Rhyll Gardner

 

Nationality: Australian
Work country: Australia
Graduated: 2011
Job: CEO, Foresters Group & Non Executive Director, Innovation Business Skills Australia

I loved every minute. Compared to everyday general management challenges of people and sales meetings, the GEMBA was like a working holiday.

How did your career lead up to the GEMBA?

Before INSEAD, I’d had a 20-year career in finance and was already in general management. So why did I feel the need to do an EMBA? Well, it was a case of now or never. I was in a role that allowed me to have the time flexibility, and I also felt I’d benefit from a top-up of the latest in management thinking.

Why did you choose INSEAD for your EMBA?

Being Australian, I’m well-travelled, but Australians tend to operate in their own circles. I needed a shot of diversity in the arm. Moreover, learning across Fontainebleau, Singapore, Abu Dhabi… it doesn’t get better than that!

Was the programme what you expected?

Academically, yes, but I didn’t realise the personal impact it would have. “Did you really learn that much?” people kept asking me. And what I always told them was that I learned to have confidence in myself, my experience and what I know.

Can you describe the GEMBA classroom experience?

The professors were all so passionate about their subjects, which made for incredibly high-quality teaching. The atmosphere in the classroom was also very collegiate. People were very respectful of other opinions, but at the same time created a debate.

Was it stressful juggling work, study, life and travel across the world?

I became very good at dealing with jetlag! But I was fortunate in having lots of support from my husband. He’s a writer working mainly in radio, so he inhabits a totally different world from mine. He’s my support and my shoulder to cry on in everything I do. When I first broached the subject of the GEMBA, he said: “Babe, just do it.” I think he enjoyed coming to Fontainebleau and Singapore too.

Was it hard going back to school after so long?

No, I loved every minute. Although it was challenging in many ways, compared to the everyday general management challenges of people and sales meetings, the GEMBA was like a working holiday. My employer also made it easier by giving me the time off. It was a huge investment, but I enjoyed it immensely so I didn’t think of it as hard.

And is the investment paying off?

I realised during the programme that I wanted to work for a “challenger” financial organisation – pushing to become a top bank but not there yet. You can make things happen in places like that. So I left my job soon after graduation and the GEMBA helped me get my current job. Although I didn’t have exactly the background they wanted, an INSEAD EMBA made up for it.

What next?

The future? Who knows? I want to be a role model for other women. I’d like to think I will get to the C-suite soon. And my INSEAD network will obviously help. We’re a cohort of people who face similar business and career dilemmas and we keep in constant touch.

Would you particularly recommend the GEMBA to women?

Definitely. An EMBA is a great way for women to break through and gain confidence in themselves. And INSEAD is fortunate to have Herminia Ibarra, one of the leading lights in the field of leadership, who researches women’s careers. We were able to do her Leadership Transition course as part of the GEMBA – and the women in our cohort also organised for her to give a talk during the electives.

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