Saturday, March 31, 2007

On Hidden Champions and Team forming

I like the reading about Hidden Champions. These are companies which are small, but with specific skills. They usually come from old unfashionable industries. With some regional/national/sectorial dominant position.

Now I'll push a little, and do an analogy with team forming. The reason is, in one of my groups, we have some hidden champions. We have like, the obvious champions (it could be Dean's List, or outgoing, quick-minded). But we also have hidden champions. They are the silent blokes, very discreet on campus. You don't know you'd like to work with him or her, until you actually have to do it (imposed groups or last minute groups). Geez, I'm happy to have them onboard. Very diligent, good mood, and results delivery-oriented. I like that.

I guess the main lesson is, don't always go for the obvious, the people that look like you, or the clique. There's a minimum -like shared values, shared ethics shared objectives- but then, go for the different people. Not only will it be added skills, but also challenging mindsets, and lower team conflicts...

It also reminds me one lessons from VOBM Phil Anderson. He claimed that, after some students emailed him about some speakers who were not as, say, outgoing as the norm, there is a cultural component in A-Class people. We are so framed in our Western cultures, that we tend to take for granted that an A-Class person should be volubile, great communicator, super funny, super sharp, etc. But then, in Asia, these kind of people would be seen as arrogant. So don't be fooled by the wrong signals. I'm trying hard not to... Like seeing the small valuable un-trendy hidden champion, rather than just the flashy Fortune 500. Very tough job.

On Hidden Champions:

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WhoSE fault is this?

Some update about the job search.

We had a discussion yesterday in a House Dinner. As you know there are several company presentations during the week, more than one a day probably. Company presentations are a good tool to show your interest and have serious talks with alumni.
Now the issue: on a particular day, one company presentation had flown 5 representatives, and only 8 MBAs showed up, including 3 just for the sake of fundraising for National Week.
Some people claimed that if the company was offering better packages, students would show up.
Some said that the company did not prepare seriously the event, with not enough publicity, and last minute advertisement.
Some said that it's pretty tough in the 10 month-programme to get P2s interested in job search, and P4s have so many options.
It's definitely not arrogance...

Another information, McKinsey gives a chance of first interview to all grads. I did not apply, and they called back enquiring on the reasons and whether I was ready to give it a shot...

I thought about it for 2 minutes... And that is not arrogance, just drive.


Friday, March 30, 2007

The Save Igor Campaign

Since I want to keep my word about promises made during P3 break (more sex and gossips), and because it seems to increase audience numbers, let me talk about school gossips I got from diverse sources.

Gossip 1: Accounting god Igor may leave INSEAD because he does not publish enough.
- Inferred is the fact that INSEAD Professors are graded against their performance (as evaluated by Students), their outside commitments for School, and publications. I think this is more or less true. Now is it right?
- Possible source of gossip is that Igor is not teaching Managerial Accounting for current P2s.
Conclusion: I'm not sure about the veracity of this gossip... If true, it would be a major loss because Igor is great, and his cases were so insightful.

Gossip 2: Antonio Fatas is considering merging the Singapore and Fonty z-curves.
- Inferred is that Singapore people are more Play Hard than Work Hard.
- Implication: exams will need to converge (current situation is, we get different exams according to Profs preferences, in most cases).
- Possible bias is source of gossip, who was a Fonty person...
Conclusion: I'm not sure about this one too. One could argue that Singapore participants care more about networking than grades -even that needs much closer study of hard facts. In that case, there could be a case about merging curves. Anyway Singapore people probably don't care much about this...

Conclusion of conclusions: arf... after taking PIM, I'm trying to decipher underlying concerns in gossips. Maybe the one about Igor, was the fact that maybe D07 Profs are not as funny as J07? (That's my gossip). Maybe, the one about z-Curve is from someone very close to making the Dean's List...
In any case, gossips should be taken very carefully indeed.

Programme of the week-end: House dinner tonight, House dinner tomorrow night, Italian Week DolceVita party tomorrow night/morning, and PIM Report on Sunday.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Spring is in the air...

Persistence is key. Especially in REP and NBV real cases study. And INSEAD grads are persistant...
In NBV, one girl failed, then bounced back superbly. So I was told -because I skipped the class, and despite Steve's grandiloquence tendency, I buy it.
Especially after having seen Adam's cases in REP. This guy is awesome, so positive. We started REP with his first company turnaround at age 25 or so. He lost his shirt in it, as he made the crucial mistake of giving banks personal guarantees. Adam explained in the video his lessons learned -I documented it in a previous post.
Now Adam was on campus today, explaining how he was so close from success -having succesfully turned around a great company - but because he created a holding with another money losing machine, he lost the lot... Lesson of the day: don't create a group of your companies, if one is very fragile.
Talk about persistence.
And he still kept his British calmness, smile, positive attitude...
Now I'm wondering: either we have Adam the Return part 2 coming soon -which tells a great and deserved succes at last- or Spring spreads smiles and good mood to everyone...
This week is also mini Italian Week, already a huge success with one of the best Tshirt so far, and a sold-out Italian Dinner. So Italian indeed: excellent style, and some organisation frustrations.

