Based on the school’s reputation and what my friend had shared with me, I expected the teaching and the materials to be first class. So yes, I had very high expectations. And they were met and exceeded in every sense. It’s simply world-class. The calibre and quality of the INSEAD experience are unique. It’s also so enriching to have the opportunity to go back to school in a sense, and to invest in yourself both personally and professionally. Doing that at INSEAD is just an outstanding experience.
Cristina, why did you opt to pursue the Leadership Transition programme at INSEAD?
I was at an inflection point in my career. Prior to becoming Global Strategic Marketing Manager, I’d held a regional marketing manager role in Dow leading the implementation and generation of the innovation pipeline. My role was that of an individual collaborator in the sense that despite I was indirectly managing teams, I didn’t have direct reports as such. And this was something that I aspired to professionally – to develop the people management skills that would see me lead my own team. I wanted to step up in my business and have bigger responsibilities and to do so I knew I had to dig deep into my leadership style and acquire new tools and frameworks and the support of a top school was the best and fastest way to get all of this. INSEAD was already familiar to me as one of Europe’s foremost business schools, and the programme itself was recommended to me by a friend of mine who had both enjoyed and benefited enormously from the experience.
You must have had high expectations then, going into the programme.
Based on the school’s reputation and what my friend had shared with me, I expected the teaching and the materials to be first class. So yes, I had very high expectations. And they were met and exceeded in every sense. Something that I didn’t expect though was the individualised dimension of the programme.
For me, a huge highlight of the programme was the one-to-one coaching I received. I had never had the experience of being coached, and the sessions were absolutely transformative. It’s incredibly valuable to spend time with someone professional, who may not know you well personally and can therefore look at your strengths and areas for improvement without bias. The insights, the suggestions and the recommendations I received around my own leadership style and new approaches to try – this was a really unexpected added value that gave the programme another dimension for me. A really valuable takeaway for me is that it isn’t always about improvement per se, it’s really more about being continuously aware of your behaviours and reactions, and that there might be alternative ways of interacting with people to achieve better outcomes.
What about your interactions with faculty and peers?
It was a very intense learning experience so we forged strong peer bonds and ties, some of which have endured beyond the programme – I am still in touch with some of my classmates from INSEAD. These are people that I can speak to and connect with should I have any need or issue that I want to discuss in depth. So there is a strong network effect, and it crosses the globe because we were such a diverse, international group. And this is another added value that distinguishes the INSEAD experience.
The professors were absolutely outstanding both in their expertise and in the facility with which they conveyed key concepts and brought them to life, teasing out the practical implications and relevance. World-class faculty, without a doubt.
What would you say the programme has given you in terms of your leadership development?
I think the core takeaway for me is that when it comes to developing as a leader and progressing in your career, it’s really not simply a question of how “good” you are, or what specific things you do. So much of effective leadership is also about the way that you connect with people. And it’s about enacting the kind of understanding that ensures that, as a leader, you get the support of the right people. Now these are concepts that I felt I understood intuitively going into the programme, but the learning experience sharpens them and delineates them clearly, bringing them to life. I have really understood that it’s the networks that you build – personally and professionally – that help you navigate your way through your career.
Today you manage a global team. Do you feel that the programme has helped you step up to this kind of leadership?
Absolutely. Apart from these key insights and understanding there is a really practical dimension to the programme, with plenty of real-life examples and cases that help you situate new concepts. You come away with actionable tools, leadership models and frameworks that you can go on to use in your every-day professional life.
The programme has really helped me accelerate my leadership development in so many ways. I would recommend it to anyone who is considering making this kind of transition in their careers – in fact, I have already recommended it to a number of friends and colleagues.
How would you describe the INSEAD experience to others?
It’s simply world-class. The calibre and quality of the INSEAD experience are unique. It’s also so enriching to have the opportunity to go back to school in a sense, and to invest in yourself both personally and professionally. Doing that at INSEAD is just an outstanding experience.