Work country: Italy
Job: CEO, IDAMA Innovations & Sr. Advisor to the CFO, UNESCO
I felt that it was time to ramp up my career, rather than take a break, so the idea of a modular Executive MBA was very appealing .
Why did you feel an EMBA was for you?
I wanted to go to graduate school for a long time. Originally, I thought about law school or a Masters’ in International Relations, because I work for an IGO that strengthens the rule of law in developing and troubled countries. On the other hand, I felt that it was time to ramp up my career, rather than take a break, so the idea of a modular Executive MBA was very appealing.
Why did you choose INSEAD in particular?
Well, I admit that I was impressed with its position in the rankings, which suggested INSEAD would give me the best bang for my buck. But it was the alumni and students I met who really convinced me. INSEAD somehow has a human element that matched my personal experiences.
Can you define the “human element” of INSEAD?
I’ve had direct experience of working in the field in emergency situations like the Haiti earthquake or the Arab Spring. This gets you to understand humanity in a way that’s impossible to explain. I toured a lot of the big EMBA schools and sat in some classes. But it was only at INSEAD that I found true human passion and enthusiasm. The sessions in other schools were a bit dry, academic and sleepy in comparison. INSEAD also hit my “international” button, not just in terms of diversity, but in terms of mindset.
Why was it so important for you to attend such an international institution?
I’m Sri Lankan by birth, Canadian by passport and Italian by education and location. I’ve never liked the question: where are you from?! An international setting helps me bond with people that don’t think in terms of boundaries.
Now that you’ve graduated, what are your strongest memories?
The very first session came out of leftfield and left me completely wowed. We were all A-type personalities trying to impress each other. Then Enver Yucesan, the programme director came in and said: “you’re here to break the rules and question everything”. Soon – and partly thanks to the famous Leadership Development Programme – the environment became collaborative rather than competitive. That’s a huge achievement on INSEAD’s part.
Was the Leadership Development Programme as good as everyone says?
I confess that I hadn’t clocked it before I started. I’d analysed the programme very clinically in making my decision. But taking time to reflect on yourself is an incredible opportunity that you don’t normally get in your career or life. Each time I came back to the office the change in me was plainly visible. People kept asking me how just two weeks away could have such a big impact. It was definitely the highlight of the programme for me, worth the tuition fee on its own… although all the classes were amazing.
Can you describe the GEMBA classroom experience?
Part academia, part insanity, part circus! The material is eclectic and the value immediately apparent. If you can laugh for half of a four-hour statistics course and come out wanting more, the professor must be doing something right. Most of our classes were like that.
What next for you?
My first priority is to “pay back” the extra time off that my employer “lent me". Supporting me in this way was a big investment for the non-profit sector and makes me feel tremendously valued. In the long term, however, I know I can’t stay in finance and the GEMBA has helped me to be honest with both my boss and myself about this. In the long term, I’m looking to build the venture that was the basis of my final project. Before, I didn’t have the courage to follow my entrepreneurial instincts. But now I have a manageable step-by-step plan.