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Shoot the moon...

You'll hit the tree.
Shoot the tree, you'll hit the ground.

There's a saying from somewhere that goes vaguely like that.

Just finished skyping with an applicant about his essays. Deadline is 23.59 tonight.
God he shoots the moon! I like that.

Just finished to read the Barcenas case for PIM tomorrow. About a couple deciding to move abroad for the man's career, and the wife sort of being left out. It sure will ring a bell to many INSEADs and partners. Now don't think I only have one elective, PIM, this period. I guess the introspection is much greater.

On the job front, people are starting to fly all over the place for interviews. HongKong, London, inside France, Switzerland...
In a bar tonight, I came across a Prof I liked very much in P1. I took a picture with him. Smells like the beginning of the end...

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Mass Therapy 3

During the break, I promised to add some sex in the posts as an attempt to boost attendance. It seemed to work, and last PIM session is the perfect vehicle for that.

While the umbrella topic was Stress, we covered many more or less closely related subjects.

Basically, stress is a physiological defence reaction from the body when it feels threatened. The levels of stress are thus determined by environment, personality, and existential awareness (this is especially true for pensioners for instance).

Based on these premises, Fernando tried to demonstrate that 1/ the environment is often made more hostile 2/ the person is often made different in representation to the others. And that it is these gaps which increase stress to sometimes unbearable levels.

He took several examples to convince us that being in touch with feelings, being self-aware, going beyond some nurtured artificial walls (like strong pseudo-religious concepts) was essential to know your whole self, and drop the masks. I liked the idea that everyone needs a couple of friends with whom there is no mask. I liked the models of self concept vs. self idea, and how he solved the Juan Estrada case (about suicide).

Now, where's the sex?

Fernando undertook 2 tests to illustrate his point that we were limited by education, morality etc. The massage test: 60% of grads would not do/have never done massage (unsease with body/nudity). The sexual orientation test: if you had to choose beforehand what kind of sexuality you would have regardless of all social stigma 30% of INSEAD girls and 20% of guys would pick Bisexuality. Which, as it turned out, would be the optimal "economic" view -2 being more than 1 in a one-shot game of life.

I must say we were all blushing red during the vote... How perverse ;-)

On the job front, interviews are scheduled for April 2 onwards. Now people are really stressed out!

PS: Don't panic, INSEAD or Prof. Bartholome does not advocate bisexuality. It was just an illustration of how "gaps" can occur...

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Post-MBA Trauma

I've just finished my Rogerian assignment for PIM. We had to find someone not too close, and conduct a 30 minute-interview on something on his/her mind, using a Rogerian approach.

I chose an LBS MBA Grad, whom I met while preparing for the Gmat. He had given me great advice on essays, GMAT prep etc. (which I would be happy to share, should you need to, just email).
The guy graduated in Sept. 06. He is still looking for a job -by choice-, after dropping his job 1 year and a half ago, and was talking about how he valued personal interaction, emotionally intelligent people, sensitiveness in workplace etc. I was trying to respond Rogerian way: "Hu-uh", "I see", "So you feel that X companies are more sensitive to your feelings than Y companies". So tough to restrain myself, when I meant -ready to shout: "Buddy, move on, the MBA is over. It was an ideal world where everybody was great". I feel that if I write this in the paper, I'll fail the grade...


Friday, March 23, 2007

The REP Class

Realising Entrepreneurship Potential is an interesting class. It consists of finding a company to takeover, and doing deal financing, deal negotiation, and coming short of the actual purchase. There's a lot of urban legend around the course. This past group found a gem, that past group went it all the way, etc. We're finding it hard to come clean on our team representation to potential brokers and sellers, and be attractive at the same time.
Anyway, we'll see. I'll try not to be too excited on that one -the entrepreneur heat syndrome, as Prof. Tim calls it.
The class has really good guest speakers. Lots of alumni, some failing badly, some succeeding in awe-inspiring stories. Like the one about he who stuggled for years, until he decided to work for free for another INSEAD alumn who was excelling in company turnarounds. Less than 10 years after his graduation, the guy in question has mounted a group of €500 M of sales and 30M in profits. Wow. I'll stop here lest I may catch the heat syndrome (again...)

