This part 2 is written onboard EK355 from Singapore to Dubai, on my way to France. So excited to start my journey with the school! This post will focus specifically on the INSEAD application process, and the preparation that I did.

P.S: Please feel free to contact me if you are interested to know more or if you have specific questions that I have yet to address here. Here’s the link to my personal website, but you can also contact me through LinkedIn or Instagram.

You can find part 1 here. It will cover my career journey and why I opted to pursue MBA at INSEAD.

What’s the admission process like?

Below you’ll find the exact step by step of the process taken from the INSEAD website:

INSEAD MBA Admission Process

The whole process from the time I submitted my application until the time I received the “CONGRATULATIONS” phone call took 65 days, broken down to:

  • 1-3 : Application submission to interview announcement : 22 days
  • 4 : Interview announcement to interview completion : 30 days
  • 5-6 : Interview completion to admission decision : 13 days

The application submission in step 1 requires you to submit:

  • Essays
  • Recommendation
  • GMAT
  • TOEFL

The whole process was pleasant, with complete support from the admission team and alumni interviewers. Completing the interview was a tad long for me because I was traveling at the time, and scheduling the interviews was a challenge in itself. Eventually, we managed to set up the meeting times and we had great conversations.

My alumni interviewers were both quite senior, but they were humble and eager to share! I noticed that they were trying to make sure that I knew what I was getting into, and whether taking an MBA makes sense for me.

Application Preparation

For this section, I’m shifting from a narration to Q&A format, as I’ve had people reach out to me regarding these, so hopefully I have a good idea of what you want to know

GMAT

What is this?

It’s basically THE exam to take if you want to go to a business school. It’s accepted in all the top programs. GMAT is administered by GMAC (Graduate Management Admission Council). GMAC is a global, mission-driven association of leading graduate business schools.

Here are the 4 parts of the exam and the range of score in brackets:

  1. Quantitative Reasoning (6-51)
  2. Verbal Reasoning (6-51)
  3. Integrated Reasoning/IR (1-8)
  4. Analytical Writing Assessment/AWA (0-6)

You sometimes see “Average GMAT for the program is 700”. The number that contributes to this score is only number 1 & 2. Number 3 & 4 has standalone scores. E.g: It’s possible to get 1 in IR, 0 in AWA, but 800 in the Quantitative & Verbal.

This doesn’t mean that you don’t need to prepare for IR & AWA. It’s still recommended to have a solid score for both.

What do I need to do?

  • Prepare & study.
  • Register for an account at gmat.com.
  • Once you register, log in and register for an exam close to where you live. I recommend you to register at least 1 month in advance so you have a clear goal during your study.

How long did it take to prepare?

2 months preparation

What was your score?

700+

How many tries?

1

What did you use to study?

Official GMAC books and online question bank (Amazon). I personally enjoyed the process, some of it felt like brain teaser quizzes!

Specifically for AWA, this is de facto the best guide I’ve seen.

Did you take a course?

No. I think a course is useful only if you need someone to help guide your study process, kick you if you’re being lazy, and ensure you make positive progress. If you’re confident that you can manage yourself, I don’t think taking a course is necessary.

How did I find the time to study while being in consulting?

I was lucky to have a project with decent work life balance, and I spent at least 8-9 hours per weekend to study.

How important do you think GMAT is?

I personally think GMAT is more of a checklist. It helps you understand whether you’ll be able to follow the curriculum of the MBA.

Did GMAT discussion come up during the interview?

No

Any advice?

  • Practice, practice, practice.
  • Do mock exams, especially the ones provided by gmat.com after you register for the exam
  • If you find it hard to study consistently, register and PAY for the exam. Once you have skin in the game, your motivation goes up exponentially

TOEFL

What is this?

It’s one of the accepted tests to certify English proficiency. I took TOEFL because I have taken it in 2009, so I have some knowledge of what’s the test is like beforehand. Some of my friends took IELTS because, in their own words, “It’s easier to score high”.

