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INSEAD Winning Sample Essays – 1
INSEAD Motivation Essay 1: Give a candid description of yourself (who are you as a person), stressing the personal characteristics you feel to be your strengths and weaknesses and the main factors which have influenced your personal development, giving examples when necessary. (600 words max.)
Mountains are my one true love. They have helped me come to terms with who I am, making me face my biggest fears and helping me acknowledge latent strengths.
I have found that to reach every summit be it on a mountain or in life, I pursue my goal with an unflinching focus on the next step. As a student, having overcome a paralyzing fear of failure, I learnt early on that grit is as important as ability. Today, I rarely get overawed by the magnitude of the challenge because I keep my attention fixed on the immediate goal.
Whether it was crossing the Rupin Pass at a height of 15500 ft and an incline of 60 degrees or successfully handling a complex project such as BP’s Shah Deniz where the slightest error could have had disastrous consequences, my unwavering focus has always been my forte.
Another strength that has served me well is my ability to solve critical problems while maintaining my composure. When I was trekking solo across the Gadsar Pass I was caught in a sudden snowstorm at 13500 feet. I couldn’t stay outside in the cold risking hypothermia but I couldn’t move blindly either. So I trusted my ears and ran down towards the river in the hope that I would find someone camping near it. An hour later, I noticed someone warming his hands by a fire. My ability to stay calm in a crisis literally saved my life that day but it has also been my saviour in a number of different albeit less critical situations be it leading unpredictable projects, tackling technology failures or working through an unsavoury team dynamic.
Mountains have helped me come face to face with my weaknesses and shown me the path to overcome them. Growing up in a family in which money always fell short of aspirations, economic security subconsciously became a major factor in my decisions. Living in the mountains made me realize that money is similar to the resources in a trekking bag. It is good to have them but the more you carry, the heavier the bag gets and the more onerous the summit climb becomes. I figured out that the true summit can only be excellence, not security. It is in pursuit of this excellence that I jumped at the chance to move to an international work location and that I quit a lucrative job to build a social enterprise.
I have also realized that my idealistic approach to life sometimes comes in the way of adopting a more pragmatic middle path. While trekking on the frozen Zanskar River in Ladakh, the team consensus was that everyone should wear crampons as the entire trek would be on ice. Though I acceded to the team’s opinion, I believed this would dilute the unique challenge of the trek. It was only later I realised that had I held out, I might have risked injuries to those who were equally enthusiastic but perhaps less adept at trekking. Since then, when faced with confrontation, I make a conscious effort to set aside my own beliefs for a little while and walk in the shoes of the other person, be it at work or in my personal life.
I cannot imagine a better way of developing holistically than spending a year at INSEAD. The diversity of culture and backgrounds at INSEAD will help me understand different perspectives much better and reconcile conflicting interests, including my own. Living and working closely with people who exemplify excellence will only strengthen my resolve to pursue it in every sphere of life.
INSEAD Motivation Essay 2: Describe the achievement of which you are most proud and explain why. In addition, describe a situation where you failed. How did these experiences impact your relationships with others? Comment on what you learned. (400 words max.)
To paraphrase Tolstoy, all success is similar, but each failure shapes life in its own unique way. One such failure which left an indelible mark on my personality occurred after high school when I failed to qualify Indian Institute of Technology Entrance Examination. I decided to take the exam for a second time because I felt that it was my inability to tackle pressure that had led to my failure and not a lack of aptitude or diligence.
Over time, I realised that my success would mean nothing if it was driven by my fear of failure. Upon qualifying the exam, I wanted to feel the ecstasy of accomplishment not the relief of having avoided failure.
This time around I decided to focus on analyzing and solving the questions rather than worrying about the ultimate consequence. I ended up qualifying the examination. The failure helped more in shaping my personality than if I had succeeded the first time. The unstinting support of my family in that one otherwise lonely year improved the very fundamentals of my relationship with them. This experience enabled me to develop a sense of equanimity that has since become an enduring strength.
