Meet INSEAD’s MBA Class Of 2024

What is it like going to a new country? Most find it exhilarating: new people, new sites, new routines – new ways of thinking and living too. It is a time to escape, explore, relax, learn, grow, create, transform – be someone else and open up to the possibilities. Of course, that’s the sugar-coated view of heading overseas. You can heighten the senses through rich delicacies and languages, but a painful transition period often settles in quickly.

Just like entering a new company or role, an overseas stint is fraught with discomfort and confusion. The new rules, expectations, and ways of doing things can be a shock to the system. You’ll make mistakes – and learn humility in the process. Chances are, you’re bound to butt heads with someone along the way. In the end, you’ll come away, more flexible, observant, thoughtful, and capable. That’s when you know the trip was worth it!

Students from MBA 23J and 23D Europe classes

A DEPARTURE FROM THE SAFE AND FAMILIAR

Many MBAs picture a global career, bouncing between New York City, London, Hong Kong, and Sydney. How do you absorb the business practices and cultural nuances of various regions? You find the right spot, stand still, and listen. That’s what INSEAD does best; it provides a space for high potentials worldwide to interact and learn from each other. Branded as “The business school for the world”, INSEAD maintains campuses across four countries: Fontainebleau (France, Singapore, Abu Dhabi (UAE), and San Francisco (San Francisco). However, locations aren’t what make INSEAD such a distinctive global experience. Instead, it is a mix of spirit and structure. For 10 months, MBAs challenge themselves to think differently by using their classmates as their guides.

“When addressing a problem, we tend to rely on familiar methods and reflexes acquired during our academic and professional journeys,” writes Benjamin PIERRE, a member of the Class of 2024. “However, collaborating with individuals from different backgrounds allows us to break free from the usual patterns and come up with new and innovative solutions. Working together during the MBA program provides an opportunity to assimilate the perspectives and knowledge of others, enriching our own skillset.”

Historically, INSEAD MBA classes feature 75-85 nationalities, with an alumni base that numbers over 65,000 graduates and stretches across 180 countries. That means expertise from nearly imaginable company, industry, function, and region. That’s not the only unmistakable INSEAD advantage. Julia Zhang, a German-Chinese management consultant, spells out several other benefits. They include exposing her to a wide range of global perspectives and practices, challenging her preconceptions and biases, boosting her cultural intelligence, and providing a wider and deeper business network. In other words, MBA students learn to manage diversity by immersing themselves in it. Every day, they interact with peers very different from themselves to understand trends, solve problems, and leverage technologies. Along the way, they learn how these issues and opportunities are impacting differing regions and industries.

Students from MBA 23J and 23D Europe classes

INSEAD IS A STATE OF MIND

Better yet, MBA teams are constructed to maximize different cultures and professional backgrounds. Hence, they quickly learn how to work out differences and operate as a team – a requirement for any globally-minded professional looking to lead far-flung teams. More than that, INSEAD is set up so that every student is a minority and no nationality makes up any semblance of a majority.

“[INSEAD] build(s) its classes such that no single professional experience or nationality is predominant,” explains Mikah Edwin Nuilondea. “Having come from a country with 250+ ethnic groups, I can attest to how unruly it can be to lead within such a fragmented context.”

In formulating these classes, INSEAD does more than check boxes. To earn an acceptance letter, INSEAD wants hungry students – candidates driven to build their cultural awareness and fix their blind spots. Bottom line: INSEAD is an outlook as much as an origin.

“You’ll need to do more than enumerate your trips or adventures abroad,” explains Melissa Jones, a consultant with Fortuna Admissions. “INSEAD wants evidence you’ve learned from these experiences, that you’ve gained interesting insights, cultural sensitivity and curiosity for cultures beyond your own.”

Jasjit SIngh Teaching

USING ENTREPRENEURS TO FIGHT TERRORISTS

…and people with unique professional backgrounds and perspectives who’ve already left impressive marks in their employers and communities. Take Julia Zhang. At the outbreak of COVID-19 – when fear ran rampant and supplies hit lows – she worked with manufacturers and suppliers to provide masks to German healthcare facilities. It was an experience, she says, that prepared her to launch a business and manage cross-border stakeholders. That said, this event was just one link in a long chain of compelling points in her story.

“I’m a curious person by nature and my path has been anything but straightforward,” Zhang admits. “From wanting to become a concert pianist to working on film sets, I joined a M&A communication firm, founded my own startups and eventually landed at a global management consultancy. It has certainly been an interesting ride so far.”

Benjamin PIERRE earned a law degree at the French Air Force Academy. Today, he works in the French Ministry of Defense as a deputy head. His big moment came three years ago, when he led the financial and legal operations of the military’s operation in Mali – and demonstrated his problem-solving acumen.

“During the first part of my mission, I solved a problem of supplying drinking water to an isolated French forces camp with 400 soldiers. Military and civilian convoys were constantly under attack. With the help of Malian entrepreneurs, we set up a camouflaged supply chain with operators of different ethnicities depending on the potential bandits on the route. Thanks to this solution, the isolated soldiers finally had access to this fundamental resource.”

Students from MBA 23J and 23D Europe classes

A COMMITMENT TO SERVICE

The Class of 2024 also features Mark Jordan, a resident medical officer in the United Kingdom. Being a physician, he struggles to list a crowning achievement in his career, calling it “unfair or unethical” to cite a particular patient. Instead, he points to making it through his early months as a doctor that he looks back upon fondly.