How long did it take to prepare?

1 month

What was your score?

115

How many tries?

1

What did you use to study?

Official TOEFL online resource that you can buy when you register for the exam.

Specifically, I purchased the Value Pack Prep Plus

Did you take a course?

No. Same reason as GMAT

Any advice?

Same advice with GMAT. In addition to that, if you are working in a multinational company and normally use English for day to day communication, you’re most likely fine. Just practice for the Speaking portion as it can feel quite awkward. The official online speaking practice is the reason I bought the value pack prep plus instead of just buying the guide.

Essay writings

How long did it take to prepare?

1 month

Any advice?

  • Get someone else to proofread and ensure what you write makes sense from a logical standpoint. You can’t just make a sentence of “I’m a nuclear physicist, but now I’m interested in business, so I want to do an MBA.” There needs to be logical step by steps. Focus on what’s YOUR story, what DRIVES you, and what’s the PROOF.
  • Grammar. Don’t slack off on this. If need be, use online services such as Grammarly to ensure that you’re making sense. I don’t think perfect grammar is required, but your writing has to be clear and without glaring mistakes.
  • Your essays are gateway for the admission team to understand who you are, what’s unique about you, and whether the school can help you reach your goals. Be sure the messages are clear.

Recommendation

How long did it take to get the recommendations?

1.5 months

Any advice?

START EARLY. Nudge your recommender as soon as you decide to apply for an MBA. Let them know your story of why you want to go to MBA, and persuade them to write the recommendation themselves. You can also discuss on specific incidents that they can put into the recommendation. Remember that just writing “he is patient, hardworking and works well with other people” is not strong without evidence of incident that showed those qualities.

Video Submission

What’s it like?

You’ll get a link to do the video interview automatically after you submit your application. Check your email for Kira Talent. It’s basically a back and forth between questions & your answers. There’ll be a question on the screen, you have 45 seconds to prepare, and then 60 seconds to answer. Rinse and repeat 4 times. Additionally, you have practice questions to get comfortable with taking the videos.

What questions are typically asked?

For a full list of questions I used to practice, click here.

Any advice?

Be genuine, look directly to the camera, wear comfortable business casual, test your internet connection & device beforehand, and finally, try to show a side of you that’s unique and not clearly shown in the application documents.

Interview

What’s it like?

You’ll get an email from the admissions officer that congratulates you for moving to the next round and asks you where are you based. This information is then used to determine your interviewers. He/she will then inform you who your interviewers are. It’s then your responsibility to arrange for the session with the interviewers.

You’ll get 2 alumni interviewers, and it can be a challenge to schedule. My challenge was that both me & the interviewer was travelling around, so locking down the time to meet was tough.

Any advice?

Be genuine, practice your pitch on:

  • Why MBA – Show that you understand clearly your journey and why an MBA fits in there.
  • Why INSEAD – Show that you know what you’re getting into and what you’ll get out of the experience.

Both of the whys should also cover “what’s next”.

In Summary

The application process seems long, but most of the work goes into the application submission. Most people face problems because of the GMAT, so allocate more time to prepare for that.

That’s it! I hope these 2 posts helped you and I wish you the best of luck in your application process.

Writing this on board of GA821 from Kuala Lumpur to Jakarta. I’m filled with both sadness and excitement. I’m sad that I left the family I made in KL, but excited to go back to school soon. This writing is also intended to help me sort out my thoughts and hopefully help you in one way or another. In this post, I’m focusing on the career journey and why I opted to do an MBA at INSEAD. In the next post, I’ll share specifically on the INSEAD application process and preparation advices.

P.S: Please feel free to contact me if you are interested to know more or if you have specific questions that I have yet to address here. Here’s the link to my personal website, but you can also contact me through LinkedIn or Instagram.

You can find Part 2 here. It will cover the INSEAD application process and my preparations.

