INSEAD MBA Student Interview

INSEADAccepted.com is continuing a blog series featuring interviews with current MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. We hope to offer you a candid picture of student life, and what you should consider as you prepare your MBA application.

Here’s a talk with Kelly Sun, a student who is wrapping up an exciting, fun-filled, and educationally rich experience at INSEAD. Thank you Kelly for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us!

Accepted: First, can you tell us a little about yourself – where are you from? What and where did you study as an undergraduate and when did you graduate?

Kelly: I was born in Beijing and spent my teenage years in Chicago and Singapore before returning to the USA again for college. I went to University of Washington in Seattle and graduated with a Business-Information System degree. Prior to my MBA, I worked as a technology audit manager for Expedia, Inc, the world’s largest online travel company.

Accepted: Why did you decide to attend INSEAD? Why did you choose the Singapore campus over those in Fontainebleau or Abu Dhabi?

Kelly: INSEAD was my #1 choice since the beginning as it represents all the factors I sought for in an MBA program: Ranking and reputation (#5 in the world by Bloomberg), one year program, outstanding professors, global perspective and diversity, strong international focus and recruitment outlook, and last but definitely not least – a school that promises an intense, challenging and fun-filled fast-life.

I chose Asia because interestingly, though I am Asian by ethnicity, it is the region that I have the least professional exposure to. I have lived in Belgium and spent time working in France, but had very little professional context in Asia. Given my interest in the emerging markets I wanted to know how to best leverage the opportunities available. Plus – Asia’s rapid growth and expansion is immensely energizing; each time I visited Asia for personal reasons, I left with a feeling of vibrancy and aspirations, so I knew I wanted to come work in Asia since Day -1 of MBA.

Abu Dhabi is for exec educations only – maybe next time! :)

Accepted: What are some of your favorite things about living in Singapore? Least favorite?

Kelly: I have just posted a school blog post about the advantages of being a Singapore “Lifer” (someone who spends all his/her time at one campus). The city is efficient, clean, cosmopolitan, the regional capital of many prominent companies and firms with strong support for entrepreneurial culture, plus all the softer sides of life: Sunshine, beaches, affordable and delicious cuisines, and travel base to all the fascinating destinations. Let’s face it – one or two years of MBA is not just for expanding your professional knowledge and skill sets, but your network and horizons personally. A great city attracts and retains great alumni that you can network with.

Downside? I can’t think of anything really, the fact I’m a lifer here is self-evident, isn’t it? :)

Accepted: How does the Asian location, as well as the school’s focus on being a “business school for the world,” contribute to your post-MBA goals? Have your career goals changed since you’ve begun your studies?

Kelly: I had a strong professional interest in Asia and found many like-minded people from all over the world at the Singapore campus. Today’s world is no longer just US or EU driven, the growth and demand comes from all over the world and you must be able to react appropriately to grasp the advantage. This is why I came to INSEAD – to gain a global perspective which is relatively different from the view point from an US-centric school – and understandably so as the US schools have different priorities.

INSEAD does not just theorize about doing business globally, you are immersed in an environment where the new generation of top business minds from each country, as well as a faculty as diverse and interesting as the student body itself. You could be collaborating with a Dutch, a Brazilian, an Israeli and an Irish on a case for a Korean company and understand the vast mindsets in real context, and gain understanding of different motivations and business interests present. Even as you clash occasionally, you learn and improve your competency and maneuverability in conducting international business. At the same time, it is an eye-opening and humbling experience to extract insights from the talents before you.

Accepted: Had you visited the campus before deciding to attend?

Kelly: I did visit the Fontainebleau campus during my work in France and eventually decided on Singapore.

Accepted: What’s your favorite class so far?

Kelly: There are many – but I particularly liked a course called Management Decision Making. The course comes timely after we finished all our core-courses which taught us the hard skills of strategic analysis and calculating financial returns, etc, and MDM is a course that teaches you the human decision-making process and common thinking traps. To me, this is enlightening as most leaders and CEOs do not make bad decisions based on bad data or misrepresentation of facts – they make bad decisions because they fail to see certain pitfalls in their own thinking pattern. This is a class that teaches you to examine your own logic, motivations and thinking patterns so you can be fair-minded and confident in your decisions, and improve the utilization of information on hand to aid in the process.

Accepted: Do you have a job lined up for next year? If so, what role did INSEAD play in helping you secure that position?

Kelly: Yes – I am returning to Louis Vuitton post graduation and moving to China March 2012. INSEAD was vital in helping me find this opportunity. I was a so-called “triple switcher” – someone who switched geography, industry and function in my job search, and I can’t imagine doing so easily without the knowledge and access provided through a top-tier global MBA school. The school has a strong brand in consumer luxury and has always been a target school for top luxury brands such as LVMH.

In terms of recruiting, INSEAD does not just offer seminars and presentation events; it offers a number of treks, speaker events, and external lectures through its reputation, alumni network and connections. Take consumer luxury for example, I have classmates who went on treks in Italy for Gucci and Hong Kong for Chanel in the worldwide and regional headquarters, to get a hands-on look and feel of the industry. We even had a chance to attend an external day of lecture through LVMH and cracked brand management cases for companies like Marc Jacobs and Dom Perignon and network with insiders first hand. Needless to say, finishing the day on a glass of Dom Perignon 1992 was an added bonus!

Accepted: Can you tell us about your internship at Louis Vuitton?

Kelly: I have a blog post here about my summer internship experience. Summer in a nutshell was hard-work, fast-learning and fun – just how I enjoy it. I get to experience what it is like to manage a boutique with a sizeable P&L and a large team, and the world of retail is fascinating because unlike a desk job, the environment is dynamic and changes are happening frequently all around you – customers, competitors, products, etc. I am looking forward to my new professional life.

Accepted: Do you have any advice for some of our applicants who will be applying to INSEAD?

Kelly: We have a saying that describes INSEAD life as “Drinking from a fire hydrant.” The school life is intense and can overwhelm you with information if you are not well-planned. Do I want to learn another foreign language, lead a student club, or participate in a techno-venture? You have to use the hours in each day purposefully with priorities in mind.

At the same time, the best advice I have received is remembering that opportunities are present for those who are prepared – and keep in mind, a MBA will open your options and opportunities you have never thought of before might present themselves. Brush up on your basic skills such as strategic thinking, analysis and presentation so you are ready to capture opportunities coming to you. In addition, don’t just absorb what was taught in the classes, the intellectual and international knowledge capital present among your peers is unparalleled, so be prepared to extract the wealth and return as much as you can over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.

Last but not least – have fun and enjoy the social aspects. Work hard and play hard is the culture of INSEAD, and discovering the hidden talents in your classmates (musical, artistic, creative, linguistic, sports…you name it!) bonds you even closer. Besides studying in school and finding a job, I also dashed in a costume run, danced in a Cabaret, helped in co-organizing a National Week, used every single blank visa page in my US passport to explore new and fun destinations, and blogged for “The INSEAD MBA Experience.” I had a wonderfully memorable year with new outlooks and mindsets, new lifelong friendships, a new career direction and new passport pages to fill – no regrets!

Please visit our INSEAD B-School Zone for more INSEAD-specific advice. Still haven’t decided which b-school are best for you? Download our FREE special report, Best MBA Programs: A Guide to Choosing the Right One for You, to help you narrow down your choices and begin your application efforts out on the right foot.

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