My colleagues told me I’d changed after each module.
Azhar Kuzutbayeva

Azhar Kuzutbayeva

Azhar Kuzutbayeva
Nationality: Kazakhstani Year Graduated: 2012 Current Role: Senior Consultant, Reed Smith LLP

What is your career story so far?

It’s slightly unusual! I’m a lawyer by training, but worked for the Kazakhstan government for 10 years. Then I moved into investment banking, before spending the last three years as an in-house lawyer. I thought for a long time about doing an EMBA, as I didn’t have enough academic, non-empirical knowledge of business. But work was so intense that I only got around to it a couple of years ago.

Why did you choose INSEAD?

I thought the diversity matched my interesting public-private, international background. I also wanted to get out of London for my EMBA and meet people who weren’t working in the financial sector. And INSEAD seemed to be full of different people from different sectors and nationalities. In addition, the structure of the INSEAD programme appealed to me. The longer modules were a chance to get really immersed in every subject.

Were there any surprises when you started the programme?

The emphasis on leadership was even greater than I’d thought. That was a real adventure for me personally. It helped me to understand what I wanted, as well as allowing me to analyse my mistakes. I was in a great group of people for the Leadership Development Programme too, which really helped.

Were there any other highlights of the programme – any favourite classes?

They were all my favourites! I particularly appreciated the economics and finance, because I lacked understanding in those subjects. Marketing was an eye-opener too: it completely changed my approach. Then there were the Key Management Challenges relating to entrepreneurship and creativity. I don’t think there was a single course that I didn’t rate highly.

In that case, what is your favourite memory of the programme?

It has to be graduation. You feel you’ve achieved so much after such an intense programme. And all the different sections get together in Singapore, so it feels like one big family. It was great to do the simulation in the graduation session as well. You get to apply all the knowledge you’ve acquired over the programme in the context of a production company. It’s fascinating and very useful.

What did you do for your final project?

I worked with some classmates on a feasibility study for a wind-energy company to invest in Kazakhstan.

Will you go back for the electives this year, now that you’ve graduated?

Almost certainly. One of the electives I most wanted to do was Blue Ocean Strategy, but it was oversubscribed, so I’d like to go back and do it this year. The way it works is that a few seats in each elective are reserved for previous classes, with priority going to the last class that graduated so now is my chance.

What kind of INSEAD network do you have?

I exchange information with classmates regularly. There are four of us in London and we stay in touch. And I went to Paris last week to get together with some more people from the class. I’ve also just joined the National Alumni Association, which organises a lot of events in London.

Has the GEMBA had an impact on the way you work?

Yes – from the very beginning it had an impact. My colleagues told me I’d changed each time I came back from INSEAD. But that was the idea: to shake myself up a bit!