In 2012, Halliburton started a low cost project to drill 100 wells on 5 rigs. The estimated revenue from operations was relatively low at about $6M annually but the growth potential of the operation was huge. While most of my peers were intimidated by the high risk nature of the project, I was able to focus more on the learning opportunities it presented. I stepped up and asked to be made the Focal point LWD Field Engineer which gave me control of the entire operation. The pressure involved was immense as even slightly sub optimal results would cause a huge dent in revenues. At the end of the year, the Non productive time (NPT) was less than 0.5% which was a Halliburton Asia Pacific record. Despite my limited years of experience I was now seen by my peers and superiors as a natural leader and this in turn gave me the confidence to take even bigger steps in my career. Till today, it is the achievement I am proudest of because it became possible only because I overcame my fear of failure all those years ago, instead of allowing it to overcome me.
INSEAD Motivation Essay 3: Tell us about an experience where you were significantly impacted by cultural diversity, in a positive or negative way. (300 words max.)
Last year, I went on a 5 weeks’ backpacking trip across what is arguably the most neglected part of India, the north eastern states. 70% of the population in these seven states is tribal, with resemblance to mainland Indian, Mongolian, Tibetan and Austro-Asiatic cultures. The trip allowed me to experience the culture of these indigenous tribes from close quarters.
I saw large families living inside a one room house with no lavatory. Homes where the nearest bazaar was a 6 hour mountain hike away. Beautiful women of the Apatani tribe who were made to tattoo their faces to escape the wrath of oppressors who had molested them for years.
I also noticed that centuries of deprivation had not defeated these people but had taught them to channel their anger towards building self sufficient lifestyles. If villages which have the highest rainfall in the world had no iron to build bridges, the villagers built bridges with the roots of trees. If there were no pesticides to protect their paddy crops, they learnt to do pisciculture which not only protected their crops but also provided an additional source of food and income.
Despite the sheer strain of eking out a living, most villagers let me into their homes, their lives and their beautiful mountains without once wondering if they would reap any financial benefit from it.
This experience ended up challenging my entire perspective on top down development approaches. I now understand that the quality of lives can only be improved if there is a better understanding of how good people’s lives already are. I therefore decided to take a break from my job and work in the breathtakingly complex development space in India to help those who are different from me, and enrich myself immeasurably in the process.
INSEAD Motivation Essay 4: Describe all types of extra-professional activities in which you have been or are still involved for a significant amount of time (clubs, sports, music, arts, politics, etc). How are you enriched by these activities? (300 words max.)
As a Mechanical Engineer, building a car from scratch was a long cherished dream. In college, I co-founded the MECHISMU group in which I led a team of 15 members to design and fabricate an All-Terrain Vehicle to participate in BAJA SAE India competition. As the captain, I had to not only raise sponsorships but also ensure that there was a synergy between available resources and performance optimization.
Leading a team in which everyone (including me) was a novice and going through several technical, financial and administrative hurdles to achieve something truly path-breaking taught me the nuances of both leadership and teamwork. The icing on the cake was that we reached second place in the competition. In the subsequent years, I have continued to mentor future teams, providing technical expertise and heading the team selection.
Another love that has enriched me over the years is debating. Picking up a subject and then bringing it down to arguments, rehashing those arguments repeatedly, the thrill of discovering some aspect of the issue you had missed completely, have helped mould my thoughts with crystal clarity. Although I no longer debate competitively, informal discussions continue to keep the debater within me alive.
One of my earliest childhood memories is running to the Badminton court before any of the adults noticed my fractured hand! I went on to play State level Badminton for Uttar Pradesh, India. In college, as the badminton captain, seeing the dismal condition of the sport, I ensured that two new indoor courts were built and that tournaments became a regular fixture. My love for sports constantly pushes me to bring that level of passion into my everyday life. That said one true sporting dream I have is to watch Liverpool play at Anfield. I’m getting goose bumps just writing about it!
