Alumni Profiles: Lisa Long (MBA’06J)

Startups and Zombies

Things turned out much better than I could have imagined. I was supposed to follow in the footsteps of my family – leave university, get an advanced degree, and then enter a nice stable job with a large company. Or… I could spend spring break sleeping on the floor of my sister’s girlfriend’s flat in San Francisco, crash a job fair at Stanford, and get a job as a coder even though I was actually a chemical engineer and thought Java was an island.

I fell in love with the startup world and made it through the entire Silicon Valley checklist: from the company milestones of going public (or more commonly, going bust…) to the personal millstones of sleeping under my desk and getting fired. I joined in a company’s European expansion and started thinking about learning the business side of startups.

I went to visit a friend at INSEAD and had such fun this seemed like the right move. I took the daring move of applying just to INSEAD and was ecstatic when I got in. Arriving in Fonty was another story… I felt that I had made a terrible mistake for the first four months and regularly considered dropping out entirely. I felt I didn’t fit in with the well-dressed consultants and bankers that made up the majority of my class. By P3, a lucky housing switch and move to Singapore meant I was able to ‘find my people’ and I still enjoy the company of those friends on a regular basis though we’re spread across the globe.

Despite graduating into the opportunity of the pre-financial crisis market in 2006, I decided against a job and wanted to start my own company. Reality caught up with me three months later when I realised I couldn’t earn enough to pay off my business school loans, so I went into someone else’s startup company.

Almost a year later, timing worked out better and I co-founded a new games company in London – Six to Start. Mind, I was still working a day job to be able to pay those business school loans, but I had co-founders, who were able to take the company forward until a point when we had enough money that I could join full-time. The INSEAD alumni network was particularly crucial in solving problems like finding people in Moscow, Dubai and Tokyo to hold a copy of the book The Great Game for the band Muse’s worldwide treasure hunt. My classmates were mostly understanding about receiving very strange requests from me on a regular basis!

After a time, I pulled back from the day to day Six to Start operations, remaining on the board, and went to work with a few other startup companies. Not of all of them survived, but I learned a great deal from raising money in Silicon Valley to the vagaries of 3D mobile software development. Six to Start carried on and found success with the creation of Zombies, Run!, the world’s most popular fitness game. If nothing else, I feel confident saying that of all my INSEAD entrepreneur classmates, I win for having generated the most fun for other people as part of my startup journey.

My interest in starting new things hasn’t ended (or maybe I just haven’t learned…). I’m now exploring a new idea with helping people make better startup companies. The new company has co-founders in Oslo, Norway and Singapore, so it’s getting a proper INSEAD international start. We’re still in the research phase on the problem, but you can keep track of what we’re up to on Twitter by following @beforeyoucode. To all my classmates, consider this a heads up that many more weird requests are on their way to our class mailing list!

If you are interested in sharing your alumni story, please contact the UK alumni association at [email protected]

December 2018

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 [email protected]

October 2018

Alumni Profiles: Kate Ellis (MBA’91D)

Business as a force for good

INSEAD opens up choices and I chose variety: in the 27 years since I left Fontainebleau my career has taken me to many different workplaces, including car assembly lines, oil tankers, trading floors, prisons (though never overnight…) and now some of the world’s largest nuclear installations. Always surrounded by smart, dedicated professionals, I have loved testing out what the commercial profession can bring to the table: how can we help to provide the goods and services that people need, or help solve some of society’s most intractable challenges?

An engineer by profession, industry appealed to me because I liked the idea of many diverse people coming together to make something which other people wanted – that neat cycle that keeps so many of us entwined as creators and consumers. I started my working life running an assembly line at Jaguar Cars – I was determined to learn what it was really like at the sharp end of manufacturing. After three and a half mind broadening years at Jaguar I decided that an MBA would be a great way of building a wider understanding of the business world, essential if I was to progress. I also hoped that it would give me some of the confidence which all senior people (i.e. men) seemed to have – this was very much the era of the glass ceiling and female role models were nowhere to be seen in my working world.

