INSEAD Participant Interview
Interview with Veronika Chufistova, past participant of the Strategic Marketing Programme
Senior Manager, Marketing Communications
Toyota Motor Europe
"You can’t exactly define what is it that makes you feel so good when you leave the classroom, but you feel that you are one level up"
Can you please begin by introducing yourself?
As my name says, I am Russian, coming from the city called Novosibirsk. For most of my career I have been working in the automotive sector, starting at Ford of Europe, followed by Ford of Russia, where I worked until I got the greatest phone call of my life from the HR department of Toyota Motor Europe. From the very first day at Toyota, my career path was very dynamic: beginning in the strategy department, moving to product planning and then to sales management. Today, I am leading a team responsible for all Marketing Communications for Toyota in Europe, providing customers with information about our product line up and services, helping to guide their choices.
What were your main reasons for choosing this programme at INSEAD?
Shortly after my promotion to a senior manager, I moved from sales to the marketing communication department, having a limited background in this field. As I had no time to spare and wanted to get an additional boost of knowledge, learning by doing had to be complemented by study. The Strategic Marketing Programme proposed by INSEAD is targeted for senior managers who are about to take up marketing responsibilities and that was exactly what I was looking for. Why INSEAD- I wanted to go for the best and feel very proud to be accepted.
Did you hold specific expectations before starting? Were your expectations met?
I expected to learn new skills and go quickly into the subject through reading up on marketing principles, conducting case studies, completing projects and hearing real-world insights from lecturers as well as group participants with marketing backgrounds. My expectations were definitely met by excellent professors, alongside bright peers from different industries and a wide range of work experiences, who brought with them a lot of knowledge and perspective.
What was your most favoured element of the programme?
It is a very difficult question to answer. All of the professors were remarkable and each element of the programme was complementary and supplemented one another. If I had to choose one, it would be the ‘Discover Innovation and Growth’ module delivered by Professor Jean-Claude Larreche. At no real costs you learn from mistakes you make in your strategy planning, to come at the end of the simulation to what you could consider being obvious: “the only form of sustainable efficient growth is customer-based growth.”
Did you learn from the other participants, as well as from the lecturers?
Varied perspectives of the cohort did definitely inspire mutual learning and was at the heart of the experience. Just to be in an INSEAD classroom is exceptional and already creates a great environment to learn but the participants brought it to life. It was the first time for me to share a classroom with people of such a wide diversity of backgrounds and nationalities, coming from family owned but also public businesses. I felt very privileged to be a part of this group.
In which areas of your job will your learnings be most applicable? Have you been able to apply your learning already and what impact have you seen?
Much of the hard and soft skills I gained from the programme are relevant across all areas of my job. I believe I became more skilled and versatile thanks to intense exercise in widely applicable qualities like leadership, critical and analytical thinking, creativity and communication. The coursework may seem to be based on facts and numbers, but the entire experience ended up sharpening my creative thinking and inspiring creative endeavours. And thinking outside the box is just as important for marketing communication as it is for art or music. Finally yet importantly, I left the classroom with increased confidence. I leave it up to my colleges and business partners though to determine if they see an impact.
Would you recommend the programme to others?
I would definitely highly recommend this programme. It is a well-defined product with a thought through combination of case studies and lectures. If I could turn the clock back, I would like to experience this week again. I would consider it as one of my highlights in 2019. If you read this interview and consider completing this programme, I quote from Nike, “Just Do It”.
Can you sum up your overall experience at INSEAD in one sentence?
Well defined product with world-class professors and top-notch peers, all of which is a luxury.
Find out more about the Strategic Marketing Programme.