By Andrea Orlando
It all started with beer. Not a beer, but beer. Beer as in beer tasting. But I need to rewind a bit, before we get to that magical hop-based infusion that warms up blood, freshens palates and enlightens people’s minds so much that it changes their professional life.
Global Executive MBA
I graduated from the INSEAD GEMBA programme in Singapore in December ’16. Amazing journey: determination, ambition, curiosity… a 14-month ride of fun and challenges in unique company; where there was discouragement, together we found inspiration; where there was diversity, we found strength; and where there was incomprehension, we bridged it with a smile until we all succeeded.
Networking! Networking! Networking!
After graduation, I returned to Copenhagen, where I lived and worked in strategy for the automotive industry and I started doing what INSEAD taught us to do best: networking! Truth be told, I don’t know what I was looking for. A job? Friends? Advice? Certainly inspiration! Fairs, conferences, workshops, industry events – wherever there was a chance to meet, mingle, share professional experience, I wanted to be there. Then one day I thought: “Why don’t I host an event myself instead of chasing people all over?” And here, I have the pleasure of introducing the deus ex machina of this story: beer. It happens that I have a small hobby of brewing beer. Nothing major, in fact: a few litres for self-consumption (or for the occasional fishing for compliments exercise when invited to friends’ homes for dinner).
It was early January and my latest batch of Imperial Stout had just peaked and there was a lot to toast – my graduation, the New Year, my soon-to-be-born first child – and what better company than the INSEAD alumni community I had recently joined? So, I decided to host a beer-tasting gathering at my apartment for INSEAD alumni. I reached out, sending a few invitations to this group of (almost) strangers to my home. When people showed up, it was immediately “hygge” (Danish for cosy). Do you know that feeling when you invite home people you don’t know or barely know and you feel an immediate connection and you understand each other and you can talk and always find conversation interesting and there are no awkward silences? Yes, that’s it and although I am sure it must also have a scientific name, I call it “the INSEAD feeling”. So, we are fraternising in my apartment, talking about strategy and French cuisine, when half-way through the evening a young gentleman shows up.
His name is Victor and he attended YMP at INSEAD in ’02. Victor is not huge, yet he has the posture of a giant. He stands five foot nine and has a fair complexion, short hair, rosy cheeks. His neck is strong, his combative jaw makes him look like Georges Danton in one of those paintings we saw while studying the French Revolution at school. With large shoulders and spinning-instructor legs, he walks with a buoyant lightness, displacing air with his body and his personality and his observant, smiling, dark-blue eyes dart with amusement around the room.
He introduces himself and then: “I have my own company, it is called ActionPlanner.” He says, “We have created a business execution software that helps companies following up on strategic initiatives.”
“Here is something I can introduce to my boss,” I thought, “that could actually help us work in a different way.” Victor continues and tells me about his vision of successful humans at work, that his aim is to create the necessary transparency for business leaders to execute and that with this revolutionary product he might just have scratched the surface of what he thinks is a new unexplored domain that he calls execution excellence.
I was impressed: the world’s first cloud-based tool for execution management. So, over the weeks that followed our meeting Victor and I decided to explore together how could we make this work.
And so it happened
Victor and I started meeting up to prepare for introducing ActionPlanner to my boss. What happened next was like a snowball on free fall that, while descending, gains speed and mass. It was unstoppable. The more we met, the more we shared about each other, and the more we shared the more we thought about working together. “I am looking for a partner, somebody who could talk at CxO level and help me developing the company further,” he said. “I am looking for a new professional experience,” I replied, “I want to do something important with my life and want to feel part of something meaningful and ActionPlanner seems exactly what I have been waiting for.” It didn’t take long for me to leave my job and partner up with Victor and since October, I have been a partner with responsibility for sales and business development at ActionPlanner, and I don’t think I have ever been prouder in my professional life.
The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that this could not be more INSEADesque. Two alumni, who think alike, meet at a networking event, share their common interest for business execution and partner up for a journey in the tech world.
What comes next?
What does the future hold for us? I do not know; I am not in the business of predicting the future. I would like to say that I do not care, but I guess I haven’t the maturity or the luxury to say that either. So how do I feel? I feel I am bound for a ride that will make me a better professional ready to see the world in a new light.
“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time”
(T. S. Eliot)
And this is how I feel about it.
Link to online article.