We had an interesting experiment in Negotiations 2. It was about free-riding. Suppose a class of 30 can collect 150 euros. If it succeeds, the Prof. gives back 300 euros. It should be a straightforward win-win situation: each gives 5, each receives 10. No brainer.
Now I just can't believe we only collected 115 euros, and that in 8 years, the Prof. has only had 2 successful cases. 20% of the class was free-riding on the others...

Of all people's shortcomings, this is the one that irritates me most. Because there's little you can do about. It's the scorpion crossing the river on the frog's back story, and killing it in the middle of the river.

Better thoughts: it's Friday; nice week-end to everyone! As a bonus, a log-off from Singapore Administration. My hint: the culprit might not be French (one French word, one spelling mistake).

"Cher Students

It has come to the Singapore administration’s attention that the recent mass emigration of P4s to Fontainebleau has severely skewed the male to female ratio in Singapore. Keeping in the spirit of “One School Two Campuses”, the tender part of the MBA administration in Singapore is willing to go beyond the call of duty and alleviate the shortcomings of the Singapore INSEAD experience by offering our services for the benefit of the future of humankind. Henceforth, all you Singapore hunks, please keep a lookout for us pretty little MBA staffers and share your love with us, as we will with you in return …..

Just remember, whenever you feel you can’t, we can can …..

Lah lah dahlings,
Luscious Lxxxx
President of the One Campus, One Love Campaign®

PS – please reply to me or Exxxx if you would like to be part of the speed dating extravaganza this Saturday at Dover Food Court (Fried Noodle stand)"

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Of Houses, Mood and Funny Quotes...

Here are the pics from the Tavers Party. Tomorrow is the Villercerf White Party. Next week is the Italian Week Party.
Houses compete on parties, which is good for all of us. House/Chateau life is an instition at Fonty, but there is some minimum fit to enjoy the full experience. Houses like to position themselves as "The Beautiful People", "The Coolest People", there's definitely an element of clique in the most traditional Houses. But competition is good, even in this case. Montmelian tops the party list so far...
There are unwritten rules though. Like, the calendar is large enough to accomodate all House Parties. Like, National Week Parties have priority, because they demand so much work, involve sponsors, and are "official" tradition of the School.
Anyway, lots of parties are much welcome to relieve my fellow participants. Most of them are under big stress, tension, to apply, or decide. Some of them are a bit desillusioned to find out that it's more competitive than ever at the top.
There's one thing we should all be careful of, it's getting advice across the board, hoping that it'll help your decision. After a PIM class exercise, we found out that 70% of advice were wrong, not because people don't care, but because they did not do their homework and could not empathise enough.
I find Prof. Bartholomé bully style quite amusing. Yesterday, he commented on our papers on Risks of Empathy and Adaptation to Foreign culture: "A lot of it was BS. Please cut the crap, even if you only end up writing 3 lines. Stop having fantasies too.", or "Ok. Very profound, thank you. Next?". Must be masochistic...
Quote of the day belongs to NBV course, on the benefits of equity sharing in start-ups. "Equity is like shit. If you pile it up, it stinks. If you spread it around, a lot of good things can grow."

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Career Fair

It's difficult to assess how good the Career Fair was, in terms of matching expectations from Students, companies, and Career Services.
First, schedules were full of classes. Tough it's definitely easy to skip them, and quite accepted.
Second, it is quite early in the process. At this stage, a lot of people are still struggling to come up with job search criteria, let alone strategies. So approaching "seriously" recruiters in this state of mind in not easy.
Third, we, as participants, tend to expect too much from Career Fair or Career Services.
When I hear comments like "there's no big companies, companies that make me dream". It's partly fair. But then, they are available either through intranet, or they expect us to come to them. Typically, if you're interested in media, entertainement for instance, you won't find such companies in such a Fair.

Who was there? 35 companies. Maybe a potential of 100 positions on offer.
Some big companies in industry (Philips...), some banks (Barclays, Santander...), some telcos (BT, Telefonica), some smallish consulting firms, some bigger (Cap Gemini). A bit of everything. They all looked for international positions.
I'm sure some would be disappointed by the turnout (of companies and students alike), evidenced by a dramatic reminder mass mail at noon that 5 companies or so had not seen a single grad by that time. There could be some kind of long-tail positioning of INSEAD, like filling a position in Abu Dhabi, which could explain the low turnout of students to some firms. I might not be the best person to comment on that, but it also could be early in the process. Once some participants get rejected from McKinsey, Google and the "prestigious" likes, smaller, seemingly less fancy companies become rosier options. And of course, a lot of participants are sponsored.
Overall though, it seemed a useful event, especially if one could establish contact and keep it for later stages.
Alternatively, there are zillions of company presentations, on campus and sometimes via VC. Surely, it's choice that makes it so tough for participants...