Why MBA?

There are 3 key reasons of why I wanted to do an MBA.

The first is my childhood experience. When I was a kid, I had friends who seems to travel abroad every single holiday. To be frank, I was jealous every time I saw their Disneyland or plane pictures. My family were modest, and we couldn’t afford to travel abroad. In fact, the first time I went abroad was 2010, and that was because my mother had a business trip to China and I could come with her. I was ecstatic to see another country. I still remember that it was a Singapore Airlines flight, CGK-SIN, followed by SIN-Shanghai. I know that this doesn’t look like it relates directly to MBA, but this experience kickstarted my ambition to see the world.

The second is my experience living in Jakarta. The city is well positioned as the center of economic growth of Indonesia. People migrated from villages and small towns to Jakarta in hope of fortune. I daresay it’s the “Jakarta Dream”, much like how the Americans have “American Dream”. A key advantage of being in Jakarta is availability of good jobs. This is further reinforced with the rise of tech startups such as Gojek, Tokopedia, Shopee, Lazada, etc. But living in Jakarta also has some issues that fueled my desire to move. A key issue is the traffic jam and living cost. I lived at the outskirts of the city and I regularly took 1-2 hours for a one way trip (driving) from my home to office. Why not rent a room in the middle of the city? 2 reasons. First, because I work in Services/Consulting. I move around based on where my client is. Second, because rent is expensive and mostly with no facilities. Another key issue is inclusion. I think that we’re moving to a more conservative direction and I’m not comfortable with that. Some politicians are making it worse by utilizing divisive messages based on race or religion to win elections. This experience encouraged me to look beyond Jakarta in hopes of finding another place to call home. What do I need to do to achieve that? I need to build a strong foundation and network to be able to actually move abroad. Without a solid network, I wouldn’t be able to find a job or do business anywhere.

The last is my career journey. I’ve accumulated about 5 years of work experience and I reflected upon where I want to go in the future. My experience in tech, startup, and consulting showed me what kind of work excites me. I’m excited to work with people to create innovation and transformation. I prefer to forge new ways of working instead of just following the old. I believe open discussions with no hard feelings are extremely important. Finally, I dislike it when I don’t have clear goals. So with those in mind, what’s next? I would like to be a business leader that is known for transforming organizations. To go there, I want more experience in strategy development & execution leadership work. Unfortunately, based on my experience, I don’t have a proven track record yet of strategy development work and I don’t have a lot of leadership experience. And thus I want to improve those skills.

Combining all 3 drivers, my experience in Kuala Lumpur is an indicative sign that I’m going to the right direction. I lived in Kuala Lumpur for roughly 9 months, and worked on a blockchain project for a Resources company. I felt like it was a long holiday. I was able to comfortably live outside of Jakarta, and even though the work was tough, the team was awesome and the work was exciting.

So in conclusion, I assessed that an MBA would help me build skills and network quicker to be able to achieve my goals in the future.

Why INSEAD?

First thing I checked to find the right school for me was MBA rankings. Unlike other masters’ degree, MBA has so many published rankings with various methodology. Universities proclaiming “we’re a top business school in the world” is irrelevant. What’s relevant is what other people think about that university and MBA Rankings helps you understand what’s the general view or consensus about the schools. When you check most MBA Rankings, it’s highly dominated by the US schools, think Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Kellogs, Booth, Berkeley. But there are several business schools outside the US that consistently rank great, such as INSEAD, LBS and HEC Paris.

Then the next question was, “In an ideal world, where everything goes according to plan, where do I want to settle down in the long term?” For me, the answer was Europe/Australia/Canada. Thus, the school I picked need to have a strong name in those 3 regions.

And finally, “what industry do I want to go to after MBA?”. As I wanted to go to strategy development and execution leadership, I looked for schools that produces a lot of strategy consultants.