“The step up between medical student and doctor is massive, especially in Ireland where the healthcare system is constantly under maximal strain,” Jordan recalls. “Furthermore, my cohort finished university and began work two months early due to the COVID pandemic. In the beginning, my colleagues and I spent long days (and nights) on busy wards just trying to do what is best for the patients. This was obviously quite a stressful time, which even caused some people to quit. For those that remained, we always helped each other out if there was a particularly difficult task and learned from one and other. As time went on, we became more independent and required less assistance but our bond remained strong.”

The Class of 2024 has also been heavily involved in the social impact space. London native Kudirat Olateju, for one, has founded MWHQ, which she describes as “a financial empowerment community for women of color.” For her work, she was nominated for the ESG Award by the Black Women in Asset Management (BWAM). Catherine Dimitroff, another Londoner, also operates in the ESG space. Before INSEAD, she worked at AQR, an investment management firm with $140 billion dollars in assets under management. Here, she convinced over 50 of the firm’s largest portfolio companies to disclose their environmental data – a bloc that, she says, “comprised 1% of the MSCI Emerging Index weight.”

“In order to do this, I convinced these companies of the value of disclosure to systematic managers like AQR with details on how this data drives our positioning in climate-aware portfolios. Several companies had failed to respond to our outreach in previous years, so I emphasized AQR’s meaningful holding in each company and designed an escalation protocol, outlining the measures that AQR might take if a company continually failed to disclose the requested information. This enabled us to showcase our ESG impact to our global client base and was a signal of the growing significance of disclosing environmental data.”

MBA Students

FROM ELI LILLY TO UNILEVER TO MCKINSEY

Long term, Daniel Tuan Anh Hoang hopes to “nurture purpose-driven startups” towards sustainability. He has certainly laid the groundwork for success in this area. At Unilever, he spent seven years working in talent management and organizational transformation. In his spare time, he co-founded a not-for-profit accelerator program targeted to Vietnamese startups that helped build 120 enterprises that reached over a thousand people. At Eli Lilly, Deema Bin Homed climbed from sales specialist to being a district sales manager leading 10 people – all by the time she turned 25. In her job, she also took on short-term assignments involved DEI and talent acquisition. Outside of work, she followed her passion by fighting against stigmas attached to mental health disorders in Saudi Arabia.

“Upon completing high school, I joined the Enayah Health Association, which educates volunteers on health-related topics and effective methods for executing awareness campaigns. In 2017, I co-founded Wamda (Enlighten Me) with a team of four, uniting a group of 90 volunteers across the kingdom. We executed awareness campaigns focused on depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD, and eating disorders.”

Deema Bin Homed wasn’t alone in making a difference at top global firms. Brazil’s Ana Maria de Carvalho Pavanello shouldered due diligence projects at McKinsey & Company. Chyngyz Ibraimov, a native of Kyrgyzstan, worked at PwC – once evaluating human capital investments for one of Europe’s largest railway companies. At GSK, Mikah Edwin Nuilondea spearheaded consideration for a new solution from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In contrast, JD Nunez Hurtado didn’t build his personal brand at a leading firm. Instead, he started one of Columbia’s leading fintech firms, Panachsh, rolling out their product in just six months, no less.

“When our product was introduced to the market, the response surpassed even our expectations. Within a mere three months, we garnered over 40,000 downloads, attesting to our successful marketing strategy as evidenced by our low acquisition cost. Through Panacash, we facilitated loans to more than 3,500 clients, channeling a total of $575K into the financial ecosystem.”

MBAs preparing for class

NOTHING IN COMMON…AND THAT’S A GOOD THING

Now that the Class of 2025 has arrived, what do they think of their peers? Ana Maria de Carvalho Pavanello would describe them as “inclusive, friendly, intelligent, and easygoing.” Karolina Adamkiewicz, a British physician and equestrian, would add “passionate” to the list. While Mikah Edwin Nuilondea was “struck” by his classmates’ hunger, he adds that the quality that truly unifies the class is that they don’t share anything in common.

“This is beautifully scary because the journey is indeed yours and there’s really no one you’d “copy” from. It only pushes you to become more introspective and to chart out your own path.”

If alumni are any guide, they’re still trying to figure what they want to be too. “One of the standout experiences was during a networking event where I interacted with an INSEAD alumna,” recalls Deema Bin Homed. “She shared her story about how her time at INSEAD transformed her career trajectory and instilled in her a broader perspective, despite starting the MBA not knowing precisely what she would do after graduation. She emphasized how networking, exploring with her career coach, and utilizing all the resources she had from the program gave her clarity on her next steps. The support and guidance did not stop after she graduated.”

Historically, INSEAD completes two student intakes with 1,000-1,100 full-time MBAs. In the 24J class you’ll find 429 students who represent 66 different nationalities and 58 countries of residence. As a whole, women account for 37% of the 24J class, who average 5.7 years of work experience and 29 years of age.

In speaking with alumni, Daniel Tuan Anh Hoang would sometimes hear statements like “INSEAD was the best year of my life” or “I wish I could do it all over again”. Those sentiments were born out by the school’s Force For Good campaign. A 10-year campaign designed to boost resources for entrepreneurship and faculty, Force For Good attracted 310-million-euros, well above the 200-million euro goals. Even more, 52% of INSEAD alumni contributed to the campaign, far higher than the one-third participation rate common in most business schools.

Next Page: An Interview with Urs Peyer, Dean of Degree Programmes

Page 3: 12 Student Profiles From the Class of 2024

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