I'm having a session of PIM on Wednesday about choosing jobs. I'm sure the Prof. will talk about options, peer pressure, etc. Might be insightful and in the nick of time.

Good luck to all.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Mass Therapy 2

I like PIM. It's some fresh air in a term full of professional assignments and tasks.

Today we've just found out why Prof. Bartholomé was so bloody provocative. Because he is a follower of Fritz Perls. After sessions about Rogerian approach emphasizing listening and empathy, we were introduced with the Perls approach which stresses provocation, probe, acting. It was a great intellectual experience, rather than learning, as very few people possess either the acting skills or the Psychology knowledge to use the Perls method in a risk-free way.

Perls method is useful because it tears down people's walls and disguise. In that way it is disturbing, because we are used to protect ourselves behind barriers (culture, games). By using provocation, "aggressiveness", you allow for authenticity, and genuine rapports.

And it creates funny dialogues.

Prof: Has anyone said "I love you to you?"

Student: "Hum. No."

P: Suppose a girl comes to you and says "I love you", what's the message?

S: Hum, that she wants to sleep with me, she wants to use my body.

That may be true in an authentic Perls world, but in our world of games, it meant that the girl wanted him to say "I love you" back.

To me, the whole message about games was really insightful, and that you actually have to provoke, tease, act a little to get the authentic self.

The final word was that, despite 2 contrasting approaches, Rogers and Perls had the same objectives in using the client Gloria: to get her in touch with her feelings, to get her to be authentic, and to get her to be autonomous.

We also had a discussion on the risks of empathy both in personal lives, and when trying to adapt to a foreign culture, and on the HBS/INSEAD syndrome (adapting from best in your town to moderate in MBA). Great stuff.

To learn more about Perls -sorry I could not find anything on the Gloria case by Rogers and Perls:

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

The McKinsey Dinner

A lot of people turned up. Around 200 of us. The McKinsey Dinner -a traditional social event in itself- capped a week full of company presentations, mock interviews, workshops. The message was: job search is starting now, so quit the cool MBA world and switch to the professional mode.

This requires some adaptation. I guess it's again a matter of normal distribution. Some people know very precisely what they are looking for, the vast majority is still a bit overwhelmed by the options given by the MBA.

In terms of campus atmosphere, it's weird. While we were so happy to meet up again, most of us are too stressed right now to party very much. Quite a few of us want to party and socialise, because we either have a job (sponsored) or want to go into entrepreneurship. I feel there are several kinds of pressure: peers, loans, family. It's all legitimate. I just hope that people will get the jobs of their lives quickly so that we can turn back to the socialize mode!

Back to the McKinsey Dinner. It was nice, McKinsey people are sleek and very interesting. High correlation with Dean's List. Food was supposed to be 1 Michelin star... I think it was communication. Wine was on the cheap side. Still, the presentation was very successful (apparently, these are good years for Consulting recruiting), the Chateau location amazing, the event, a big hit.

This week-end, no job search for me, I'm writing a paper on the risks of empathy... Anybody has any clues?

To know more about Chateau de Bourron-Marlotte (perfect for a wedding banquet...)


Friday, March 16, 2007

Reality check at Mock interview session

Today I had my mock interview session. I got to choose from different industries: entrepreneurship, VC/PE, Banking, General Management/Business Development, Consulting Case. I was put in VC/PE.

I can see several advantages in having the mock interview so early in the process. First, because you're not good, or underprepared, or because the interviewer is especially tough, you get a harsh reality check. Basically, out of 3 participants in my session, none got through the mock interview...

I must say, in many instances, we give the stick to the interviewer, even though I felt she over-read in body language, sometimes.

Here are my takeaways to anybody.
- It sounds ridiculously trivial, but be prepared. Preparation does not mean just doing your homework about a company or an industry, it's 2 things. First, know yourself by heart and be able to answer the basics (qualities, improvement areas, why MBA, why INSEAD...) Second, it's know the words your interviewer wants to hear. They differ from industries/positions. For VC/Private Equity, in case study, do not fear using buzzwords like "management team", "exit strategy", "decision criteria", "risk profiles", ie. use their language.

- Don't storytell, Do pyramid talk. That is, when delivering your message, start with the Conclusion, the Essence, then develop, walk through the whys. For one thing, it is more effective and sounds more professional. Then, if you ever get cut short, you would have delivered the core of your message.

- Frame your delivery. Know what the interviewer wants to hear, expects from you. And frame your message towards these messages. Make anything you say relevant to the interviewer.