Combining the answer of the 3 questions, INSEAD becomes a natural choice for a few things:

  • It’s a highly regarded business school with alumni all around the world.
  • There’s more than X nationalities in a class, and there’s 3 campuses (Fontainebleau, Singapore and Abu Dhabi). There’s flexibility of where I want to be based on, and it’ll help me experience many cultures quickly. Both will help me understand what kind of culture I’m most comfortable in.
  • It’s basically the “consulting school of the world” where most graduates go to Strategy Consulting.
INSEAD Singapore Campus

Thankfully, INSEAD has a campus in Singapore. I managed to visit the campus and set up a time to talk to Aidan from the MBA recruitment and marketing team to understand more about the school and the admission process.

Aidan shared to me about the school’s diversity, and the admission director’s (Minh Huy Lai) passion on inclusion. That was the first thing that resonated with me. After that we discussed on what INSEAD is looking for, he emphasized the international experience requirement, and open mindedness requirement. When I say open mindedness, the school will pit you with people from very different culture that without being open minded, you’ll struggle. Then we discussed my career journey, and which parts he thought I need to emphasize in the application. Finally he shared the results of the program for current students and the strength of the INSEAD alumni community. This discussion cemented my decision to apply because I identify with the school’s values and directions for students.

In Summary

Based on my childhood experience, Jakarta experience and career journey, an MBA is a great way to achieve my goals. Then based on school reputation, geographic location and industry focus, INSEAD is the school of choice for me.

Read the part 2 of this post for the application process and preparation advice!

Within the past 3 months, I have been working with Accenture’s Innovation Hub in Singapore to focus on developing new demo asset business case, and facilitate client workshops. The Innovation Hub is a physical space where we host client workshops, and showcase demos on how Digital can transform businesses. But keep in mind, that we are not R&D focused. We’re focused on building a business case that caters to business needs. You won’t find a technology that’s just ‘cool’ in our hub. You’ll see stuff that has business value first and foremost.

Last week, I had the great chance to deliver a demo and presentation to our Accenture’s Africa & Asia Pacific leadership on how the connected worker looks like in the near future, empowering industrial employees to be safer and more productive. Although the technology have been introduced since quite a while back, we’re just entering the phase of mass adoption and scalability.

The technology that I showcase in this occasion are a combination of smartglasses by Vuzix, IoT sensors installed in an asset, and tablet. Basically, this is showcasing how workers will communicate with command centers and supervisors in the future, and how industrial facilities can be monitored and controlled remotely. If you want to see it and interested in exploring how you can start on a Connected Worker initiative in your company, connect with me and maybe we can arrange a visit for your company!

In this post, I want to cover 3 key things you need to analyze to justify the investment of connected worker initiative.

First, how much value will come from a safety perspective? The US spends nearly 60 billion USD due to injuries in the workplace, making it a good idea to invest to lower even just 10% of that amount.

Second, you need to forecast the ROI from the added productivity. We can look at this from savings in replacing in-person inspections with remote inspections, first time fix rate, total time to resolution, and remote training. (Read more here)

And third, an analysis on how using digital impacts employee engagement is also necessary. Gallup showed that highly engaged business units realize a 41% reduction in absenteeism and a 17% increase in productivity. (Read more here).

Quantifying all these benefits will help you build the business case to invest in the connected worker. Of course the numbers presented might not apply to you, so due diligence becomes important.

Lastly, you can read more on the thought leadership piece from a few consulting firms on Connected Worker:

In 9 August 2017, YEC held a CEO talk with the CEO of Domino Pizza Indonesia, Patrick McMichael. Graduated from Santa Barbara City College in 1990, Patrick McMichael specializes in franchise consulting, strategic planning and new business development. With over than 25 years of experience under his belt with international Domina Pizza Enterprise, he’s now the CEO of Domino Pizza Indonesia.

