'Before I took the MBA, my experience was exclusively on the trading side of banking. I had been a derivatives trader in Australia for around six years. I have an honours degree in economics from the University of Sydney.
I was not 100% focused on investment banking when I began at Insead, but I saw the MBA as a means of broadening my skills base.
Traders have very specialised skills that are not necessarily very transferable. This can pose particular problems if you decide you want to change direction in your career.
For me, the MBA wasn't only a means of gaining more general skills, and ultimately of shifting into investment banking from the trading floor - it was also a route to working in Europe. Insead is a great platform from which to launch a European career I'm sure that I would have found the move from Australia, coupled with a career change, close to impossible without it.
Studying for an MBA is very stimulating and testing. The Insead MBA course lasts for one year. The year is divided into five periods and you have very tough exams at the end of each one.
Grades are not assigned on an absolute basis, but relative to the performance of others in the class. This can be quite stressful. You could find yourself scoring well on exams yet receiving a failing grade for a particular subject if others performed a lot better. If you do get into grade trouble you have to retake subjects or, in some cases, extend the MBA for three to six months. People do fail.
During the course, students have an opportunity to focus on areas that interest them. I made an effort not to become too specialised in finance. Less than a third of the electives that I chose were finance- based. Others were varied, and included business strategies for Asia-Pacific and negotiation analysis and softer subjects such as the evolutionary roots of organisational behaviour.
There is much more to an MBA than the coursework. I learned a tremendous amount, but in retrospect I think that at most only 50% of the benefit I came away with was due to the formal aspects of the course. The other 50% was due to the whole experience.
What I'll remember most in the longer term are the people I met, the friends I made and the experiences I had, and especially the rugby that I played. Many of the people I met were unusual and interesting, including a guy who had spent the previous 10 years on horseback in Africa as an officer in the French Foreign Legion.
Choosing to do an MBA can appear a big commitment, in terms of both fees and the opportunity cost of lost earnings, but it's worth it. I received a sign-on bonus that covered the cost of my tuition, and I also had a chance to work during the summer break, which I spent trading at Deutsche Bank. Ultimately though, the MBA has enabled me to move away from trading.
Since joining CSFB I have spent 12 months in technology corporate finance, working most recently on the IPO of Gemplus. I now work exclusively with private companies, raising their second and third rounds of funding.'