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Real Humans of INSEAD’s MBA Class of 2021

Kolbeinn Stefansson, INSEAD’s MBA Class of 2021

Age: 26
Hometown: Reykjavik, Iceland
Undergraduate Institution and Major: B.Sc. Business Administration and Finance from the University of Iceland; Advanced Business Certificate from Columbia University
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 3 years at a start-up in the food & beverage industry, based in New York.

Why business school? Why now?
An MBA will allow me to deepen my understanding of business and management as I reflect on my own experiences and learn from the impressive group of people that make up the 21J class at INSEAD. I look forward to discussing and debating business strategy and management and broadening my understanding of diverse business cultures.

Why INSEAD? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
As an internationally motivated individual, I was attracted to the school’s founding value of diversity as a source of learning and enrichment. The school attracts individuals that are passionate about understanding other cultures and is truly international with no nationality representing more than 10% of students. INSEAD also places a significant emphasis on leadership development through personal and group coaching, ensuring the program is well-rounded and balanced in terms of hard and soft skills.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2021?
Tough question when you’re part of such a diverse group of people! But I believe I have a unique background, having been at a start-up in New York, and having been part of founding a non-profit in Iceland. This experience as taught me to embrace continuous learning and uncertainty. Helping my fellow students embrace uncertainty is something that I strive to bring to the table.

Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application?
I love discovering new cuisines both by researching and trying interesting restaurants and cooking at home.

Post-MBA career interests?
Over the past 3 years, I loved facing new challenges every day and having to make sense of uncertainty. I am looking for a career that will provide such an environment while allowing me to broaden my mind by giving me exposure to new sectors. I am also passionate about making a positive impact in the community and would love to find a platform for that.

Advice to current prospective applicants:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?

Reach out to multiple alumni or current students! This is the absolute best way to get a good understanding of a school’s community and the community you are joining for life. INSEAD alumni are also some of the most inviting people out there, and eager to answer questions and help.

–One thing you would change or do differently?
More introspection and self-awareness work. This is crucial when writing the essays, and something you’ll do a lot once you start the program, and I wish I had given myself more time during the application process.

–Part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
Worrying about the video interviews. Those are recorded video responses (about 60 secs each) and you only get one attempt to answer each question. I definitely spent too much time thinking about these, since in the end it’s simply about how you think on the spot and there’s no correct answer to the question that’s being asked. Do not spend time writing scripted answers – rather have someone give you a few prompts and record your answers as practice.

What is your initial impression of INSEAD’s students/culture/community?
This has to be the most impressive group of people I’ve ever had the chance to work with. INSEAD already attracts some of the brightest minds out there, but I believe this class is especially inspiring since we’ve all decided to start this journey in the middle of a pandemic and face that complication head-on (even as INSEAD graciously offered us to defer to next year).

One thing you have learned about INSEAD that has surprised you?
The self-awareness that INSEAD has to consistently work towards living their own values. The school is humble in acknowledging that they have work to do when it comes to gender balance, and in acknowledging that “Business as a force for good” is a continuous process.

Thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
COVID is an added layer of complexity and risk when it comes to networking and recruiting. But this is something I am ready to deal with and I’m sure we will come out stronger on the other side.

Thing you are most excited about in your first year?
All the peer interaction and learning that’s going to happen at every stage of the INSEAD experience: in the classroom, group work, student clubs, and over great food.

Posted in: Real Humans of MBA Class of 2021, Real Humans of MBA Students

Schools: INSEAD

About the Author


Christina Griffith  

Christina Griffith is a writer and editor based in Philadelphia. She specializes in covering education, science, and history, and has experience in research and interviews, magazine content, and web content writing.

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