Alumni Profiles: Jim Strang (AMP’17Jul)

Keep going and keep growing…

So, as my father once said to me, “Son, if you ever write an autobiography you should call it -The Path of Most Resistance.” My personal journey to INSEAD was not a particularly obvious one. For one thing, I enrolled when I was 46, which happens to be the same age Jack Nicklaus was when he won his last major, for another my INSEAD time was spent on the AMP Programme, not the MBA.

My career started off in Edinburgh, the “Athens of the North”, but without the associated climate. I graduated from Edinburgh University with a surprisingly good degree and an emerging interest in the world of Finance. Now Edinburgh is / was not a bad place to foster that interest given the plethora of large investment houses based there. I think back then Standard Life owned 2 or 3% of the UK Stock market. My own uniquely mad path actually saw me combine working for one the aforementioned august institutions with doing a Ph.D. in…Finance. Four more or less happy years followed juggling three things at once (including a year “off” in Cambridge picking up a Masters degree from what is now called the Judge Business School) before I officially “retired” from academia and moved to London for challenges new.

For me that meant the world of consulting and Bain and Company. An amazing place is Bain. I’d say most of the really clever stuff I learnt in my career I learnt there. I also met my wife, who sadly chose to graduate from Europe’s #2 business school based not too far from where I am sitting now. Bain led me to Private Equity, like many of my peers, and I now run the EMEA operations from a group called Hamilton Lane here in London. There’s never a dull moment.

My INSEAD story begins a couple of years ago as I was doing some reflection on where I was at professionally and where I might like to go. I had a definite sense of “what got you here won’t get you there…” which led to a number of conversations around my own development needs, notably with an old friend from Bain and an INSEAD alum whose professional world this is. Enter the AMP. For those who are unaware this is a month long programme for “senior” leaders that’s designed to help you focus on leading yourself and your organization in the increasingly volatile and disruptive world in which we live. It also focusses a lot on the “you”. Professor Ian Woodward who, frankly, is a genius leads the programme. I joined a cohort (the #110th) of 80 other like-minded folk from around the world and off we merrily went on our personal journeys.

I have to say it was pretty much the best thing I have done. It is a totally different experience and, for many it is a pretty cathartic one. It was a special experience to spend the time with such a diverse and talented group, getting to the answers on the challenges we all faced. Interestingly, as a group, we could not have been more eclectic but our issues were all remarkably similar.
Coming out of “the bubble” our group returned to respective homes very humbled by what we had had the opportunity to learn on the programme from the Faculty and from each other. I am happy to say the group of us manages to stay very connected (thank you What’s App) and so the bonds that we made in summertime in Fontainebleau seem set to last for a very long time.

I know for my part that month in the sun has definitely made me a better and more effective leader, helped me understand what getting to “there” really is for me personally and given me the tools and perspectives to have a decent go at it. I also know that I’ll never conduct an orchestra! (…if you want the whole story here, drop me a note! Sorry Ian…). The fact that I now have a wonderful bunch of crazy, wonderful, talented fellow INSEAD classmates to call on is just a huge bonus and something I feel pretty humbled by.

If you are interested in sharing your alumni story, please contact the UK alumni association at uk.manager@insead.edu

October 2018