INSEAD Job description Essay 1: Briefly summarise your current (or most recent) job, including the nature of work, major responsibilities, and where relevant, employees under your supervision, size of budget,clients/products and results achieved. What would be your next step in terms of position if you were to remain in the same company? (350 words max.)
For close to five years, I worked for Halliburton in India and Azerbaijan as a Lead Field LWD (Logging while Drilling) Engineer. I reached the highest position in my field, that of General LWD Engineer, after 3 years of work experience, compared to an industry average of about 7 years.
I supervised the LWD operations and managed highly sophisticated LWD technology which is used to drill an oil/gas well and evaluate the formation realtime while the well is being drilled. I was centrally accountable for the success or failure of the entire LWD operation. If any failure /service interrupt occurred, I was required to troubleshoot and find the best possible solution, under severe time constraints. I regularly supervised a team of 5 engineers, and have led teams of as many as 20 engineers in the past.
During my tenure in Azerbaijan, I led challenging operations on 5 rigs, each of which had a drilling budget of $200M over 180 days. To improve LWD efficiency, I successfully coordinated a team of 5 engineers which performed first field trials of High Data Rate Negative Pulser, increasing Drilling Rate by 25%, saving $10M for BP. When BP was unable to get Formation Pressure of Shah Deniz, I led the team that successfully performed the first field trial of a new sensor and Halliburton earned record revenues of almost $0.5M in one day. For this I was awarded the prestigious Halliburton Applause award. My award winning recommendation to BP to include the Best Practices in the Drilling Work Instructions reduced the Non Productive Time by over 25%, saving around $40M.
Had I continued at Halliburton, I would have moved to the role of Drilling Engineer in Halliburton Consulting. I would have leveraged my LWD experience to work on setting up drilling projects from scratch. Although it was the next step towards my long term goal of being in the senior management of an Exploration and Production major, an MBA at this juncture will both broaden my outlook and expand my skill set, enabling me to expedite the path to my goal.
INSEAD Job description Essay 2: Please give a full description of your career since graduating from university. It should be written as if you were talking to someone at a social gathering detailing your career path with the rationale behind your choices. Discuss your short and long term career aspirations. (350 words max.)
After engineering, I wanted to do something which would be both challenging and exciting. Halliburton provided the perfect opportunity to use my engineering knowledge at a role which was more of an adventure than a job.
For me, the step from being a trainee to shift supervisor was probably the toughest. Working in scorching heat for 14 hours a day in the middle of the sea under high pressure conditions helped me adapt quickly to the rigors of the job. Simultaneously I realized that if I continued to excel, I would have an array of unbridled opportunities in this field.
My first promotion gave me the confidence to keep believing in my abilities. When an opportunity came up to lead a team of 20 engineers for an Essar Energy project, I grabbed it with both hands. I truly thrived in this managerial role, handling big teams and leading diverse functions.
Though well placed in Halliburton India by that point, I decided to take a risk and move to an international location. Azerbaijan is a leading business location for Halliburton and I knew that working with the best engineers and the unparalleled technology would be an invaluable addition to my career. At Azerbaijan, I observed a more horizontal work structure which really allowed me to contribute better to the overall strategic goals of the projects I worked on. This made me realise that I wanted to move from the technical side of things to a more integrated managerial role in the energy sector.
After graduating from INSEAD, I want to work in the oil and gas practice of an MBB firm, specialising in upstream operations. I want to leverage my experience of project execution at Halliburton to help deliver bottom up strategic solutions. This experience will also help me better understand operations in oil companies from a strategic and economic perspective. This will, I believe, give a fillip to my long term goal of being part of the senior management at one of the world’s leading Oil E&P companies such as Shell, Exxon Mobil or Chevron.
INSEAD Job description Essay 3 (Optional): If you are currently not working or if you plan to leave your current employer more than 2 months before the programme starts, please explain your activities and occupations between leaving your job and the start of the programme.