97% of Domino Pizzas are franchise owned, and in the US alone, Domino’s has nearly 800 independent franchise owners. In a day, Domino’s delivers more than 1 million pizzas, with more than 260,000 employees worldwide. They had 93 consecutive quarters (24 years) of positive same store sales growth.They’re the fastest growing F&B in recent years and its stock price growth actually surpasses most of Fortune 500 companies in the past year. In Indonesia alone, Domino’s has 129 outlets and is opening at a pace of at least 1-2 stores per month.

In August 2010, Mr. McMichael took on the role of Chief Development and Franchising Officer following his time as Australia & New Zealand Franchise Development Manager for the Company. He is responsible for the continued development of new franchisees in Australia and New Zealand in both new and existing stores and overseeing the Company’s store development projects. Since joining the Company in 1990 he has held a variety of roles across the business including Store Manager, Area Manager, Franchise Consultant, National Property Manager, Multi Unit Franchisee Market Manager, New Concept Development Manager, and International Business Consultant.

In this opportunity, we learned about his view on enterpreneurship and his journey. One of the key experience that gives a good point on what Patrick is like as a person is his recovery from his accident. He was in an accident once and it severely impaired his movement capabilities, he wasn’t able to run, move, as freely as he could before. After he got out of the hospital, he went back to his daily life, and he could’ve just stayed out of harms way, he could’ve just played safe, but no. He was determined. Determined to be even better. One of his goal after that was to run a marathon, which some might say reckless at the time. “You were in an accident!”, “What if something happen to you?”, and more and more “What if”s. But with determination, and the support of his family, he managed to gradually train himself back to shape. And finally, he ran a marathon, accompanied by his son.

From his experience, 2 key takeaways for me is:
1. Be determined to get what you want, and don’t be bogged down by what other people said
2. Have a safety net. In his run, even if he already trained, he’s confident he can make it, he still has his son to accompany him and to ensure that everything runs smoothly.

He’s a classic example of someone who worked from the ground up, someone who started in the field. He started as a delivery driver! After he became a store manager, the first step in building sales is being determined to grow the business. You have to want to grow and you must inspire your team to help you grow. The second part of growing sales is getting out from behind the front counter and becoming a local star in your community. You must get involved and make your store an important part of the community.

The community perspective is invaluable. A business needs to make a good impact to the community, otherwise, there might be repercussions in the future. Listening to the community also helps a business thrive, after all, what good is a product that is developed without community input? It will just become a product that the managers “think” the community wants, but not what the community “asks”.

In his journey, there are 3 key principles to managing a great store that will lead to sales growth:

  • Product
  • Service
  • Image

It’s a good reminder not to be fixated in just one aspect. Focusing too much on our product, but lacking to improve our service and image can be disastrous in the long run. Unhappy customers won’t return to us, and they might be telling their friends/acquaintance not to come to us. For Dominos, he said that “Domino is an IT company that delivers pizzas“. That is the image they want to convey, that is how they provide their service (sophisticated IT), and that’s the product they’re selling (pizzas).

He also ran the business like a close-knit community, a family. Encouraging partnership and people to work together, and not hiring from external for manager level. A good saying that he shared is “None of us is as strong as all of us”. There’s strength in the collective knowledge, the sheer amount of collaboration in the organization, and the community.

One of the slide is full of his nugget of wisdom, which is not rocket science, but a great reminder to all of us:

  • Treat people the way you want to be treated
  • Build a plan and refer to it. It is a live document
  • Never stop learning
  • Innovate
  • The answer is in the numbers
  • Ask for help when needed! You don’t have a mortgage on being right
  • Balance in life and work
  • Exercise
  • Incentivize what you want to change
  • Grow yourself rich, don’t save yourself rich
  • Celebrate the wins
  • Have fun!

