ ability to adapt to the ebbs-and-flows needs of his team throughout the project resulted in an incredibly high-functioning team. I’m still in touch with many of Nils’ team members and there is unanimous agreement: we would trust Nils with anything and would all 100% work with him again.

Nils would often reflect and share experiences from his time at INSEAD, which clearly had a big impact on the way he interacts with his colleagues, friends, and clients. I truly admire Nils and am excited to embark on the INSEAD journey that helped him develop the skills that have made him an exceptional leader.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at INSEAD? Due to my battle with rheumatoid arthritis, my grandmothers’ demise from Alzheimer’s and my curiosity for science, I am fascinated by how biology converts to clinical value and makes people healthier. I studied bioengineering to understand disease curing mechanisms, joined a gene-editing research group to appreciate how theory becomes reality, and joined McKinsey to learn how pharma brings drugs to patients. Consequently, it is no surprise that the course and clubs I am most excited about at INSEAD are related to healthcare.

One course I am looking forward to is “Creating Value in Healthcare” (or CVH), which dives into healthcare delivery, value chain challenges, and how to improve the value of bringing life changing treatments to patients. Through a case-based approach and taught by an industry veteran, the course teaches an understanding of how complex service systems can be managed, improved, and innovated. While I can share my perspectives on the German, Australian, and US healthcare systems, which are very different from one another, I look forward to learning more about delivery across the globe – especially during the third part of the course, which explores global health and opportunities in developing markets. As I want to dedicate my career to helping improve delivery of care, I know the course offerings such as CVH (in addition to INSEAD’s Healthcare Club) will offer me the perfect environment to expand and challenge my perspective.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My proudest moments have been when I am able to empower others. It is one of the reasons I chose to pursue consulting in which I empower my pharma R&D clients to solve organizational challenges, improve processes, and assist decision-making. While I have multiple accounts of times when my teams were able to provide value to our clients, the accomplishment that led me to draw this conclusion and pursue a career in consulting dates to my time at university.

My passion for empowering others led me to receive a teaching assistant award for my work in the Bioengineering Capstone project. During the course, it was my responsibility to guide two student groups in addressing a healthcare need. My tasks included providing feedback and helping my teams stay on track. For me, it was beyond a project management job; I wanted to enable my team to succeed beyond the quarter.

Having experienced the class myself, I knew this course was challenging due to difficult team dynamics, short deliverable timelines, and limited resources. I worked with my teams to address challenges methodologically. To facilitate team bonding, we scheduled team events and I organized snacks to fuel the lab sessions. To counteract time pressure, especially when COVID forced transition to a remote setting, I set up a scheduling system to enable safe lab work. To find resources, I sent emails to the School of Medicine to source mouse models and a rare species of flies. By the end, both teams were two of the first teams ever to conduct animal research in the course and received funding to continue their projects.  Moreover, the greatest achievement is that the two teams, who had been rife with disagreement, keep in touch to date. Throughout this experience, I learned that the most powerful resource that can be provided to a team to help them thrive is creating a setting where individuals are enabled to contribute their greatest strengths.

I have carried this skill with me to my teams and clients at McKinsey, and I am looking forward to applying it in the INSEAD classroom and continuing to refine it as I progress through my career.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? It is probably no surprise that the timing of my MBA decision was driven by COVID – but this is only half the story.

The COVID part: As someone who wants to dedicate her career to improving processes for delivery of care, it was an easy decision to apply to an MBA after witnessing how the COVID pandemic spurred momentum in this sector, as both the public and private sector are seeking innovative ideas to realize change.

The non-COVID part: During my undergraduate degree, I participated in a leadership program called the Mayfield Fellowship. This program was guided by two entrepreneurs: Professor Thomas Byers and investor Ann Miura Ko. In a tight-knit group of 12, we learned and prepared for the inevitable ethical considerations and social responsibilities in organizations through Silicon Valley case studies. I learned more about myself, the managerial traits I possessed and those I lacked, and the type of people I should surround myself with. The program transformed how I view the world – the most important takeaway was that people come first. It is the interactions and relationships you build with others that are the crux of keeping organizations and society functioning.

Through the COVID experience in the healthcare space and numerous conversations with Mayfield alumni, it became clear to me in the latter half of 2021 that it was the perfect time to expand my perspective and strengthen my abilities as a leader through an MBA. INSEAD was an easy choice to apply for admission: nowhere else would I have access to the same diverse cohort in a single classroom.

After graduation, I hope to take my learnings beyond the MBA and inspire others. Living by the mantra people come first, I aspire to become the ethical, grounded, and gritty leader in the healthcare space.

What is one thing you have recently read, watched, or listened to that you would highly recommend to prospective MBAs? Why? I highly recommend Erin Meyer’s book The Culture Map to future leaders (and those applying to an MBA). In her book, Prof. Meyer sheds light on why people from different backgrounds may behave a certain way, and how leaders can consciously adapt their behavior to enable cross-cultural collaboration.

While reading the book, I would encourage reflection on the 8 dimensions of behavior gaps in the context of the past two years. In many ways, I believe the circumstances of the pandemic strained the collaboration of cross-cultural teams. For example, the shift to remote work impacted Meyer’s “trusting” dimension, which measures whether trust in cultures is built via business-related activities or via social interactions. I would hypothesize that cultures such as India, which build trust in their co-workers by building relationships, suffered greatly during the pandemic. As we transitioned to remote work, social interactions, such as the chat with a co-worker at the coffee machine, were significantly reduced. This likely resulted in struggles for employees in relationship-based cultures to maintain and build trust with their co-workers. It follows that leaders were faced with significant challenges on how to maintain and re-establish trust with their teams in the remote setting. Meyer’s The Culture Map may have certainly helped predict and prepare for this inevitable challenge!

Now, as we transition back into the offices, leaders will need to define new working norms and how to best accommodate different cultural needs.  The Culture Map is a guide to navigating cultural nuances amongst groups and how we may have to adapt our approaches. I consider it an essential read for anyone desiring to successfully lead international teams.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? I was very selective in my programs and the only other program I applied to was Oxford Said

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into INSEAD’s MBA program? Emphasize why you want to study at INSEAD beyond the cultural diversity element. In the application, it is easy to focus on the multicultural aspect of the program, but this will likely be mentioned in 99% of applications. While this is no doubt a core reason to want to pursue an INSEAD MBA, I would recommend focusing on the wholistic objective of the program. Specifically, demonstrate how the INSEAD will shape and develop your leadership skills.

The INSEAD mission is to “bring together people, cultures and ideas to develop responsible leaders who transform business and society” – the leadership component is just as important as the global aspect. The admission committee and interviewers, who themselves are global leaders, will want to know how the program will benefit your leadership skills and how your leadership journey to date can help bring a new perspective to help fulfill the INSEAD mission. I would encourage any applicant to be as authentic as possible in sharing how you will be an addition to a program helping you and your classmates to become the ethical and sophisticated leaders the world needs!


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