The nature of my job in Halliburton was such that every alternate month was off. Being an avid traveller, I used this time to travel across some of the most beautiful yet backward regions of India- Ladakh, Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh etc. This made me realise two important things. First, given the sheer size and complexity of problems in India, the development space is possibly at its most exciting. Second, I wanted to develop a broader perspective on identifying problems, and creating and managing solutions.
Thus in March 2015, I decided to take a break from my work in Halliburton. From late April 2015, I have decided to work at an organisation called Pratham, India’s largest non profit in the field of education and skill development. I will be working with them in the role of a Social Enterprise Lead, in which I will be responsible for the scale up of Pratham’s financially self- sustainable models of vocational training and skill development. I will be leading a team of 25 people to incubate a start up which will skill beneficiaries to create centres of rural tourism near places like Khajuraho and Udaipur. I am also going to be working as part of another team which aims at setting up garages and training unemployed youths to become skilled mechanics, thus leveraging my education and interest in the automotive sector.
Setting up an enterprise from scratch, negotiating with a wide range of stakeholders and leading a diverse team will help me gain not only entrepreneurial experience but also an insight into strategy and project management that will enable me to take more away from my MBA. The grass root experience combined with the fact that I will be directly working with stalwarts in education such as the CEO of Pratham, Dr. Madhav Chavan, will give me an in depth perspective on the social and economic fabric of India. I believe this will stand me in very good stead many years from now when my managerial decisions will impact the society in which they are made.
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INSEAD Winning Sample Essays – 2
INSEAD Motivation Essay 1: Give a candid description of yourself (who are you as a person) stressing the personal characteristics you feel to be your strengths and weaknesses and the main factors which have influenced your personal development, giving examples when necessary. (600 words max.)
At the age of eleven my mother enrolled me in an English language immersion school, where for five days a week I attempted to divulge my thoughts in a language, as distant to my own as the nearest country where it was spoken. I didn’t understand the need to memorize new words or why an English-language magazine replaced my favorite comics. However, with my trademark tenacity, I translated articles, competed with friends in vocabulary quizzes, and put together my first independent phrases, developing skills that would become crucial to success later in life. Though shy at the time, I pushed my timidity aside during after-school conversation classes with my Australian tutor Mike, the first foreigner I had met. As my English improved, we discussed differences between Australia and Poland, his favorite local dishes and my wanderlust to one day visit and ski in his country.
A string of instructors followed –Bob, who found a wife in Poland and invited my entire high school class to his wedding, Mr. Jones, a pastor from Alabama who moved with his wife and three children and spoke about the Bible, and Holly, the first “hippie” professor at my rather conservative high school. Along with improving English, I learnt to communicate effectively with people from backgrounds different than my own and appreciate the new perspectives they brought into my life. Today, I enjoy working in intercultural teams and applying my cultural sensibility to challenges that sometimes arise with differing perspectives. This helps me be a better leader and team player and gains the respect of colleagues and clients alike.
I let passion and intellectual curiosity lead all my personal and professional pursuits. During a trip to France I indulged in my favorite travel pastime – a cooking class. After dutifully researching my options I enrolled in a French speaking class. Undeterred by a lack of fluency (having only studied French for 3 months at the time) and armed with friendliness and a big smile – two traits that always seem to work – I joined my French cohorts for an evening of culinary (and linguistic) adventure. I observed in silence, trying to emulate the chef’s vocabulary but often needing to bridge my lack of fluency with body language and improvisation. The experience served as motivation to further pursue French by way of a private teacher and immersion-study in France; I can’t wait to return to France and test my fluency in Chef’s kitchen.
The same creativity I found in the kitchen also helps me as a business consultant. Although I am well versed in the financial industry, the diversity of clients I work with requires that I apply creativity to frame complex problems, find pragmatic solutions and drive engagements to a successful finish that exceeds client expectations.
Because my hobbies are often individual in nature, I had to rely solely on my own persistence, even stubbornness, to achieve results. Maintaining a strong opinion was paramount to my success in sales and trading where I had to make split-second decisions, often going against general consensus or market trends. But after transitioning into business consulting, I realized that obstinacy could be a weakness that stalls progress and limits consensus driven solutions. Because my next career steps will increasingly lead me towards management and executive functions, I have to be prepared to uphold the right balance between standing my ground and relying on consensus driven decisions, a skill I hope to further cultivate through my INSEAD experience.