Having grown up in a multinational household, INSEAD was the obvious choice and it turned out to be everything I had hoped for and more. Yes, you certainly grew your skills in marketing, accounting, corporate finance and so on, but you also learnt how to lead in unfamiliar situations, how to engage diverse groups and you realised that what you had to offer really did have value even among very smart people! Best of all, the diversity of backgrounds of my fellow students opened my eyes to the range of opportunities to be explored.

Of course, choice means making decisions and I have been fortunate in always being able to work for organisations whose values I felt passionate about and whose mission I believed in wholeheartedly. They have also supported my desire to be active in the not for profit sector – I am on the Boards of a theatre, a large local charity and a UK business school (not a serious competitor of INSEAD’s yet, but one day…). The learning here has worked both ways – while I bring commercial and corporate experience and expertise to these Boards, my not for profit work has broadened my ideas and, I believe, made me a better leader.

From INSEAD I joined BP where I spend 22 very interesting years in jobs as varied as running a chemicals business, negotiating the commercial contracts underpinning the construction and operation of an international gas pipeline and leading the internal Group engagement around the launch of BP’s new Helios brand. And finally having the Commercial Director role in BP Shipping, which introduced me to a fascinating world of complex, high risk operations combined with a proud history and deep sense of tradition.

Family ties then called and I took a year’s sabbatical in order to be with my parents, which was a special time I will never forget. However, once I came to consider ‘what next?’ The ideal opportunity came up when I saw that the UK Civil Service was looking for Commercial Directors.

The commercial teams in each Government Department negotiate and manage the UK Government’s contracts – each year it spends almost £50 bn on goods and services. The idea is to harness the creativity, resources and expertise of the private and not for profit sectors in order to address some of the most difficult challenges in society. As a Commercial Director I sometimes feel like an interpreter between two very different cultures and it draws on every ounce of my previous experience and expertise.

After two years as Commercial Director at the Ministry of Justice, a year ago I moved to become the Commercial Director of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. In each instance I have had the privilege of learning from experts about how we are trying to solve complex social challenges – from the criminal justice system seeking to reduce reoffending to the nuclear sector dealing with the legacy of nuclear infrastructure. If we are successful, we achieve the ideal cycle of society benefitting from innovative solutions, provided by thriving businesses, generating good jobs…all the while providing good value to the taxpayer. I believe that I may be planting the INSEAD flag in new territory….

If you are interested in sharing your alumni story, please contact the UK alumni association at [email protected]

October 2018

Doriot Distinguished Speaker Series – Karen Fawcett (MBA 88D)

Karen Fawcett (MBA 88D) Non-executive director, advisor and entrepreneur, former CEO Retail Banking and Group Head, Brand and Marketing, Standard Chartered and Member of the INSEAD Board of Directors recently addressed INSEAD Alumni in London.

She asked, “Is it really too much to ask that we achieve gender parity during our working lifetimes?”

Watch highlights from the event

And read Karen’s full address

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Alumni Profiles: Charles MacKinnon (MBA’85J)

The journey from Fontainebleau

I hated my first job, and doing an MBA seemed to be a fun way of restarting my career, but I truly had no idea as to how wide ranging and far reaching that re-start would be, nor how durable the impact would be over time.

After leaving INSEAD I, fairly conventionally, went to work for Goldman Sachs in London. What was unusual was that I was able to last there for 15 years, and did not become a partner, which in truth was a blessing. The blessing was that I retained a life, and a family, and having not become a gad zillionaire, a sense of reality. This reality control eventually took over, and in spring of 2000 I left Goldman and enrolled as a student of Garden Design in London. It was tough being an old student, but wonderful to be able to watch the Tech bubble burst from the side-lines. I also became a fellow of my college at Oxford.

The next bit is where INSEAD and the MBA come to the fore. Following my course, I became a part owner of a garden design and landscaping company. Suddenly I had to do the books, understand HR, plan projects, and have a creative vision. The real world was very different to the text books we had used, and also different from Goldman. People don’t do what they say they will do. People don’t pay on time. People don’t show up. People don’t care about my “Vision”.  It didn’t work out; I wasn’t a very good designer, and my business partner wasn’t very good at business, so I left, and was back on the street (significantly poorer) looking for work.