- Don't lose eye contact, even when you think, during case studies. Walk the interviewer through your thinking. (Although, in my mind, it depends on interviewers. Some would give great importance to body language, some would not read too much in it.)

I was a bit bummed by my performance. If you're underprepared, don't expect a miracle. It's probably better not to do an interview in that situation, rather than to get a ding which hits your morale.

Talking about dings, let me tell you the sinister INSEAD Ding tradition.
Apparently, INSEAD used to have a bell in the campus. The tradition had it that, whenever participants got dinged in job applications, they would ring the bell. In the darkest moments of the 1990s, the bell rang so much that the Dean decided to stop the practice.

Tomorrow is the big McKinsey dinner. That should be fun.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Mass Therapy

We're having a collective therapy in Psychological Issues in Management (PIM). I know I should not say this, as Prof Fernando Bartholomei hates that, but still, it's more catchy.
After two sessions, I'm more able to see the value of that class. There's something in Bartholomei that is so out of synch with what he says that it's puzzling.
The first session was about Law of Reciprocity. As future leaders, to influence, you must be willing to be influenced, to be trusted, you must trust. etc. It has to be a spontaneous "trade". I liked it. Not revolutionary stuff, but it's always great to be reminded that. To "work" on your "soft" side, after too many analytical courses, and before action-oriented electives.
I'm saying that the Prof. was so out-of synch that I suspect some bluff from him. He's a therapist of his own, and an expert in OB (I even wonder if he's not in charge of creating P1 teams). He talks about balancing life and work and all the usual blabla stuff. Yet, although you feel he means all that, he provoked us to an extent that some people felt uncomfortable. To me, it's always great to be pushed out of your comfort zone in such a place like INSEAD (a lab, if you like). Seeing some disgusted student faces, I don't think everybody felt happy with it. True, there were some rude words, tough behaviours, un-PC comments. But isn't it what INSEAD can afford vs. other US Bschools? To be sure, in the US, Fernando would have triggered zillions of lawsuits.
The second session was even more insightful. It was about the Rogerian method of therapy. Carl Rogers (pic) was some pioneer in listening methods of therapy. He probably believed that, by just listening actively, you let the autonomy out of the patient, and let him or her find the "solution".
We had a very nice exercise whereby the Prof. acted as the patient, and we came up with Rogerian questions.
Basically, anything starting by "Why" was a bad Rogerian question, anything just paraphrasing was an undershot Rogerian question. It seemed that 80% of the class was not very Rogerian, and very judgemental/action-oriented. Myself included.
I guess the best part about Rogers was the debate on accepting yourself as you are. By your own standards. Not to please others, not to perform in someone else's value scale. It is a great lesson for job searches. You have one or 2 chances in your whole life to do what you like, with a great bargaining position. INSEAD is one of these chances. Don't blow it just to do what others think is cool to do...

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Same but different... About Career changes

Someone asked about Career Change (see comments of Previous post). The question was: being an engineer, how possible is it to go to Investment Banking.
Well, I'm definitely not an authority on any part of the subject, and for this kind of very specific question, the first thing to do probably is to ask the Career Service.
However, I have made my short enquiry across campus, and come up to the following conclusions. First, all career changes are possible at INSEAD, and are done every year by grads. Yet, there's one change that is less "obvious" than the others: going to Finance, like IB. To me, people should have 3 ground rules when it comes to recruitment: you choose just as much as are being chosen (how many times in life can you afford to choose to change after all), everything is negotiable, and high performers are taken anyway. It's a matter of consistency, fit, and potential.
Indeed, someone who interviewed during P2 in IB made the following remarks: one ultra-bright person with a legal background got an offer in M&A, yet IB gets so much demand that it's only natural if, all being equal, they should select from past experience. Then, for the engineer with no IB background, if he/she has extraordinary analytical skills and outstanding personality, it should be ok. Otherwise, I suspect that if he/she is "only" super skilled super great, someone equally so with previous experience in IB my be chosen. Alternatively, I do believe being on the Dean's List could help as well. Then again, that's just my call. In this kind of switch, that MBA participant advised to get summer internships (December intakes) and catch up the others.
Tonight was the big Bain event, yesterday the big BCG event. These companies even invite grads by countries in restaurants. It's funny how many people claim they don't want to go into Consulting, yet the amphi was full tonight. Must be the buffet after as well...
Tomorrow, I have my mock interview. You get to select an industry or a type of interview you want to practice in. I got Private Equity/VC.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Recruitment time finally gets moving

I'm a regular reader of your blog. It would be nice if you could put a detailed post on how campus recruitment has been this year, so far, that would be very useful for applicants like me. What is your impression of type of companies? how many were around this time? how is the recruitment going on? We don't see much of that for INSEAD on blogs, whereas we see more info from top US schools."

