INSEAD Participant Interview

Senior Management Business Strategy in Asia-Pacific

A participant experience of ‘Building the Business: Strategies for Asia Pacific’* programme

Manoëlla Wilbaut

Head of Global Commercial Developments, Automotive Sector
DHL Worldwide Network
Diegem, Belgium

"This programme provides in-depth and actionable knowledge for specific countries in Asia."

Can you please introduce yourself?

I was born and raised in Belgium, which is an extremely concentrated melting pot of cultures and languages.  I studied in Brussels where I completed a Masters in Business and Applied Economics plus a Specialised Masters in Marketing and Inter-Cultural Management. My current executive role with DHL includes managing teams globally, including Asia, engaging B2B partnerships and specializing in value creation through innovation and change management.

In addition to working for DHL I also teach Marketing and International Negotiation at the Brussels Management School and provide seminars on corporate strategy. I came to realize that all business elements are interconnected and communication is the key to success. Teaching provides great interaction and you’re constantly updating yourself as the students continually question traditional thinking versus what makes sense. I enjoy sharing my expertise and have written several books and articles on Intercultural Negotiation, Time Management and Crisis Management. These books have been published in four languages.

What made you decide to complete the 'Building the Business: Strategies for Asia Pacific'* programme?

I have a broad range of experience working with different cultures in multinational companies however wanted to go more in-depth with specific Asian countries. Plus to keep my eyes open to new trends and changes within the area.

At DHL we have many global accounts in the region, all with their own distinct brand and culture and their internal practices that might differ per country. As in any industry, people are a major component of success and it has been very interesting to see how people behave within business in Asia.

What kind of expectations did you have and were your expectations met?

I had previously studied at INSEAD so knew what to expect at an institution level: from the helpful Programme Advisors, high quality professors and their content to the effective co-ordination on site.

I looked to this programme to provide a more in depth and holistic view on several Asian countries like China, Japan and India. I was hoping for a ‘no recipe’ approach but to go back to the roots whilst still being pragmatic. 

My expectations of the programme were definitely exceeded.

Has what you learned on the programme helped with your role at DHL?

It was important to be able to apply the learning into my day-to-day work and the in-depth knowledge of the selected countries was a significant takeaway, as I had hoped. In particular the session from Michael Witt on Japan provided very precise teaching that I could incorporate directly into my daily role at DHL. He spoke to the history of the country, the cultural base and how the country’s traditions and business style came to be.

Specifically, understanding the Japanese ‘interlink system’ and the ‘business circle’ concepts has helped me to understand better and review how we work with this market. This learning has been instrumental in enabling me to improve connections and relationships with our Japanese business partners and clients.

The learnings from Jasjit Singh on India and Helmutt Schutte on China were also very useful in my day-to-day job.

Did you benefit from the diversity of participants on the programme with you?

The participant diversity was a big part of the learning. Sharing tips and stories was so useful and provided truly rich knowledge. Learning came from both faculty and the participants and it was good to have a mix of expats, global people and locals too.

Everyone had different perspectives- and it was nice to hear that some business concerns and challenges were universal. Just a suggestion or two from other participants has the potential to save months of time on a project. 

What would you say to someone who is thinking of doing the 'Building the Business: Strategies for Asia Pacific'* programme?

This programme is an investment in itself – for you, for your company and the future! When working in a global or regional role you have many demands on your time and you need to find a balance. ‘Building the Business: Strategies for Asia Pacific’* programme is a one week commitment that you certainly achieve the time and money return from. 

*To find out more about the 'Building the Business: Strategies for Asia Pacific' programme now known as 'International Management in Asia Pacific', click here.

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