Luckily, work came looking for me, and with my next door neighbour we set up an investment management company called Thurleigh. Everything we did was textbook INSEAD. Process, vision, targets, KPI and so forth. The Key was that we wanted to do it right, again a message from endless cases on successful companies. Luckily it worked out, and as we both approached and passed our 60th birthdays, we sold the company.

Its now, my current reality, that the true value of INSEAD comes out. I’m an employee of the company that bought the company that bought my company, and am a living witness to the truth that growth by acquisition is a difficult strategy. Value is destroyed in a time honoured manner; nobody takes responsibility for their actions, there are fiefdoms, fudges and power struggles. While our core product is good, and most people are trying to do the right thing for the clients, the institution has got to re-find its client focus out of the detritus of implementation and integration.

The balance to this is that I am deeply involved in a number of start-ups in Fintech, Art, Green Energy, which once again is right back to the INSEAD basics; the gift that keeps on giving.

Morals of the story are quite banal; be good to people on your way up, as you will need them on the way down. Always strive to do what is right, even if it feels like economic suicide, and overwhelmingly keep an open and flexible mind and don’t let your work define you.

If you are interested in sharing your alumni story, please contact the UK alumni association at [email protected]

August 2018

Alumni Profiles: Daniela Mordetzki (MBA’17D)

The six months since graduating from INSEAD have passed by in no time, and I’m still a bit surprised to call myself an alumna. With the whirlwind of the experience still close, I’m just starting to define this new chapter, finding my feet in a new role and exploring what it means to be part of the alumni community.

My background is not uncommon for INSEAD – I grew up in Uruguay and the United States, and moved to Israel at the age of nineteen to study industrial engineering. Ever since, I’ve lived with the familiar INSEAD feeling of not knowing where home is, and a deep sense of curiosity about other cultures. After nine years, I felt ready to push my limits again, and finally made my way to Fontainebleau with my husband and our cat – both of whom turned out to be fantastic MBA partners.

Since graduating last December, I took some time off to get settled in London before joining The Boston Consulting Group. We chose London post-INSEAD for a mix of professional and personal reasons, and feel incredibly lucky to be here. While flat hunting for a pet-friendly apartment was truly a delight, this felt like home from the very first days. From a career perspective, I loved that London offices were highly diverse and offered projects in multiple industries. But more than that, I’ve felt that I can be my own multicultural self here, without having to earn the right to belong – no one seems to mind where I’m from. With family close by and career opportunities for my husband, London ticked all the boxes, but has delivered much more. And after years of living under relentless sunshine year-round, yes, I really can’t get enough of rainy Sunday afternoons with a cup of tea…

The learning curve at BCG so far has been exhilarating, in many ways matching the pace and depth of reflection that I experienced at INSEAD. I’m currently working on a case that will make a very tangible impact on people’s lives, and have been surrounded by exceptionally supportive colleagues and mentors. It’s been a pleasure to begin my journey together with some familiar faces from INSEAD, and to meet alumni doing incredible work at BCG. I can see truly exciting opportunities ahead, and feel fortunate to be working with frighteningly intelligent people, advising clients on the problems that matter most to them.

Looking back, the decision to go to INSEAD was triggered by the same pursuit of discovery. I was eager to expand my horizons, and felt that INSEAD’s multicultural environment was the best fit for me. From a career perspective, I was looking for a change in location and scope, aiming to transition into strategy consulting at a global level. I also very much wanted the experience – the opportunity to stop time and explore, make strong friendships, and find connections in unexpected places.
My time at INSEAD delivered all of the above, and ended with the immense honor of being Valedictorian of my class at our Graduation Ceremony in Singapore. I was elected by my peers, and overcome by the outpour of support and encouragement from people I deeply respect. The memories and emotions of this day are still fresh, and my wish for my classmates is as strong as ever – that INSEAD not be the single best year of our lives, but just the first of many.

It’s early days yet, and time will tell where the journey will take me. In the coming months, I’m focusing on growing at BCG, exploring London and giving back by supporting INSEAD recruiting in the fall. I look forward to becoming active in the alumni community, and hope to meet you all soon. To the Class of July 2018 – welcome to the other side!


