We remain in touch to this day. Even now, we regularly text each other to ask for information or to offer each other support. It’s not just the training that you get from INSEAD, it’s the ongoing network.
Shortly after joining AkzoNobel, Şirvan's expertise as a financial executive was put to the test when US competitor, PPG Industries made a hostile takeover proposal—a bid so significant that it made headlines around the world at the time. This coincided with a shift in Şirvan’s own thinking. She had been feeling overly specialised in banking for some time and was looking for a chance to steer her career towards a more corporate role. To accelerate this change, Şirvan signed up for the INSEAD Advanced International Corporate Finance programme – an opportunity for her to take her corporate finance knowledge to the next level and to realise a long-held “dream,” to study at “the business school for the world”.
That dream dovetailed with an unexpected opportunity. No sooner had Şirvan joined the programme, than a discussion with her professor, Theo Vermaelen, led to an interesting collaboration.
“PPG’s successive takeover bids had made the news and my INSEAD professor, Theo Vermaelen, suggested we write a case study together as I had an expert perspective on what was happening,” says Şirvan. “So I found myself studying at INSEAD, in a group of amazing individuals, realising my dream to attend the school – and now also a co-author collaborating on what went on to be one of INSEAD’s most successful case studies!”
A sense of belonging
Şirvan’s INSEAD experience started with a bang. And the experience continued to exceed her (already high) expectations. She had some understanding of the quality of INSEAD faculty in finance and was prepared to take her corporate finance knowledge to the next level with the programme. What surprised her, however, was the sense of “belonging” that the experience engendered.
“Even before classes start, you make good use of the digital tools provided to prepare and familiarise yourself with the case study materials. So you become part of the group even before you actually meet. And when you do get together, you already have a strong impression of your professors, your classmates and your assignments. INSEAD does this really well.”
Being on campus and part of a very diverse and dynamic cohort of peers from around the world gave Şirvan’s experience another dimension. Sharing insights from very different worlds and bringing multiple perspectives to the table as they worked in teams forged bonds and ties that have endured long after the programme ended.
“We remain in touch to this day. Even now, we regularly text each other to ask for information or to offer each other support. It’s not just the training that you get from INSEAD, it’s the ongoing network.”
Leveraging the INSEAD experience to move upwards and onwards in her career
Leaving the programme, Şirvan has enacted a raft of changes in the way that she assesses and calculates. She now brings a far greater degree of logic to her decision-making, and she has developed a habit of explaining her processes in order to better guide people within her organisation.
“After the programme, I moved into more of an investment controller role and I was really able to leverage the programme to enhance and improve the way we did things and to accelerate my own decision-making.”
Making the smooth transition to her next role in supply chain transformation is something that she also credits to her INSEAD experience.
“The COVID-19 pandemic put things on hold for so many of us. To keep myself moving forward, I seized an opportunity to join my company’s next strategy cycle planning. I joined a project group that was looking at ways of upgrading our existing operating model in Supply Chain function. Here I was really able to bring to bear my INSEAD training – the insights and the tools that I had developed – to add value.”
INSEAD has played a “huge part” in driving Şirvan’s career. She has been able to move up and change position within her organisation every few years as a result of her education. And so positive has her INSEAD experience been, that she attained alumnus status, having completed two more programmes to receive her Certificate in Global Management.
“I had the chance to take two more courses in leadership and strategy with INSEAD which has given me the most unbelievable understanding and has seen me join the alumni community. To repay the experience, I now routinely volunteer to mentor on INSEAD programmes,” says Şirvan. “And I’m so proud to do so because INSEAD is on a different level altogether.”