Here's a message I've just received. Thanks first for your interest in this blog. It's in the nick of time, because everything is really starting NOW.

Actually, in reality, you have 2 recruiting periods: one during your P2 (that is the previous intake's P4), and your own P4. Both are open to all INSEADs, all campuses, with a priority to P4s -although to me, a good candidate is a good candidate to the company.
I have seen mostly Investment Banks being ready to offer jobs in P2.

In P4, that is now, all jobs are on offer.
This week is the main one for Consulting (McKinsey dinner on Friday, Bain and Booz cocktails). During the week, companies present their offers, and candidates who have already applied and been selected are invited to interviews.

Still, it's not just Consulting. The talk of the day is Google. There are presenting tonight, followed by a cocktail party. Then all big 3 Consulting firms have their days, then on Monday next week there's a big Campus Job Fair.

This week, Careers Service also organises Mock Interviews sessions with a specific profile (like VC, or Consulting type interviews), and sessions about other relevant issues (like Negotiating Salary for Women, Body language...)

To synthesize:
- Locations seem to me from all over the world, with a slight emphasis to London. You'd expect more exotic countries than in other BSchools (Middle East seems pretty strong)
- Industries are across the board, not just Consulting or Finance

Examples of job postings received this week:
- one service company in high-tech looking for grads in Amsterdam, London, NY, Philly, Boston
- Google looking in all fields in all countries
- Alumni firms looking for grads in London
- 2 boutique consulting looking for offices all around the world
- 1 VC looking for London office

In the Career Fair, I'll try to enquire whether there will be others. INSEAD has invitations to other Career Fairs in Europe, but on campus, I only see 34 firms for Monday -one third in various Consulting, 50% in industry (big names and smaller), one NGO, and 4 Financial Institutions (most IB already recruited during P2).

The Careers Service at INSEAD is a common scapegoat of Students. I have no objective criteria to assess this. I know that so far, people who have secured a job are either sent by their companies, or in Banking from P2. Then people who are having interviews had them though the Career website (either applying to firms or them searching for you).
The next wave of interviews probably will come from Career Fair and Consulting...

In a way, it's good to see my fellows getting in the mood for job, but I'm seeing them a bit stressed... As to me, I have decided to give a chance to entrepreneurship. I definitely will report the job process though.

I promise to write a recap post at the end of the week.

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Born or Made, Create or Buy

Half of my P4 courses have started. You really get to see who's specializing in what now. The Finance Path has got ACF (Finance 3) and Super ACF going on, Private Equity, Options... The Marketing Path has got Market Driving Strategies and Brand Management going on. And Entrepreneurship has got the continuation of VOBM: Realising Entrepreneurial Potential, starring Tim Bovard, and New Business Ventures, introducing Steve Haslett.

You know you're getting into seriously real territory when Tim and Steve: 1. are not Professors anymore but serial entrepreneurs in their own sake, 2. both started their courses with heavy emphasis on the flip side.

What is the flip side?
First, they claim that entrepreneurs are most likely Born, not Made. It's even worse, you're born into a type vs. Risk -from buccaneer, promoter, farmer, to trustee.
Second, from the first time, we are seeing failure stories in cases. Two so far. Of course it's the real world, but, as Tim said his course is like a boot camp, I suspect it's also about scaring some participants off. I don't want to sound overly positive (or as someone once said in front of a famous French mineral bottle, read the label backwards*), but apart from serious takeaways like Cash is King and Never Ever give personal guarantees, the 2 INSEAD alumns took their fate pretty well indeed. It takes guts to come in front of MBAs who will know better a posteriori.

Tim and Steve also provide 2 approaches to Entrepreneurship: start-up a company, or buy and turn-around. I would say starting up is more for the buccaneer types, and buying up is more for the promoter types. I'll have the chance to go through both processes during P4 and hopefully P5 with 2 very interesting teams...

* The mineral water in question, of course, is EVIAN...

To learn about Entrepreneurs types:

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Kevin is so Cool

I'm taking a lot of courses this term. Some I have enrolled, some I'm attending just for fun. ICA (Industry Competitive Analysis) is one of them. I'm pretty far down the waitlist, and auditing is not authorized. I might get kicked out, we'll see.

Anyway I had great expectations coming in ICA, to see what Karen Cool is about. So far, so good. He was a great storyteller. Very passionate about his class, quite demanding too. I don't know why but all P4 Professors have decided that cold calling would be the norm...