If you are interested in sharing your alumni story, please contact the UK alumni association at [email protected]


July 2018

Alumni Profiles: Tom Rogers MBA 08D

Enrolling at INSEAD I think I had one of the less conventional profiles.

I grew up in Edinburgh, left school aged 17 (you can do that in Scotland and still apply to university) and then worked as a bicycle courier before enrolling at a UK music conservatoire to study Jazz.

My music teacher at the time had advised me to study classical, but I was drawn to Jazz because of the sound and also the theory. Unlike some other styles, you need to understand how music ‘works’ harmonically in order to play it. I found this satisfying as well as useful for playing and composing / arranging other contemporary styles. Quincy Jones says that ‘Jazz is the classical music of pop’ – there’s definitely some truth to that!

After a brief stint as a music teacher I moved to London for a series of internships with a production company and then the London Symphony Orchestra. This led to my first proper job working in the UK Government education department on a project to improve the quality of teaching in the UK.

It was a good opportunity and also reasonable hours which meant I could reliably leave the office by 6pm and so still get to rehearsals and gigs in the evenings. However, after a few years I wanted to work in a more challenging environment and decided to do a Masters qualification to prove myself academically and help with job applications.

Doing the rounds at the usual European schools I found that INSEAD was the only institution which excited me. It had a great reputation but also valued diversity, and the students and faculty I met seemed interested in my profile rather than confused by it.

However, my maths ability was pretty basic and I didn’t speak a second language, so I bought a book on algebra and moved to Berlin to learn German. I reasoned to myself (and my family) that even if I didn’t get in it would be an educational experience and a good adventure too so there was nothing to lose.

Luckily I did get in, but by the end of the year I was really enjoying living in Berlin and wanted to stay for longer. Then after a slightly traumatic business foundations week being force fed finance, economics and maths I was seriously questioning whether a business degree was the right next step for me at the time, and actually declined my place.

A few days later I received a call from Antonio Fatas, the MBA dean at the time. He asked why I was considering declining the place so I explained the situation and my reservations about the programme. He listened patiently and said I should come anyway and if after 3 months I still didn’t think it was a good idea I could have my money back.

What could I say to that?!

There’s no doubt that the transition to business school was a bit uncomfortable. Pretty much every subject was new and the pace was fast, but I learned a lot, made some great friends and, inevitably, also played plenty of music at various parties with our promotion’s band (which I’m convinced is one of the better ones to come from an MBA class!).

Post INSEAD I worked in management consulting, initially for a cultural sector firm and then for blue chip clients, all jobs that had eluded me pre-INSEAD, before founding, also with INSEAD class mates.

MusicGurus is an e-learning platform dedicated to making world-class music lessons accessible and affordable for everyone. We’re positioned as the e-learning platform for the music industry, helping leading publishers and institutions as well as individuals to go digital with their education. Most of our customers are also currently, and we place a significant emphasis on lifelong learning, and the ability of adults to continue developing complex new skills throughout their lives

It’s an exciting project with a lot of potential beyond the music sector, and the INSEAD experience was key to making it possible.

So for anyone with a less conventional consulting / banking / industry background and a desire to make a radical career change and have a broader impact I would definitely recommend INSEAD. It was the right next step for me and I’m very glad that I made the decision that I did.

If you are interested in sharing your alumni story, please contact the UK alumni association at [email protected]

June 2018


Alumni Profiles: Emma Goltz (MBA’98J)

In July, it will be twenty years since I graduated from INSEAD with the 98J promotion. We are the promotion who went on strike when they announced the opening of a new campus in Singapore – how times changed! Since then, I have lived on two continents, changed careers several times, had three children, and added a new passport. I also met my husband Fred at INSEAD so I can truly say that that one year in Fontainebleau had a profound impact on my life.

I grew up in Ireland and came to INSEAD after working in banking in Dublin and London. Like so many INSEADers I have met, I only applied to the INSEAD MBA. The internationally diverse student body had a unique appeal and sharing a classroom with fellow students from radically different academic and professional background was fascinating. I had been warned about the challenges of group work by previous Irish students and they did not exaggerate. However, twenty years later, I think that the group experience is the unique thing that sets INSEAD apart and creates alumni who can succeed in the most diverse work environments.