The final key takeaway that I got was the technology perspective. One of the key part of the road on becoming the number one, the numero uno pizza company in Indonesia is investing in technology to build a superior customer experience. They did this through the sophisticated digital marketing strategy, through mapping customers, through pizza tracking, through their website and applications. Some insight that he gave was:

  1. The top most impactful marketing campaign is in Facebook and Line
  2. Promotion oriented advertising and campaign is the most shareable and most impactful
  3. Go for video and rich content, you can only go so far with videos
  4. 8% of their sales comes from Gofood sales
  5. Track what customers are doing as the best you can
  6. Have a 360 view of the customer. No matter what channel a customer contacted, or which Dominos they visit, they should have the same experience, and the sales should have the same information about the customer.

“Excellence. Strongly linked to the intensity of your motivation and the level of your commitment to attain the highest in everything you attempt!” – Patrick’s Mantra from his dad

This post is a part of Bite Sized Wisdom series.

Nowadays, there are a lot of organization that promotes enterpreneurship to rural areas. They aim to encourage people to start businesses, to grow the economy, and making an impact to the community. There are banks with incubation programs, government bodies with enterpreneurship training program, but the impact still leaves much to be desired. With more than 250 million people in Indonesia, with all the resources that exist here, Indonesia should be able to grow much much more than this.

One big matter that was identified was the continuity. Programs that is designed to help enterpreneurs are generally treated more like a project, for example, a 6 month coaching, and then they leave the enterpreneur to fend for themselves and to keep up the habit. In theory, this is not wrong. But in practice, these enterpreneurs, these people that were trained, needs a longer term guidance. Programs like this must not be a one time thing, there must be a continuity.

Of course the fault doesn’t lie on the enterpreneurship program itself, but in part it’s the habit of the people that they’re trying to help. Habit is not easy to break, and there are tons of research and books on this point. It’s necessary to help these budding enterpreneurs change their habit slowly instead of expecting them to change everything after a workshop/program period.

One way this can be done is to have an “account team” that periodically checks on the enterpreneur and be a point of consultation for them. Enabling chat via WhatsApp to a single number is also helpful, as people are becoming more reliant on instant messaging, and they avoid calling people in fear of disturbing others, and in part because of anxiety of calling.

In combination with the above, a welcome addition is to deliver bite sized workshops and programs that is longer in period, but less compacted in content. For example, instead of a workshop encompassing a single week, or a few months, make a year long program with checkpoints, and monthly workshops. This will enable the enterpreneurs to develop the habit, and help the organization track the retention and application of the knowledge that they’re trying to teach.

This post is a part of Bite Sized Wisdom series.

Having a low Non-Performing Loan(NPL) is critical to a lender, and in effort to speed up growth of a lending business, some banks/financing companies increasingly willing to lend to riskier profiles (corporate/personal). They are pressured by shareholders, by the market, and also by the government to channel funds, to grow the economy, and to support the country. But how does a lender suppress their Non Performing Loan?

One way is to have a great credit scoring metrics for corporate clients, starting from (obviously) a guarantee (in the form of long term asset like land / building), the guarantor/sponsor, and finally, the industry the business is operating in and the bank’s point of view on whether the industry is growing or contracting.

The good thing about having a very prudent lending is that your NPL is very low and controlled, and you are able to channel more financing to 1 client. But on the other hand, it’s risky because you only have a small number of clientele, even 1 disaster can impact your NPL significantly.

This post is a part of Bite Sized Wisdom series.

In a family business, having too many family members in the same company, working with each other can be disastrous. For example, if your family owns a factory, then the first kid handles marketing, the second handles finance, and the third handles operations. There’s a sizeable risk on conflict between family members on how the business should be run.

Potential solutions to this problem is to institute just 1 person in the family as the chief of the business, and the others handles other business / acts as advisors. Or if it’s possible, to have your family business divided into several business units with autonomy that doesn’t impact each other too much. For example, the first kid handles logistics business, the second handles factory business, etc.

In the end, a business needs to be professionally run and enabled to be able to grow. Hiring professionals to run the family business is an important thing, to bring in external knowledge, to bring in expertise, and to stop stagnation in the business.