How having a board mentor supports lifelong learning

As told to Karen Loon, IDP-C and IDN Board Member.

“Never hesitate to ask for guidance, empathy, advice and support” – Virginia Brumby Ferreira

Virginia Brumby Ferreira MBA’09J, a recent mentee in the 2020 INSEAD Directors Network (“IDN”) INsights Director Mentoring Programme is a typical INSEAD MBA.  After completing her MBA, she became an entrepreneur, leader, and board director.

“In true INSEAD spirit, I changed absolutely everything post-INSEAD: I moved to a new country, switched sector, and became an entrepreneur for the first time – in fact, the business I set up was my INSEAD MBA project!  A decade later, after the most challenging, fulfilling (and fun!) decade of my life, I am still running that same company. None of it would have been possible without my incredibly supportive INSEAD friends and network”.

As a result of her enthusiasm to give back, she has been an active member and has taken on board and leadership roles with the Singapore NAA, as well as the INSEAD Alumni Fund.

On how she developed her board portfolio, “’Pursue’ is not the right word; my board roles are more a consequence of my chronic inability to say no. Friends call me a ‘serial volunteer’ since I tend to constantly raise my hand and get involved in all kinds of projects, from fundraising to event organisation to helping out aspiring entrepreneurs and businesses with their strategy and communications. After years of involvement, there was a natural evolution into more board and leadership roles”, Virginia shared.

Lifelong learning from director mentors

In 2020, Virginia felt it was time to invest in her board career, and joined the INsights Director Mentor Programme.  She was matched with an experienced female board chair.

“Having been my own boss for many years, as well as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at INSEAD, I was thrilled at the prospect of getting advice and guidance, instead of giving it!”

Virginia met her mentor, who was based in a different country, monthly, via Zoom.  They adopted a relatively informal approach that fit their personalities and goals for the programme, but with action points to follow up on after each discussion.

The range of topics discussed was also broad.  “Some of the subjects I most enjoyed discussing were the most unexpected – such as appreciating the role of serendipity in our personal and professional lives, knowing when it’s time to close a door, and making the ‘highest and best use’ of our most precious resource – time!”

Virginia enjoyed sharing experiences with her mentor.

“Being able to share openly with both my mentor about our respective journeys — including the disastrous moments! — helped me put my own challenges in perspective and find a way forward” – Virginia Brumby Ferreira.

Learning from director peers

Another benefit was having an opportunity to learn from and be supported by other mentees through the monthly mentee sessions.

“I found the group discussions with my fellow mentees both practical and inspiring. They shared a wealth of experience, and the overall atmosphere in the group of acceptance, inclusivity and encouragement was especially important during this roller coaster year”, she remarked.

Leveraging the power of the INSEAD network

Virginia suggests that new directors should seek advice early in their careers.  “Even the leaders we most admire and idolise (the mentors in this programme are excellent examples) didn’t get there on their own. Never hesitate to ask for guidance, empathy, advice and support”.

She highly recommends that a good place to start is to leverage the INSEAD community and in particular, in relation to board experience, other IDN members.


To find out more about IDN’s INsights Director Mentoring Programme, visit here.


INSEAD Directors Network (“IDN”) – An INSEAD Global Club of International Board Directors

Our Mission is to foster excellent Corporate Governance through networking, communication and self-improvement. IDN has 1,500 members from 80 countries, all Alumni from different INSEAD graduations as MBA, EMBA, GEMBA, and IDP-C. We meet in live IDN webinars and meet-ups arranged by our IDN Ambassadors based in 25 countries. Our IDN website holds valuable corporate governance knowledge in our IDN blog, and we share insights also to our LinkedIn and Twitter  followers. We highlight our member through quarterly sharing of their new board appointments and once a year we give out IDN Awards to prominent board accomplishments. We provide a peer-to-per mentoring and board vacancy service and we come together two times per year at the INSEAD Directors Forum arranged by ICGC. We also engage with ICGC on joint research.

INSEAD Corporate Governance Centre (“ICGC”)

Established in 2010, the INSEAD Corporate Governance Centre (ICGC) has been actively engaged in making a distinctive contribution to the knowledge and practice of corporate governance. The ICGC harnesses faculty expertise across multiple disciplines to teach and research on the challenges of boards of directors in an international context and to foster a global dialogue on governance issues with the ultimate goal to develop boards for high-performance governance. Visit ICGC website:


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