Christophe Kowalczyk

What and when did you study at INSEAD? 

I did the MBA programme and graduated in December 2007, I’m a (proud) 07D!

What has been your involvement with the National Alumni Association? Why did you get involved?

I can’t quite recall how it all started, but my involvement with the National Alumni Association (NAA) started pretty much when I came back to Australia in 2008. I had just settled in Brisbane and wanted to “keep the vibe” going: connect, interact and exchange with like-minded people. David Mair (who was the NAA President at the time) and I got in touch, and as we maintained contact with time, I got more and more involved and ended up being de facto the QLD Liaison for the NAA. I’ve been involved ever since and over the years I’ve seen the association incorporate (in 2016) and grow. I’ve been the Treasurer and I’m currently a Vice President of the Australia and New Zealand INSEAD Alumni Association.

Tell us about your career to date.

Born and raised in France, I am a civil and structural engineer by trade. I was fortunate enough to experience expatriation during an internship in my second year of engineering school. I was sent for a few months on a construction site in Gabon… and I loved it! After I graduated, I looked for a chance to renew the experience and worked in Madagascar for about a year and a half. From thereon, and whilst I remained in the engineering and construction industry (primarily transport infrastructure related), I looked for opportunities to discover more of diverse cultures and working environments, which led me to French overseas territories, India and a few other countries, basically moving from one country to another every 2 years on average… until I fell in love with Australia. Today I work for the Australian subsidiary of a global Tier 1 engineering consultancy, looking after the work we pursue and deliver with our contractor clients and partners, nationally and across our market sectors. I also lead a global initiative, just to keep me busy after hours – but importantly to keep an international perspective to what I do!

What are your aims for the Alumni Association?

Our growing (1,600+ strong, and counting!) community of alumni is spread over a vast geography, onshore and across the ditch. This represents a challenge, also compounded by the distance with Europe where all the ‘INSEAD buzz’ seems to be happening, and where the community is much larger. Yet the ‘INSEAD vibe and spirit’ are there in Australia and New Zealand, and the association aims at facilitating those connections, providing opportunities for our alumni to connect and network, socially but also in a business sense. Progressively we want our events to also become an opportunity for career development, or be the platform where thought leadership topics are discussed and debated – in both cases involving the school faculty or other global clubs whenever possible. Ultimately, we want to raise the status and prestige of INSEAD and put it at the front of the Business scene in Australia and New Zealand. Ambitious enough? 

How did INSEAD transform your life?

As for most of us, INSEAD transformed my life in more (positive) ways than I can describe. Beyond the academic learnings, I made trusted friends for life (and have a place to crash pretty much anywhere in the world if I need to!) and my perspective of “diversity and inclusion” is somehow much wider than most of my work colleagues no matter how hard they try… or I try to explain my experience going through a business case with my workgroup made up of a lawyer, an IT consultant, a helicopter pilot, an investment banker and an Olympic medallist swimmer… all from different countries!

Florence, my spouse, can’t pinpoint what it is exactly either but after an enjoyable event with Harvard and Cambridge alumni we went to recently, she made that comment again that “there’s something special about people who have gone through INSEAD, the others are nice but it’s not quite the same vibe”. She said it, not me!

How did you end up in this part of the world?

Florence and I visited Australia back when we were young, fit and backpackers in the early 2000’s, we loved the landscapes, people and more generally the trip, which played a huge part in us coming back to Australia a couple of years later, this time for work. Hana, our oldest daughter was born in Sydney, and that’s when we realised Australia could well be the place where we’d like to raise kids, but also maybe settle, after a decade and a bit of putting our belongings in and then out of a container every couple of years. In truth, it was Hana, then 2,5 years old, who (in between had also lived in India) really triggered the bit about settling down when she came back from Kindy in Singapore and asked “Dad, where is home?”. Anyone from my batch at INSEAD will tell you that my focus post MBA was to find a job in Australia… and here I am some 15+ years later!

Have you got any hidden talents?

Definitely not Karaoke, even though I’ve tried hard to convince myself I had some in the past…