INSEAD Motivation Essay 1: Give a candid description of yourself (who are you as a person) stressing the personal characteristics you feel to be your strengths and weaknesses and the main factors which have influenced your personal development, giving examples when necessary. (600 words max.)
Being a daughter of two politicians, I once accompanied my father to the State of the Nation Address delivered by President Zuma in Parliament. When the media approached my father for a comment, he was firm and honest in his response, acknowledging progress made but highlighting the president’s failure to address unemployment. From my father’s example, I learnt how to stand up for what I believe yet also to be attentive to others’ opinions. In one instance, I motivated that my employee be promoted, listened to the challenge from other managers and in rebuttal, shared practical examples of his excellent performance to reach consensus.
I grew immensely when I moved from the small town where I grew up to the bustling city of Johannesburg to study actuarial science. I was intrigued by the idea of building predictive models after an actuary visited my school to talk about the profession, offering bursaries and I promised to also give back. Determined to empower others, while chairing the university Business Society I initiated an entrepreneurship forum for students to share their innovative business ideas. The number of students participating doubled to 300 in a year, and I was delighted when many opened small businesses on campus.
I always wanted to work in a cross-cultural environment and immerse myself in diverse ethnicity. When I relocated to the Old Mutual UK office I realized that the local organisational structure was less hierarchical. As a result, decisions were made faster and change, including products I re-priced, was quickly implemented. I adjusted by proactively engaging on my product ideas to influence change instead of continuously receiving change. This experience gave me insights into change management in an international setting, allowed me to bridge cultural differences and sparked a passion to make a global impact.
During yoga practice I constantly aspired to reach the perfect poses. I was introduced to yoga during a visit to India, when I admired the serenity that surrounded local practitioners. Over time I realized that my relentless aspiration for perfectionism was making it more difficult for me to compromise and settle. I consulted with my yoga teacher who helped me put things into perspective and concentrate on the present. This viewpoint transferred to work, where I was easier on myself when standardizing the profit templates across countries, and accepted that this could not be achieved perfectly given different systems used to generate data.
Passionate to help others, I volunteered in a civil society organisation and launched 15 food gardens, creating incomes for 150 previously unemployed people. Even though I was operating at full capacity, I felt obligated to help another volunteer in distress to source sprinklers for the gardens, and I obtained insufficient seeds to grow the vegetables, delaying the end product. I learnt that even though I constantly strive to please others, I need to define clear boundaries to be effective. For example, during our valuation when deadlines are tight, I politely declined to proof-read a colleague’s report which was a good decision as we met deadlines in the nick of time.
My diverse experiences have shaped my character and aspirations, while my determination to build on my strengths and address my weaknesses serves as a ground for becoming a global leader.
INSEAD Motivation Essay 2: Describe all types of extra-professional activities in which you have been or are still involved for a significant amount of time (clubs, sports, music, arts, politics, etc). How are you enriched by these activities? (approximately 300 words)
Since I was eight years old, basketball has been one of my biggest passions and my most time-consuming hobby. As a teen, I was the captain of a championship-winning basketball team. Playing a competitive group sport has been one of the most enriching experiences in my life.
Today, sports are still a big part of my life. I play basketball twice a week, and have grown passionate about extreme sports. I will definitely promote a snowboarding or ski-trip for my classmates.
One year after I finished my military service, my father closed our successful family jewellery business to become a winemaker, purchasing land and planting a modest vineyard. Spending many weekends picking grapes, tilling the soil, and planting seeds, I enjoyed helping this small endeavour evolve into a recognised, award-winning winery that produces over 10,000 bottles annually. Wine has since become a great hobby for me, and my father’s success inspired me to establish my own wine-refrigerator e-commerce store.
