INSEAD Participant Interview
Participant Profile: Transition to General Management
Global Business Director - Packaging Adhesives
Greg Bunker was recently appointed Global Business Director for Dow Chemical's Packaging Adhesives business in the United States. In 2013 he completed the Transition to General Management in order to gain high-level management thinking and to better understand value creation and what it means for his organisation.
Why did you choose to enroll on the Transition to General Management programme?
There are a number of areas I wanted to develop. My engineering background and professional experience have provided me a strong foundation, but I felt like I was missing a few key elements, namely:
- The financial acumen I felt I needed. I knew I needed something comprehensive as well as formal training
- To develop high-level management thinking, cultural sensitivities and how to motivate and lead a team more effectively
- How to approach negotiations in a strategic manner
- A formal training in marketing and innovation
- How to improve a business with a practical approach
- And lastly, value creation. What does it specifically mean to create value?
Do you feel that the programme has helped you meet the challenges you face at work?
Absolutely. Taking on a higher level of responsibility, I find that I have to work more closely with the other businesses and functions within Dow (such as Public Affairs, Finance, HR). The scope and breadth of who I need to know and have working relationships with is large and it’s crucial that I manage a variety of different expectations. I also have to be able to inspire and lead people as well as paint a compelling vision of where we are trying to head with our business. Most importantly, the programme has given me the tools and methodologies for shaping our business strategy
Do you feel that the programme covers both the soft and hard skills needed to be an effective manager?
Yes. There are days when you are digging into the details of income statements and analysing where opportunities lie, and on other days you need to manage and lead people. The programme gives you insights into how to deal with both of these essential functions. It covers high-level leadership skills as well as the day-to-day management competencies.
Were your expectations met?
Completely! I needed to get some formal training in managing business operations. What’s great is that the programme gives you tools and insights that you can put into practice immediately. I use much of it on a daily basis.
I think it’s important to have both business theory as well as tools for practical use. For example, we spent a great deal of time learning about the history of finance, studying the theoretical background for capital financing, and then learning the implications and tradeoffs associated with capital allocation and costing. It was really quite a bit of material to cover and provides an incredible background for practical business use.
Why did you choose INSEAD over schools which propose similar programmes?
I chose INSEAD for a couple of reasons. Firstly, there are several people within Dow that I highly respect from a leadership perspective that attended different programs at INSEAD. Secondly, the idea of attending and going to school outside the US was very attractive. Is “school” different? How are classes run? I wanted to expose myself to diverse ways of thinking as much as possible, both from a content perspective as well as a cultural perspective. INSEAD has incredible diversity of both students and faculty.
What did you think about the participant mix?
It was rewarding to be in class with so many people of different nationalities, different business functions (business, legal, finance, HR, purchasing, operations, R&D), and different industries. It really was amazing to look back and to try to think of people, functions, or industries that were not represented! I try to be culturally sensitive and the programme really helps understand how different groups approach their work: why do they answer questions in such a way? What are their cultural norms? How do their systems work? It was really rewarding to both understand and experience that. It was also exciting to be the only American in the class which made for some rather interesting conversations both inside and outside the classroom!
Do you feel that the Transition to General Management programme speaks to all markets?
Absolutely. Business is global. There are regional needs, but most business concepts apply to all cultures and business environments. I think that there can also be a tendency for American-based multinational companies to “Americanise” as business is conducted around the world. I know at Dow we recognise this tendency and employ strategies to ensure that American leaders spend time both learning and working in multinational teams and countries and getting experiences like Transition to General Management at INSEAD.
One of the great benefits of the programme was that I had access to senior leaders from around the world who spoke about their specific challenges and opportunities. It certainly gave me different perspectives that I have been applying in leading my own multinational team.
How do you feel the programme has benefitted you and your organisation?
First, I learned a great deal about running a business. I have a much better knowledge of finance, marketing, leadership, and I believe I closed many of the gaps I felt I had prior to attending.
Second, I’m really trying to improve the way we do things at work. There were a number of things that I learned that I either implemented, or started talking to my colleagues about how we might change. For example, I think that we have done a good job with marketing in the past, but there were a number of concepts that were explained practically that made it very easy to improve a number of the ways that we do things like market segmentation.
Finally, the networking element of the programme has been very helpful. I met quite a few people that I’ve been able to help my company schedule business meetings with. We would not have had the opportunity to do so if it weren’t for this programme. It’s a great way to network and meet with not only potential colleagues, but potential future clients!
What did you think about the teaching?
The depth of knowledge of the faculty was incredible. They are all fantastic. They have passion for business, the subjects they were teaching, and they are very approachable.
My general impression of business school professors is that they have little time for their students, but that was certainly not the case at INSEAD. They all treated us as colleagues, they asked us for our thoughts on their research projects, and they were also very interested in our individual careers. They were also very free with advice and coaching about issues we might be having. It really felt like we had joined a family from the very first night!
What would you say to someone thinking of doing the programme?
If you’re looking for a programme that is a simple survey of a variety of MBA topics, there are lots of programmes available that do those well. However, if you are looking for an incredible cultural immersion experience, instruction from forward-thinking, innovative, and passionate faculty in a classroom with peers with whom you could be colleagues, or even friends for life, then I would choose INSEAD.
Finally, I would suggest that to get the most out of it, jump completely into it! Give it 100%. Shut off from work and delegate everything you possibly can. Read and immerse yourself into everything!