In a nutshell, today's story was about Creating and Sustaining above-normal returns. He gave the example of champagne. If you ask producers, they would say that champagne is more expensive that sparkling wine because of traditions, savoir-faire, and the soil. To Kevin, only the latest is valid. Indeed, there are 700 or so champagne producers in Champagne, so "it must not be that difficult to make it" and blind tests show that sparkling wines can be very well graded too. In that regard, he argues, while strategic theory has focused on competitive advantage -"the savoir-faire", assets -"the unusual fertile land" can be just as powerful to create a rent, or above-normal return. And it's sustainable. And it's not replicable. Economist David Ricardo was the first to study that, so Kevin referred to him as the Patron of Bad Business...
Very insightful. Of course the name of the ICA game is to create that fertile land.

I just hope that I won't be kicked out now...

To learn more about Ricardo's theories:

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Promising P4

The term is starting in earnest.
Job search wise, companies are visiting in mass. Next week is dedicated to the Big ones of Consulting: McKinsey dinner in a Chateau, Bain, Booz in cocktails.
On Monday, everyone's Corporate job dream is coming on campus, Google.
Then, many others are coming, I've lost count.

Course wise, I'll tell you more in the week-end, once all courses have started. One common pattern: it's all about Real Life. No models here. Just experience. How to build a business. How to buy one. How to claim value in Negotiations (yeah, I'm taking Nego 2).
I love it... It nearly makes you want to go right now to the real thing.

Anyway, great to be back in Fonty. After all, despite its flaws, Fonty is the soul of INSEAD...

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Weakness 3: Financing

Ok INSEAD is "expensive" at €45,000.
Not only that, to fully account for costs you should consider, for the duration of the MBA:
- rent in a Fonty House or Chateau (including a swap in Singapore), €10,000
- car in Fonty, €3,000
- ticket to Singapore €850
- travels in Asia during one period €1,500
- travels in Europe 4 periods €2,500
- phone -especially when friends and family call you on your mobile when you're miles away- €1,500
- food €5,000 (roughly €15 per day)

And to that you add opportunity costs of foregone revenues:
- €60,000 on average

That totals to a hefty €130,000. Gosh I can't believe what I'm writing... In any case, you should definitely consider in the range of €100,000. Then again, I'm pretty poor in Finance, so if my rationale is somehow wrong, please let me know.

Now of course, the real assessment should be in terms of NPV. That is, you should evaluate the incremental cash flows post-INSEAD and substract total costs, let's say in the next 5 years. If the value is positive, INSEAD is worth it.

Then again, other factors must be taken into account. The value of the network, to me, is immense. So is the value of knowledge, long-term.

Of course, many scholarships are available. Probably more in your own country than through INSEAD.

The full list of Scholarships as of today (by the way, I've noticed that Theo, from Finance 1, finances a scholarship for Iraqis -my respects):

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Weakness 2: INSEAD MBA is too short, too shallow

With 10 months, that is a most valid concern. Adding to that, the Party Hard culture, new environments (discovering France, discovering Asia), new people you meet (taking time to befriend), make it even less time to study and work on projects. After all, there's a 24 hour limit to a day...
I could say that it is a continuity to the corporate world, that it's a matter of prioritising. Fast pace is the single most striking characterisitic of today's world. Etc etc.

At the end of the day though, what really matters is your objectives. Will INSEAD help you reach them?
In my case, I came in with clear learning objectives: using the School's expertise in some fields on some of my sponsor's business/strategic issues, and doing the Entrepreneurial Path. I only applied to INSEAD, and would not have done an MBA in 2 years.
To me, BSchools will go the 1 year model. Consider that the 2 year model is as much a cultural inheritance as a necessity. It's still the model from 1900 Industrial America. I discussed with an exchange participant from Wharton, who claimed that the second year is very much about job search.

Thus, it clearly becomes a matter of goals and experience. If you come right out from undergrad (or so), chances are you'll be hugely disappointed. If, like me, you have more than 5-6 years of experience, it's just the right format -for all stakeholders (partners, sponsors, families) as well.
Of course, there are always some frustrations: having more of VOBM for instance, more time to speak to guests, to work on cases, on projects.
I believe the answer that the School is providing is the following -this is only my call, and I'm a notorious over-thinker. Because students are students, in the sense that the more you give them time, the more they will take time (to have fun), lengthening the programme will not add any depth to personal experiences. What the School seems to be doing (or how I experience it), is provide Paths. Take my case. P1 and P2 could be viewed as general, but I had personal takeaways in Entrepreneurship because I knew what I wanted to get out of the MBA. Then, even though VOBM seemed short, it was complemented by other levels of learning in Family Business, Negotiations (a little). Then in P4, I know that it'll tie nicely with Realising Entrepreneurial Potential REP, New Business Ventures NBV, and Industry Competitiv Analysis ICA. In this perspective, Entrepreneurship is not restricted to a single course VOBM. All others build on it, and complements one another.
The real frustration, in that regards, does not come from shallowness, but availability. I would have felt the experience incomplete (hence shallow) if I could not take all these electives. In reality, I did not get all of them, not even auditing rights, but I'll still attend the courses I need for my path. I don't think any Prof. could spot me and ask me to leave, right?

