Reflecting on your career goals often gets you to choose the MBA route, but continuing to reflect on your goals throughout the course of the MBA is also vital to your success. For Nimisha Mund, this step during her time at INSEAD ensured her long-term investment in her career had the best return. In this edition of Real Humans: Alumni, Mund describes her non-linear career path and where her INSEAD MBA led her.
Nimisha Mund, INSEAD MBA ’22, Senior Manager, Corporate Business Development EMEA at Amazon
Hometown: I’ve called a lot of towns home! Presently, I live in London and prior to this have worked and lived in France, Finland and India. I’m Indian, and was raised as an Army kid, moving every few years across far-flung locations in India. My family is based in Delhi and Amsterdam.
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Dual degree in Law and Commerce (Bachelor; Honours) at Gujarat National Law University (2010-2015). Studied negotiation and International Business at Université de Paris Ouest which included training at the ICC (International Chambers of Commerce), Paris.
Graduate Business School, Graduation Year and Concentration (if applicable): INSEAD, Class of 2022 (July). INSEAD has a general management MBA, and I skewed my electives toward strategy, industry analysis and tech/innovation.
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 7 years; started as a Corporate & M&A Lawyer, working across multiple industries including Industrial goods, Automotive, Defence, PE, Financial Services, then moved into the Retail industry (market expansion at H&M) and finally in Real Estate (turnaround management at Sponda, a Blackstone portfolio company).
Post-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 7 months, Tech
Why did you choose to attend business school?
This is probably best answered by walking you through my decision journey. Though I finally attended business school in 2021-2022, I had initially planned to attend in 2018. At that point, it was more of a means to an end – my career then was straddling law and business and I wanted to move to a purely business role (one that didn’t discount my previous experience in law). However, when such an opportunity came my way directly, a unique turnaround-management role in a Blackstone portfolio company, I put the MBA plans on ice. While working in this new role I found I was still unclear on how I wanted to shape my career. In building my convictions, I typically seek a lot of input and in this case, I quickly realised that dedicating a year to attending business school that would give me rich inputs across topics, countries and industries would be a good investment in my career. Additionally, I wanted to brand myself as ‘Global’ talent. The cachet of a top business school helps remove some of the barriers that otherwise cast your profile in a specific region.
Why INSEAD? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
I brashly applied only to this one MBA program as INSEAD fit my purpose – it offered the most range of exposure. It was a general management school and also had wide global coverage – I had a cohort from 70+ nationalities, professors and case content from across the globe. To my point on wanting to leverage the cachet of a business school to be a ‘globally eligible’ talent, I did contemplate how certain ivy league schools may be more of a household name across the world than INSEAD. However, the INSEAD brand is the ‘those who need to know, know’ type and when I further learned just how expansive the global alumni network is, any new country and job market began feeling only a few degrees of separation away!
What about your MBA experience prepared you for your current career?
My non-linear career path and then the MBA equipped me in two ways (1) base-level understanding of multiple sectors (at the MBA, if not a whole course, a case study can generally be drawn upon for most sectors); (2) forced me to constantly ask myself – What are the table-stakes for me to be a credible discussion/sparring partner on this topic? I apply these daily in my current generalist role. For context, I am part of the Corporate Business Development team, which works across the various businesses of Amazon, identifying and negotiating new kinds of deal constructs, new initiatives the company may be exploring or strategic advisory to any given business arm. My work in this role so far has already involved four different industry sectors and as such, my comfort with jumping into new domains is useful. That said, there is ample room to improve this skillset further and I still catch myself in the common pitfalls – going down rabbit holes of a topic I don’t need to or unnecessarily holding back just because I don’t speak the ‘language’ of that sector!
INSEAD being a strategy school, a lot of the methodologies/terms are also directly useful in my role. The MBA also built my knowledge on start-ups and scale-ups with which I had little prior experience but work closely with in my current role. Most importantly, the year stimulated my mind and kept me inspired and it felt good to bring that fresh outlook into my current career.
