Alumni Profiles: Alexandra Marsanu (MBA’17D)

Sometimes it’s important just to get off the train

There are many reasons to do an MBA. Re-branding your experience in order to change careers, meeting incredible people from all over the world or simply learning something new through a leading academic curriculum. All those reasons are magnified when having the opportunity to do such a course at a school like INSEAD. But sometimes the simple action of choosing to leave regular life and step into the intense INSEAD bubble is reason enough to take the plunge. And the value of that cannot be overlooked, as the opportunity to take time out, reflect, learn and make mistakes does not come easily.

A few years ago, when I started my MBA journey, little did I know what kind of impact it would really have. As many of my former classmates, I thought I would emerge with the typical change in at least of the core areas: role, location or industry. Having spent nearly 5 years as a consultant in London at the time, I was longing to get out of the daily routine and find a new career path. To my initial surprise, the big career switch did not happen as I ended up in a very similar position post-graduation – yet again a consultant in London! But did change really need to take one of the conventional routes?

A less discussed advantage of taking the year off to have the intense experience that an INSEAD MBA can be, is actually what happens during the programme itself. It’s many years wrapped into one. You can read, discuss and dissect tens of business cases, from big success to even bigger failure. You can go through the highs and lows of the first 100 days of a new business in just under a week. You can hear the perspectives of hundreds of classmates from different nationalities and professional backgrounds. But perhaps most importantly, you can learn how to think differently, having had your knowledge and expectations tested every day of the programme. And you never know when something like that can come in handy.

As I find myself back to my old routines (albeit with significantly less travel), many of the learnings from 3 years ago still resonate. Today, countless businesses are facing unprecedented challenges and have had to respond to an unforeseen crisis in a matter of weeks or days. The overnight shift to working from home is making company culture even more important and bringing us closer to peers and leaders that were not as accessible before. New and exciting business models emerge as others sadly die off. The manner in which our environment is changing seems to have been placed on steroids, yet the experience does not feel too far removed from what my year at INSEAD used to be like.

As a new and impressive cohort will soon be stepping onto the INSEAD campuses, I couldn’t be more excited for them. While the uncertainty of the global pandemic has brought many challenges, a world of change is already emerging. Priorities are being re-ordered. Technology is creating new solutions. Companies are starting to do things differently.

Having the chance now to take a step away, to reflect and explore new ideas is truly unique. To the 21Js starting their journey this autumn – I cannot wait to see what you will do on the other side!

August 2020