INSEAD Participant Interview

Transforming Your Business with AI: the tech and the business sense in one practical programme

Fareeda Cassumbhoy

Fareeda Cassumbhoy attended INSEAD’s online Transforming Your Business with AI programme and acquired the tech and the business sense in one practical programme

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Seasoned change leader, Fareeda Cassumbhoy of Pico Far East Holdings, was looking for outside perspective on her challenges. What she took away from was a holistic framework for digital transformation.

When you are looking to enact the digital transformation of your organisation leveraging the latest technological innovations, having the tech know-how is just one piece of the puzzle. Where you really need to start, is figuring out which are the most pressing challenges – the hot issues – that you are going to have to solve.

So says Fareeda Cassumbhoy. As Group Chief Digital Officer with event marketing company, Pico Far East Holdings, it falls to her to drive change within an organisation that has more that 50 years of tradition and history. Enacting digital transformation at this kind of scale is a significant challenge, she says. And it’s a challenge that brought her to INSEAD in 2021.

“As a traditional event agency, we were embarking on a really profound journey in transformation. Leading this, I could tap into my own professional experience in change management and talent and corporate cultural reengineering, but I was looking for additional insights. Specifically, I wanted fresh eyes on things like AI, as well as perspectives on management strategy. I was looking for a sense-check on where my priorities should be – the issues to solve first.”

The Transforming Your Business with AI programme felt like the perfect solution,  says Fareeda. Not only did the programme offer what she was looking for in terms of “demystifying AI,” it offered a highly practical approach to problem-identifying and solving –the frameworks that she was looking for in order to structure the process of change.

“INSEAD enjoys a world-class reputation in helping businesses to transform, and this programme in particular really touched on my specific needs. What drew me to it most, perhaps, was the promise of immediate and relevant application within my organisation.”

Going into the experience, this relevancy was instantly apparent, she notes; an immediacy that was in no way impaired or hampered by the programme’s virtual format.

“On-campus learning has certain advantages, sure, but the online design of this programme was great. To be honest, nowadays most of us live on platforms like Zoom or Teams, so I had no reservations whatsoever about online learning. And the programme didn’t disappoint. Quite the contrary! It was an immersive and challenging experience from the word go.”

Transforming Your Business with AI put Fareeda and her cohort into the driving seat from the off, she says, challenging them to take new ideas and concepts around both business strategy and technology and apply them to their own specific issues and challenges. The lynchpin in all of this, she adds, is the Action Learning Project or ALP, a real-world project in-company project that participants undertake.

“The ALP is a living, breathing document. It’s the most critical assignment within the programme and it’s where all your learning coalesces around the actual challenges you and your organisation face.”

For Fareeda, this meant distilling new knowledge, insight and ideas into new systems of knowledge management within Pico – designing and rolling out an internal automation system to streamline unstructured data, text and visual resources, and make all of this easily accessible to incumbents and new-comers alike.

“What the programme gave me was perspective on this as one of the hottest issues I needed to solve. And through the ALP, it gave me the understanding, tools and insights to formulate a proposal to my company.”

She was supported in this process by a learning coach, whose input she describes as “nothing short of fantastic” – praise that she extends to faculty.

“Everyone is fantastic, from the professors to the coaching staff. The programme is just incredibly well structured, with easily digestible topics each week and interactive support from experts who really have world-class knowledge and expertise. I have come away from the whole experience not only with a concrete proposal for my company, but with a reinforced business sense. And a lot less fear of AI,” she laughs.

Transforming Your Business with AI offers a “holistic framework” that not only lays bare the kinds of technological possibilities out there, but shines critical light on how they can interact with your entire business, says Fareeda. And she recommends it whole-heartedly to others in similar situations.

“If you want to know a lot about AI and you have some hot issues of your own to solve, then this is the practical programme for you.”

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