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Real Humans of Amazon: Ygal Haenel, INSEAD ’19, Senior Financial Analyst

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Amazon identifies 14 leadership principles underlying their operations, problem-solving approaches and team ideations. Some examples include ownership, frugality, learn and be curious, think big, and dive deep.  “Hire and develop the best” is another principle that Ygal Haenel, INSEAD MBA ’19 and senior financial analyst at Amazon, recognized during their recruiting process–as well as after, when he settled into his role and had time to engage with his colleagues.  In this edition of Real Humans: Alumni, see how the INSEAD MBA program prepared Haenel for a fulfilling career at Amazon and provided a lifelong network.

Ygal Haenel, INSEAD ’19, Senior Financial Analyst at Amazon

Ygal Haenel, INSEAD MBA ’19, Senior Financial Analyst at Amazon

Age: 29
Hometown: Work in Luxembourg, live in Metz, France. Previously lived in Israel.
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Bar-Ilan University, B.A. Economics and Business Administration
Graduate Business School, Graduation Year and Concentration: INSEAD, July 2019 (19J’)
Pre-MBA Work Experience: 7, AdTech and FinTech
Post-MBA Work Experience:
Amazon as Senior Financial Analyst

Why did you choose to attend business school?
After a few years of professional experience in financial, advertising and technological fields, I was happy with my career advancement and the skills I’ve gained along the way, but I didn’t feel fulfilled. I wanted to move from being a business contributor to becoming a business leader, hoping that one day I would be able to lead a company as a growth engine for individuals and society. As such, I believed that business school was a necessary stepstone to gain more knowledge, a wider network, and speed-up my career path to business leadership.

Why INSEAD? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
One of the main reasons why INSEAD was so important for me was the school’s multicultural environment. I believed that I had a lot to gain from my diverse classmates, as they would expose me to new ideas that would potentially help me achieve my future goals. If the courses offered at INSEAD were of the highest standards, my time spent with my peers was no less important. I have gained an incredible amount of knowledge thanks to them, and now I have a couch to sleep on in almost any country in the world. Having myself a multicultural background, I like to think that I was able to contribute to their development as well.

What about your MBA experience prepared you for your current career?
This could be a very long answer, but I’ll try to keep it short:

  1. I am using on a daily-basis skills I’ve learnt in some of the courses I’ve taken: Competitive Supply Chains, Negotiation, Story-telling, Uncertainty, Data & Judgment to just name a few…
  2. Due to the short time and intensity of the program, I had to learn to act quickly and make decisions without a lot of time. I knew that if I didn’t take the chance to go on a trek or meet someone new, the opportunity would not happen again. I try my best in my position now as well to not miss any opportunity I might be interested in.
  3. The socializing/networking I did at INSEAD was very fruitful. The school offers the most diverse pool of students and I was able to learn a lot about how to interact with people from various cultures. Nowadays I am comfortable and enjoy starting a conversation with almost anyone and hearing their stories.

What was your internship during business school?  How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
I joined the July program, which doesn’t have an internship.

Why did you choose your current company? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
Having worked in Fintech before joining INSEAD, I viewed finance as the heart of any company, as the goal of most businesses is to generate profitable revenues. My objective post-MBA was to join a company that makes immense contributions to the world of financial technology. Once contacted by Amazon for a position as senior financial analyst, I knew it was a great opportunity for me to learn more about how international companies work, and how technology and finance can operate together to create value for customers as well as for the company.

Advice to current MBA students:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?
Research what alumni do. I looked up MBA alumni with similar backgrounds to mine and tried to see what they did post-graduation, how long they worked in this position and which countries they moved to. I then made a list of short- and long-term career paths and applied for the positions/companies that interested me.

–One thing you would change or do differently?
Prioritize my days differently. Before starting my MBA, I was told by an alum as a joke that on any given day at INSEAD you have to choose 2 out of 3 “S”: Socialize, Study and Sleep. I didn’t understand how much this was a reality. 24 hours were never enough, and I found myself missing out on some activities I would have wanted to join in the first month as I focused on studying.

–Were there any surprises regarding your current employer’s recruiting process?
I was aware that Amazon was looking for people that would match their leadership principles and I realized that all the questions during the interviews (I had 7 in total!) were somehow related to one or more principles, but having now worked in the company for almost 6 months I realize how important it is to find people that truly match those principles. Amazonians truly make business decisions based on those leadership principles and they are an entire part of the lexicon at Amazon.

–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
Start working on your profile (CV, LinkedIn, pitch, interviews…) as early as possible. Especially in a short program, like INSEAD. The first few months of the program I thought that recruiting was far from me, and I focused on other aspects of the program. Luckily, I was contacted early by a company that did not interest me, and by talking to them I realized that I was far from being ready for interviews. One of the most important aspects of the MBA is to land a good job, and it would have been a shame if I pushed off working on my profile, I would not have gotten a job that I really wanted.

What’s the best thing about working for your current employer?
The work environment is great! It really feels like a continuation of grad school. Most of my coworkers have an MBA from top business schools, they all come from different countries and cultures. Though hard work is expected, there is no micro-management, and for such a big company, there is a very high level of freedom as to what to focus on workwise. Also, you can come to work with a pair of jeans and a t-shirt!

Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.