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Fridays from the Frontline: Are You My Alma Mater?

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Chicago native Sabrina Lakhani’s pre-MBA career took her—literally and figuratively—all over the map. From Babson College in Boston she headed to a small Connecticut marketing consultancy for a couple of years before volunteering as a full-time project coordinator at a hospital for children in Kabul. From there it was on to East Africa, working first on a network of hospitals and later on a network of schools. She then returned to work for her family’s businesses in Chicago before joining a decision heuristics science‒based marketing firm as director of client services.

In choosing an MBA program, she wanted one that could speak her language, decode her resume and understand who she is. In the post that follows, she explains why INSEAD felt like home for her and why she’s excited to begin her journey there this month.

Our thanks to Lakhani for allowing us to share her perspective with the Clear Admit audience.

The following post has been republished in its entirety from its original source, the INSEAD MBA Experience.

Are You My Alma Mater?

are you my alma mater
Sabrina Lakhani, INSEAD MBA student, Class of December 2017

By Sabrina Lakhani MBA ‘17D

Finding the right MBA program is like finding the family that speaks your language. They may not look or talk like you, but you feel “at home” because they understand and value you.

I knew that INSEAD was the only school that speaks my “language” i.e. could decode my resume and understand who I am.

  1. After graduating from Babson College, I started my career as a project manager at NECG, a small marketing consultancy in Westport, Connecticut, working mostly in the health and wellness sectors.
  2. After nearly two years, I felt ready to make a positive contribution in the world so I accepted a full-time project coordinator role at the French Medical Institute for Children in Kabul, Afghanistan without remuneration. This hospital was established as a partnership between the government of France, government of Afghanistan, and the longest-standing NGO in the country – Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN).
  3. Next, I coordinated market research studies for AKDN hospitals in Kenya and landed the role of regional project manager to help establish the East African Integrated Health System. I lived in Kenya for a year, working alongside international experts to assess the AKDN hospitals and author a five-year plan. I then worked on a project for Aga Khan Academies – a network of 18 planned schools in the developing world.
  4. I returned to Chicago and helped with my family’s businesses. Despite demonstrating positive outcomes, I faced resistance in adopting new, systematic methods. I then joined Disruptyx as the Director of Client Services. After becoming proficient in the application of decision heuristic science to marketing and market research, I transitioned into the Director of Innovation role to apply it in developing the company’s new product offerings.
  5. Outwardly, my career has been all over the map (pun intended). Internally, as I bridged my experiences to the world, I realized that the greatest potential for human beings lies in our ability to work together by creating partnerships, networks, and systems. My self-understanding born from hardship led me to map how things function in a systematic and universal way – I had become a “systems thinker”. However, our preconceived notions, hard-earned independence, and subconscious insecurities often impede our growth. I believe that entrepreneurship is the most fertile ground for a group of diverse individuals to override patterned behavior, create something better, and achieve unprecedented levels of success.

At INSEAD, we speak GLOBAL, and here’s how:

  1. Bridge Builders. Immediately after being accepted (as Round 4), I received welcoming emails and invites from batch mates around the world to join the INSEAD Facebook groups, WhatsApp Groups, “The Brain,” Slack Group and LinkedIn Group. I was “plugged in” right away thanks to Jackson and Nidhi!
  2. Expert Expats…or global citizens. Rather than being stifled by change, we’re thrilled to move to a new country and embrace the unknown. But this time, we’re helping each other through it. Case in point: My flatmate (Shamin) knew I was arriving in Singapore four days before we get the keys to our apartment, so he reached out to our batch and found two people (Rafael and Kimi) willing to take me in for those four days! The kind and generous culture at INSEAD is truly remarkable.
  3. Community of Co-Creators: leaders, team players and a healthy dose of intellectual humility. Whether it’s securing accommodation, reviewing peer CVs, negotiating excess luggage allowances or figuring out where to bank in Singapore, there is a strong sense of camaraderie (rather than competition) that comes through even before you arrive on campus and meet in person. We make things happen…almost over night! For example, 17 of us are renting a private island off the coast of Indonesia for New Year’s Eve weekend as a way to kick-off the best year of our lives. And all of this was organized so quickly – special thanks to Lulu!