Myriam Oufella Ferran
Work country: France
Job: associate director, Financial Services at Cognizant
As a mother, it is possible to spend 12 weeks on campus if you invest your time wisely and make sure you have the right support.
Why did you decide to do your EMBA at INSEAD?
I’d worked for 12 years and needed to step back and supplement my core knowledge. Of course, as a French person, I knew INSEAD. But I still did lots of rational analysis of the EMBA market. I looked at rankings, press articles, salary data and many websites. Then I did the less rational analysis. I talked to lots of people who had been to business schools – and I liked the INSEAD people best. Plus, I’m a mother of young children, so there were geographical constraints.
How does a mother cope with one of the world’s most demanding EMBA programmes?
As a mother, you stretch your organisational capacity and simply trust that good things will happen. The kids won’t be sick, the house won’t be on fire, the nanny will come etc…. If there are issues, your husband will cope. And if he can’t, your mother or mother-in-law will come for a week. It is possible to spend 12 weeks on campus if you invest your time wisely and make sure you have the right support. Having said that, you can expect to get text messages from child minders in the middle of the night on the other side of the world!
Was the programme what you expected?
Academically, it was a challenge at the beginning. After working for so many years, I wasn’t used to spending eight very interactive, intense hours in class for several days at a time – while managing some office escalations at the same time. So the first three modules were a shock to the system. My reaction was half “it’s so tough” and half “it’s so amazing”.
What were the highlights of the programme?
First the professors. They’re all passionate about their subject and know it inside out and upside down. Second the diversity of industries, backgrounds and nationalities, which means there are practical examples about everything that’s covered in class. And third, I adored the Leadership Development Programme. You learn who you are, what you want to do and build on yourself alongside others.
What was the social life like?
We had an amazing time. I was one of the class social reps and also an active member of the “fun committee”. We had a full programme of fun outside the academic curriculum. This programme was tailored to the location where we were studying. Our key moments: “networking burger night” every Thursday, random dinners, knowledge-sharing sessions on specific industries… and many parties! It means we all got to know each other and all stay in touch. In fact, the fun committee is still functioning. It’s currently organising a trip to Rome and a skiing weekend.
What impact has the programme had on you and your work?
It’s like having a new pair of glasses. It’s totally changed the way I see and interpret things. And I think the change will continue. It’s work in progress.
Did your employer support you through the programme?
Since the crisis, most banks are reluctant to pay for EMBA programmes, so I didn’t have financial support. But I was given absolutely essential support in terms of time off and flexibility.
How did you find the careers support provided by INSEAD?
It ran parallel to the Leadership Development Programme – and formed another layer of the programme, tailored to individual needs (depending on whether people were sponsored or not). I very much appreciated the information about industry transitions and what I could realistically expect after 12 years at work. It was a great sanity check! Of course, the Career Development Centre probably won’t find you a job, but it gives you all the tools you need through workshops. Looking for a job at this career stage is very different from looking for work straight out of university.
What next for you? How will the GEMBA help you to develop your career?
The GEMBA was an energising experience that gave me new insights into myself and the world. Although I went in with an interest in entrepreneurship, I had a fairly corporate mindset. Now an entrepreneurial career is on my long-term agenda and, in the meantime, I have a strong desire to be part of the global world. The programme made me realise how much there is for me to do for the next 10 or 20 years!