After INSEAD, I joined Bain and Company in the San Francisco office. I learned a lot and enjoyed the collegiate atmosphere at Bain. At the time, the alumni community in the Bay Area was tiny so it is amazing to hear that INSEAD is coming to San Francisco in 2019. When life gave me three children in 15 months (yes, twins and another baby closely after) I decided that it was time to adopt a more flexible working life. I started volunteering in the non-profit sector, mostly in education and have ended up with an expertise in fundraising and non-profit governance from my various board roles. I quickly learned that the skills we use in the for-profit world are just as relevant in the non-profit environment. Fundraising in Silicon Valley is big business and left me well placed to apply these skills in other geographies.

A move back to the UK in 2013 was promoted largely by our desire to expose our children to a new cultural and educational experience and the INSEAD network made this move so much easier. Fred had recently had a bad accident and broken his neck. He made a full recovery, but suddenly the lure of corporate life held less appeal. Today, we live in rural England where I manage our horse farm, Manton Grange Stables. We followed our passion to start a breeding and training business for showjumping horses and spend a lot of our time on the road with our team at horse shows across Europe. We have also been building a real estate portfolio in Ireland and watching at close hand the rehabilitation of the Celtic tiger. Fred has started his own private equity business, Hattington Capital, with one of our classmates from 98J, Barney Burgess, while I continue to be an active board member on several arts and educational organisations.

I recently became Chair of the INSEAD Alumni Fund (IAF) and joined the Board of INSEAD. The IAF is the group of alumni volunteers who work with INSEAD to raise funds for the school. For me, the vision of Dean Ilian Mihov in supporting “business as a force for good” seems highly relevant today. In particular, I am excited by the development of the INSEAD Institute for Business and Society, which will support research and teaching across a wide range of initiatives such as income inequality, sustainability and gender diversity.

If you are interested in sharing your alumni story, please contact the UK alumni association at [email protected]
April 2018

Alumni Profiles: Peter M Felix CBE (MBA 73)

On looking back over a pretty long career I see myself as a corporate nomad.

My international “itch” was first generated by voluntary service work in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) after graduating with a degree in Sociology and Law. This was subsequently fed by sojourns in Paris (post INSEAD), Algeria, New York and Hong Kong, in addition to my home town, London, which is where my wife and I now find ourselves. INSEAD was a catalyst to these international forays.

The other “itch” was my interest in the “soft side of management” (human resources etc.) and in not-for-profit organisations. The two turned out to be complementary and pervasive throughout my career.

My first experience of the corporate world was IBM. It didn’t take long to realise that monolithic corporate cultures were not for me. Fortunately INSEAD provided the platform to transition gracefully and I emerged after a life-changing year to join almost the direct opposite of IBM, a division of Bendix Corporation. In many respects it was like Fawlty Towers but what a great learning opportunity. As assistant to the General Manager, Europe and then Head of Personnel I saw the leaky side of management and ended up signing my own redundancy papers as the walls came tumbling down in the first of my career recessions.

From there to management development consultancy in Algeria and thence head hunting. Back to my soft skills I was now an intermediary in identifying and recruiting executive talent. Over 30 years I recruited in London, New York and Hong Kong thereby qualifying myself as a global executive. I was just staying ahead of INSEAD’s own plans for global domination.

But I was also becoming involved in the not for profit world and for many years have been very active in this fascinating sector. I joined the British-American Chamber of Commerce in New York and before long became President and then the first CEO. This was a great opportunity to work with a board to transform an organisation. I found that I enjoyed this more than executive search (CBE included) because of its strategic impact and was lucky enough to run another trade association before I retired, this time the global association for my own industry, executive search.

June and I moved to London in 2014 to follow her job as President for Verifone, Europe, I continue to be active as co-founder and principal of an executive mentoring business (Turner Felix Associates) and board member of several charities (the Scientific Exploration Society and Books Beyond Words). I also find myself organizing the 45th reunion for our promotion at a chateau in Burgundy.

Vive INSEAD! The journey continues.


You can get in touch with Peter at [email protected]

If you are interested in sharing your alumni story, please contact the UK alumni association at [email protected]
February 2018