What was your internship during business school? How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
I did not do an internship at the MBA – did the 10-month degree at Insead which does not have a break for an internship. My two cents (which follows the general theme of my answers here) don’t marry yourself to the line of work just because you chose to do the internship in it. P.S. multiple courses at an MBA touch upon ‘escalation of commitment/sunk cost fallacy’ 😉.
Why did you choose to work at Amazon? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
I was largely industry-agnostic going into the MBA. I knew, however, that I wanted breadth of context in my role. Management consulting and a handful of companies could offer that opportunity. I had a consulting offer from one of the MBBs, and alongside was exploring industry strategy roles that have relatively longer recruitment processes. I reflected on my work experience on both consulting and industry side and felt I had a stronger sense of ownership and excitement when I was working for one company. However, companies in varied businesses and also a role that allowed vantage in those businesses was a special find so when I was offered my current role I gladly accepted.
Through the process, I was also assessing the cultural fit. Luckily, heaps of books have been published on Amazon, and I devoured these books, and through these, chats with alumni and my interview panel, I saw themes like – continued improvement, constraints help innovation, leaning into ambiguity, writing synthesizes purpose, and my favourite- the importance of wandering and not sticking to one lane (!). These were all things that I deeply identified with.
How has COVID impacted your industry/career plans?
A very positive knock-on effect of COVID is work environments allowing ‘home life’ to seep into work contexts more, even now with corporate employees increasingly returning to office premises. I quite prefer it this way, makes workplaces kinder and a career with parenthood more accessible.
Advice to current MBA students:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?
Reflecting on the next career step through the course of the MBA! That may sound trite, but it is commonly recommended for 1 year MBAs that one front-load such reflecting (pre-MBA or first 2 months of MBA) and then, during the MBA, take on tunnel vision to secure that job. While this seemed effective for recruitment success (especially tempting given student loans, work visas, etc.) I felt I would be remiss if I didn’t wait to use the rich insights INSEAD offered to solidify this judgment. So I reflected intensely through the MBA, ‘lost’ time meandering through options, questioning what roles, industries, and geographies suited me. With a cohort from across the globe, across industries, vast alumni network I had unique access to inputs on the above. This approach felt riskier, and less efficient near-term, but for me, the better long-term career investment, and I would absolutely elect to do the same again.
–One thing you would change or do differently?
Another common recommendation, but which I blindly followed for a while: “look for alumni who had similar roles as you did pre-INSEAD to understand your options.” I found it to be limiting to anchor myself to such precedents. Though, fair warning, the alternative route of figuring which role could use your past experience can be far more labour-intensive!
–Were there any surprises regarding your current employer’s recruiting process?
I found a strong example of incentive alignment in Amazon’s recruiting process. I first connected with an Amazon recruiter in Spain hiring for a different role. What ensued was 2 recruiters in different countries, over the course of a few months, surfacing roles that may be better suited to my profile and expectations despite being outside of the teams they typically hire for. This impressed me and set a high bar on what I know now to be the ‘Ownership’ leadership principle at Amazon which talks of ‘acting on behalf of the entire company, beyond just your own team’.
An unwelcome surprise was that I was asked salary expectations from the get-go. However, this later did help inform the recruiter’s search for roles that did match my expectations.
–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
“Why make Eagles Swim?” I, as many others at the MBA, have a learner mindset, and at the MBA, I was hungry to demystify domains I knew nothing about. While this is, to a large extent, the very purpose of the MBA i.e. to have a good overview of all the things that touch business, I over-indexed on it, for instance, electing to double-down on Data Analytics over negotiation courses. As such, my advice going into the MBA: don’t lose sight of your strengths (I did at some points), grab opportunities to build on and even showcase them. There is a good likelihood that you will walk out of the MBA in a role which uses those strengths. It may help to stay connected to your outside world if that’s where the reminders come from (I was lucky to have my partner with me at INSEAD – we applied to and attended the MBA together!). Hearing accomplished alumni like Kristin Skogen Lund and Sophie Cahen candidly share their personal journeys on this topic at INSEAD was also inspiring for me. Find what works for you!