James Stewart

What and when did you study at INSEAD?

MBA2011J (ten months in France studying hard, partying hard, eating cheese and drinking sparkling white wine…)

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

I actually came to Aus to visit my sister for five weeks just before starting INSEAD in 2010 and went to my first Alumni drinks then (the main advice from the alumni was to pack many fancy dress costumes.  It was good advice).

Once I came back to Australia I went to the Monthly drinks as often as I could (rare, as I was a consultant and mostly not in Sydney those nights), and started organising brunch, BBQ’s and socials to spend time with other INSEADers.  Sometimes the Alumni Association would share the invite so we could include more INSEADers.  Eventually, I was asked to stand for the Alumni Board of Directors and was elected to represent NSW.  Now I focus on our Climate Change theme and helping Alumni who are unemployed, as well as making sure all the best INSEAD parties are in NSW. 

How did INSEAD transform your life?

INSEAD changed me from a chartered engineer running aerospace component factories in the US, into an Australian strategy consultant and gave me the breadth of training to step into marketing, innovation and growth roles when needed to help build companies.

What is one misconception that you wish fellow alumni knew about the Alumni Association?

First, everyone is a volunteer, so if you want to see something happen, please do volunteer to run it and you’ll have the alumni association you’ve always dreamed of.  The INSEAD NAA is much admired by other Alumni groups for all the things it does, and we all know there is much more we could do, so put your hand up.

Second, what a positive difference it makes to the volunteers when people say thank you and appreciate their efforts.  When someone hosts, organises a social, a brunch, a dinner, a talk, a webinar, support them by participating and showing up, and always make sure they know that you appreciate their efforts, it’s something I try to do too.

What are you aims for the Alumni Association? 

To have the sort of Alumni community I would want to be a part of:

  • Have a strong, vibrant INSEAD alumni community that knows each other as friends and is really well connected to each other.
  • To help the Alumni understand the threat and opportunities of climate change so they can thrive through it and how they can lead their organisations through the challenges to come.
  • To help INSEADers who are unemployed to find new and better roles quickly – I have been restructured multiple times in Australia, it can be painful and frightening to go through so I want to help great people transition really successfully to something better.
  • I  was very fortunate to receive scholarships to go to INSEAD. I’d love to see the AusNZ Alumni Association be able to endow a scholarship to support Aussies and Kiwis to go to INSEAD.

Have you got any hidden talents?

I’m Dyslexic, and increasingly proud of it as I get to meet other amazing dyslexic and neurodiverse people.  Until fairly recently it was my closely guarded secret, now I think it’s important that those who can let others know and be willing to act as role models to help others who are struggling. I’m a Surf Lifesaver at Bondi – I’ve done a surprising amount of first aid on and off the beach. I hold a lot of unofficial records for speed-building LEGO sets – there are a lot of YouTube videos of me if you can find them.

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

I’d worked here for a university summer (in Adelaide) and my brilliant sister had moved to Sydney whilst I was in the US. so I visited for five weeks of Aussie tourism before going to INSEAD (snorkeling on the barrier reef convinced me the beautiful little fish needed serious help to protect them and made me much more aware of the need to protect the environment). 

When I graduated in July 2011 BCG was recruiting hard to support the iron ore boom in Australia and I jumped at the chance.  After BCG I had to fight hard to stay and eventually got my PR after 7 years and Aussie citizenship two years later.  I met my wonderful wife Jennifer here, she’s originally from the US and we decided Australia is a great place to live and we were delighted to welcome our wonderful daughter Zara this year – who is a true little Aussie. 🙂