Some people at work have asked me why I didn’t choose to do a part-time MBA instead.
Firstly, I decided after many years of deliberation to do an MBA instead of a Masters in Communication. The reason was that the MBA would give me more career prospects and was also more portable into different types of organisations. I was already in the Communication field but was interested in moving to a more strategic level. I also hoped to learn more about business, which you don’t get exposed to when you’ve been working in the Public sector for the last 4 years!
And now, as to why I specifically chose INSEAD. My family would support my MBA studies, but I was asked to spend the majority of the time in Singapore, if not all. That limited my choice of top-ranked schools to INSEAD and Chicago, followed by the next tier being NTU, NUS and the new SMU. I briefly considered Australian schools - but if I had to go away, it might as well be to the US.
I would have considered INSEAD and Chicago on their own merit anyway. Particularly, I heard of INSEAD for many years and liked the international student body - more international than any US school could possibly be.
NTU has the best-ranked business school from a local university, followed by NUS, but personally I never felt a strong bond with either school, perhaps because I studied overseas and wanted a broader outlook. I like SMU’s bolder, fresher approach but their MBA programme was the new kid on the block and it was too early to tell how it would go.
Between INSEAD and Chicago, because I was familiar with the INSEAD brand longer, I felt a stronger affinity to it. I was a former French student who’s been to various parts of Europe and loved it. I also read about how European business schools had more focus on soft skills while American schools focused more on hard skills. While it’s important to have a grasp of both, I liked the soft approach which could work better in the Asian region. Hard skills can be learnt in the head; soft skills have to come from the heart and that makes it more worthwhile.
Also, with increasing globalisation it is so important to be able to work with other cultures. INSEAD’s network is vast, covering the most number of countries in the world. So even with INSEAD’s strict language requirements, I decided that INSEAD would be my first if not only choice. When I learnt that Chicago only conducted the executive MBA course in Singapore, and I felt I was too junior to qualify, I decided to drop it and go for INSEAD. It was the only school in Singapore that I applied to, in the end.
Some friends felt that Chicago would be better and I could’ve tried for it, but these are the more American-oriented ones who are in more senior positions than me. By all means they can try for it themselves. Also, in 2007 Chicago was ranked #1 by at least one major magazine or newspaper, but I also wanted to join a school with a more international perspective. More recently, INSEAD was ranked #6 by the Financial Times which at least bothers to assess non-American schools, which is more than what some American publications would do. The world no longer revolves around America, and it is time to get used to that fact.