So, too short? I would say not, but it depends on your particular cases. In the end, consumers always want more, but they don't know why. It's not more that matters, it's better, and more available.

To skim through the History of the MBA:

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Weakness 1: INSEAD is an MBA Factory

As promised, I'll address some of the concerns expressed from people I have met, or emails I have received.
I'll try to give my insights on each topics: intake size, programme duration, financing, Singapore. Some questions were related to the programme itself, like "How good INSEAD is in entrepreneurship, in other fields but Consulting and Investment Banking". These concerns were addressed in the posts I guess.
Let me start with size.

When I hear that INSEAD is a factory which produces 900 MBAs a year, I get mad. This is totally untrue, or deceiving.
The reality is: you really are part of a 450 people-intake.
Even that does not reflect the truth. You are part of a campus (like it or not), the one in which you start, so 300 or 150 people. Inside, you are part of a section of 75 people. This is the centre of your network, I think. A study claims that 200 people is the ideal number for a good network to develop, because at this level, you pretty much know everyone. It is true in factories (some companies deliberately top the size of facilities to that 200 number), it is true at INSEAD.
Singapore people develop a very tight network over the whole campus. We, in Fonty, develop a strong network in the half-intake (75+75), because we share the same half day schedule, we share the same professors.

To bridge sections, several informal networks develop: National Weeks, Clubs, Houses/Chateaux... Of course sections dislocate from P3 onwards, yet it seems to me that stronger bonds start in P1/P2.
So forget about the argument that INSEAD is too big... I certainly have never felt lost. Although I would concede that Singapore campus probably is more cohesive than Fonty.

The full study on optimal Human social group size (it's actually 148.. with a range from 100 to 230) -INSEAD is so close I'm starting to think that the School is ruled by OB people-:

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

Back in town

I'm back from the Asian adventures.
To do list:
- Write a short paper for New Business Venture course for tomorrow
- Answer all your emails re: INSEAD size, INSEAD weaknesses (I know, I haven't quite spoken about that yet)
- Unload my tons of luggage
- Rest and recover from jetlag
- Catch up with friends, family, and business stuff.

Right now, it's a rather strange atmosphere over here. Some participants are in China now, doing the field trip "Building Business in China" which I missed in the bidding process. Most people are in their families. It just seems that we all meet in airport hubs, as I bumped to fellow students in Dubai. Some people are moving back in (just like me), including newcomers from Singapore who are experiencing quiet town life in the forest.
I hope come Wednesday, School will come back to life!


Saturday, March 03, 2007

Girls at INSEAD

A short stop-over in a fast technological frontier catch-up is a pretence to talk about one burning topic at INSEAD: Women participants recruitment. Some top Minister where I'm visiting now has just said in the news that to increase further, and sustain the current rapid growth, the country would need its women to participate in the economy.
I'm sure the subject of girls at INSEAD will please the male readership as well...

The issue: some people claim that it is easier to access INSEAD as a woman, hence hinting that the level of female participants is lower than that of their male counterparts.
The facts: women's presence in the MBA has grown from 17% to 25% in just 2 years, and still growing. It is a clear INSEAD priority.
Additional facts: Women in MBA is a assessment criterion of the FT ranking. INSEAD in lower than any other Top 10 on that. Women's average age is far less than men's.
The myths: Share of Dean's listers is proportionally higher for guys, INSEAD has admission quotas (both unverified).

My experience: I have had girls in my project teams. I enjoy working with them. I don't know if it's luck -in which case I'm extremely blessed- but all girls in my teams have been awesome: assertive, bright, hard-working, yet much fun. I have not experienced any Princess syndrom -I would not have tolerated it anyway, neither would they. In the end, I believe that it's NPV that counts, and NPV does not care about the past. It's not so much about who's the brightest, but rather who will bring value to the School and to the other participants.

To bring the debate further: Is INSEAD a right place for minorities?
Given its culture of tolerance, cultural openness (with a slight tendency to PC), I would say so. But then don't expect anything as entrenched as in US B-schools. For one thing, 10 months is way too short to have anything like Minority issues very hot. I know that the Womens group have had special sessions with the Negotiations Professor: Salary negotiations with Women, or something like this.

I'll try to get people involved to speak up for you guys... and girls.
In the meantime, last days of break, and first P4 assignment due this Monday.


Welcome to the first Australians, Swedes, Israeli, and Taiwanese.

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