What was your profile when you applied to INSEAD?
- I had started my career as an embedded research software engineer at a French manufacturing giant – X
- Launched a corporate venture capital arm under X’s umbrella – Y Ventures
- Did 30 investments in Fintech and Security space
- Started a software venture and raise series A, B and C
- Tried going for an IPO and failed
- Post MBA goal was to be in an operations leadership role
How did you prepare for your INSEAD interview?
I was not a typical 25 year old MBA applicant when I applied to INSEAD. I had been through top incubators, Founders Institute, TechStars and was very well into the startup scene. I had done my masters from UC Berkeley in Computer Science.
I was an older and much experienced applicant with a proven track record.
I didn’t prepare much for the interview and instead thought of it as a coffee session. During my career I had become accustomed to networking with people and that helped in the interview. I tried just being myself and wasn’t nervous.
I had practiced a few mock interviews with my wife but I hadn’t used any reference material for the interview.
What were some of the strong and weak aspects of your profile and how did you prepare to portray them in the interview?
My strength came from the fact that I had actual industry experience and I wasn’t a young business leader. I had proved my business expertise in my industry of work. I was also not looking for an industry or geography or role change by getting an MBA from INSEAD. I planned to stick to the same industry and geography after the MBA and this implied that I was playing from a strength to another strength.
Apart from this, I had also spent a couple of years at Singapore and due to my job, I was already based in France. Hence, I was already accustomed to both the countries’ cultures and this benefit was acknowledged in the interview as well.
My weakness was that since I was a relatively senior applicant, if I were to recruit into consulting or traditional investment banking jobs, my age would have been an issue. However, this weakness was undervalued because INSEAD is a diverse school and people come from all different walks of life and I wasn’t looking for consulting or investment banking jobs either.
Who were your interviewers and how was your interview experience?
The first interviewer, who was the good cop was an Indian Wealth Manager at a leading Wealth Management firm.
The second interviewer, who was the bad cop was a French Business Leader from one of the biggest trading services.
Since I came from a payments background, both of the interviewers were from my background.
The bad cop interviewer grilled me about my startup. He questioned me in detail about how it worked and what value it brings to the target customer.
The good cop interviewer was a lot more collegial, conversational and social during the interview
How did you answer the 'Why INSEAD' question?
For me, the reason to join INSEAD was to become better at what I was already doing and to gain a plethora of business skills. I was an applicant with a technical background and the INSEAD journey could train me in the business side of things and open new doors for me. Joining INSEAD was about gaining credibility and becoming an international business leader.
It is very important to really look into your profile and understand how an INSEAD MBA fits for you instead of quoting from the school’s marketing taglines.
What would be your preparation tips for an applicant?
INSEAD clearly states that it is looking for a set of characteristics in its future students. These are diversity, international exposure and motivation, intellectual capacity and leadership & team management.
As long as you portray all these aspects holistically in your profile you have a fair chance as an applicant to INSEAD. Sometimes applicants do not come from a strong position for characteristics like leadership or international exposure. In such cases it is important to connect with the INSEAD students and alumni and discuss about how the applicant can enhance their answers and share stories or experience that can play to their strength.
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