I would love to share my wine experiences and knowledge with my classmates and host a visit to my family’s winery during the Start-Up Nation visit. I’d also like to reopen and manage INSEAD’s wine club, bringing people who are passionate about wine, together, in the country that produces the world’s greatest wine.
During university, looking for a way to contribute within the community, I became a volunteer tutor for students with learning disorders, and it became one of most fulfilling experiences. I have also volunteered for the last 3 years at a non-profit organization, today by providing them with professional services.
Finally, I love to travel, especially with my wife. We love to take spontaneous trips abroad, as well as to hike the offbeat trails of Israel, with our dog alongside us.
INSEAD Motivation Essay 3: Describe a situation taken from your personal or professional life where you failed. Discuss what you learned. (400 words maximum)
I was assigned the lead role for our company’s Singapore IT Department stress management event in 2010 to help colleagues identify and address early signs of stress.
One of my colleagues in another department recommended a trainer who conducted a well received workshop in her department. I went to the trainer’s website and found a long list of amazing titles, including certified therapist and advanced corporate trainer. Impressed, I met up with her to discuss the training objective and review the presentation package. I decided to engage her, after discussing with my team members. Then, I proceeded to coordinate my team members’ efforts to book the venues, cater refreshment, and design advertising communication to attract our colleagues.
Around 130 participants attended this event, which seemed to be engaging and interesting. However, I was surprised and upset when the feedback revealed an average overall satisfaction of only 3 out of 5. Some attendees felt the trainer focused too little on identifying and coping with stress, while others thought she was not knowledgeable enough.
Looking deeper into why the event was unsuccessful, I realized I didn’t study the needs of the participants, especially ignoring the fact that some senior colleagues may have attended similar workshops previously. I wrongly assumed that what I consider useful would be pertinent for all. I had to admit I was overly fascinated by the speaker’s titles when I should have looked for her relevant experience. Finally, I realized I gave the speaker too much control over the presentation, when I should have been more specific about my audience’s needs.
I continued to volunteer for event committees to gain experience and lent my hand for events chaired by my colleagues. I also carefully reviewed feedback and reflected after each event.
This year, I volunteered to chair a “new hires” event for the Women’s Interest Network at work. I sent out a survey to all the new hires to gather questions they had about career progression. I chose senior management panelists and discussion topics based on the most popular questions submitted, in consultation with the HR department.
More than 50 new hires attended this event. As the emcee, I encouraged audience to ask questions and facilitated discussion between the panelists and audience. This time, the average satisfaction rate was 4.5 out of 5, and I was asked to organize additional events in the future.
INSEAD Motivation Essay 4: Describe a situation taken from school, business, civil or military life, where you did not meet your personal objectives, and discuss briefly the effect.
I recently failed in leading negotiations to sell my company’s Enterprise Division to one of the largest industrial groups in my country. This failure directly resulted in the loss of 20 people’s jobs.
During the initial meeting between the parties, we concluded the price and date of transfer. The CEOs left the room and left it up to us, the lawyers, to settle the details.
Throughout the meeting, a rivalry emerged between the legal parties. The situation eventually turned into personal animosity, to a point where the group’s CEO requested that we remove our external counsel. What made the situation even harder was the rising tension amongst the division’s employees. Productivity and morale dropped with rumors of a buy-out circulating.
After a month of discussions, the deal fell through. Twenty of the forty division’s employees were fired immediately with the rest scheduled to be fired within the upcoming weeks.
We failed by feeding off each other’s suspicions leading to spiraling negative dynamics. Most importantly, I failed to consider the extent to which my actions affected the division’s employees. Once the deal became too complex to be executed, I should have gone back to the drawing board or defused the situation by restraining, or even replacing our external counsel.
With this failure resonating in my mind, I have actually been given a second chance with an additional offer from a new party. This time around I’m determined not to allow personal rivalry get in the way of the company’s best interests. I constantly think about the job security of the remaining twenty employees, who have been with the company for over 15 years, people with families, who will have difficulties in finding new jobs.