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Celine Abbas


Nationality: Indian
Year Graduated: 2015
Current Role: Controller, Philips Personal Health, Middle East & Turkey

The GEMBA was my first choice, given the INSEAD reputation, the global exposure of the programme and the opportunity to interact with some of the brightest professionals...

Why did you choose to do the GEMBA? 

As I progressed up the rungs I felt a pressing need to have a broader perspective to support the business more effectively. I had embarked on a career in finance, having completed my bachelors and ACCA and having worked (at Deloitte and then Philips) for seven years. It was at this juncture that I began to seriously contemplate doing an MBA. The GEMBA was my first choice, given the INSEAD reputation, the global exposure of the programme and the opportunity to interact with some of the brightest professionals, not to mention the possibility to balance my professional and personal priorities.

You’re one of the youngest ever GEMBA participants. Why did you enrol so young?

I was fortunate enough to have some significant career progression early in my career. I had some strong mentors at work, who encouraged me to think ahead as to what I wanted to achieve from a long term career standpoint and an MBA was strongly recommended. At the same time our daughter had turned four, which meant I had more flexibility to juggle my work and family while pursuing the programme.  

Did your family support your decision to do the GEMBA?

My husband gave me a lot of encouragement. In one of our first conversations before our marriage, I told him that I wanted to do a top MBA. And he never let me forget! 

Why do you think there are fewer women than men on the programme?

Men seem to have family support as a given. Regardless of what culture they come from, women seem to have to put something extra in place. Also, it’s a major investment for a family. It makes sense to invest it in the person whose career is going faster. And that’s still usually the husband. Sadly, too, women tend to believe in themselves less than men.

Just don’t listen to that little voice of self-doubt in the back of your head!

What advice would you give other parents considering the GEMBA?

Remember, children are much more adaptable than people give them credit for!

But you definitely need a support system in place. During the GEMBA, I also travelled extensively for work, so it sometimes felt as if I was living out of a suitcase for weeks. Fortunately, my mother lives in the same city, so she was able to look after my daughter. I also made sure that I had some time to spend with my daughter and husband. 

Was the international aspect of the programme important to you?

Definitely. I’d been to a multicultural university and loved the experience. I consider myself open and tolerant, but I like to test my tolerance. What I discovered at INSEAD was that all people are the same underneath. And whenever I encountered radical ideas, I felt I understood them better for hearing another human being express them. It’s not the same as reading differing views in a newspaper.

What was the impact of the Leadership Development Programme?

I didn’t have any eureka moments during the programme. But ten months later, I realise that I know myself so much better and the lens I see the world through is so much clearer. When something happens, I don’t just react. I step outside myself, analyse my reactions and watch developments unfold. It’s a very subtle but important change.

Which courses have made the most impact?

I loved Finance. But the two that stand out are Management Decision-Making, which has helped me understand my motives, and Value Creation, which has given me a yardstick for measuring success much more accurately. I use what I learned from both on a daily basis. Others that left a lasting impression include “identifying New Business Opportunities” and “Realising Entrepreneurial Potential”

Do you have any final words of wisdom for future applicants?

Don’t be afraid of asking questions. The chances are, if you haven’t understood something, other people won’t have understood it either. And it will help everyone in the class get down to the essence of the idea

Celine is also featured in our article "Dare to be bold" showcasing a variety of GEMBA Alumnae.

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