54 years with INSEAD

Sven Kado MBA’72 stepped down last month after four dynamic and fruitful years as President of the INSEAD Alumni Association (IAA). We asked him to share his memories – and his hopes.

Sven KadoWhat is your very first memory of INSEAD?
My first encounter with INSEAD was in 1961, when I briefly attended the Annexe Internationale du Lycée de Fontainebleau. A few years later, at the University of Cologne, I listened to an inspiring presentation by an alumnus and in 1971 I returned to Fontainebleau as a student of INSEAD.

How did it feel to be at INSEAD in 1971?
Before going to INSEAD, I always thought that I was somewhat “special”, coming from a North Eastern European family where everybody spoke at least three languages – and having gone to school in three countries, Germany, the USA and France. At INSEAD, suddenly everybody was “special” and the entire institution was very special indeed! We were working in the heart of Europe on – then often US! – “real-life” business case studies in purposely heterogeneous, diverse groups, which was in stark contrast to the European academic world of the time. Simplifying issues, focusing on key points and building bridges were skills I learnt in Fontainebleau and have used throughout my life.

When did you first get involved with the IAA? And how did your involvement grow?
I joined the UK National Alumni Association (NAA) in 1972 – and still have friends from my wonderful time in London. Later, I took on various roles in the German NAA and started fundraising there for the INSEAD Alumni Fund, which had just been created by the IAA in 1976. Later, in 1986, I became a member of INSEAD’s International Council and thus kept up with new developments at the School, including the expansion to Asia. I am happy to say that in 2007 my class was the first to celebrate a reunion (35 years after) in Singapore.

Tell us what’s so special about the IAA!
As in many other areas, INSEAD is also different from other schools in the way its alumni are organised. The IAA was founded by alumni themselves in 1961 and has remained independent and self-financed. From the outset the mission was simple: let’s stay in touch, let’s extend the great educational experience we had on campus to the experience of a lifetime with friendships bridging nations and generations – with intellectual enrichment, professional networking and, last but not least, simple joie de vivre. Together, we are stronger for us.

How exactly does the IAA work with the NAAs and the School?
Today we have a unique, global grassroots network with 48 NAAs, 5 NACs (National Alumni Clubs) and 6 Global Clubs. The NAAs serve the alumni in their countries and the IAA serves the NAAs by organising two meetings a year mainly for the exchange of best practices. The IAA also functions as an independent, energetic catalyst for alumni interests in a productive partnership with the School – both via the Partnership Board and the main INSEAD Board (including in my tenure its Dean Search and Chairman Search Committees). Thus the IAA provides essential “checks and balances”, acting for all alumni in a way that no single NAA could have achieved. And our “institutional anchor” at INSEAD is a strong, committed and highly professional Alumni Relations Office (ARO), to which we are immensely grateful.

What are you most proud of in your time as President?
I am leaving the Presidency not only with fond memories but also with the satisfaction that the alumni–School relationship is substantially strengthened. We now have MyINSEAD, the new online system created for the alumni community, which has replaced iConnect and is linked to other platforms like LinkedIn. It will greatly improve the accuracy and currency of the central alumni database and equip the NAAs with the modern tools they need for their operations. Search functions for alumni profiles, INSEAD library resources, job postings and events will all be found at MyINSEAD. In addition Global INSEAD Day has become a fixture in our events calendar every 12 September, the day INSEAD was founded. It’s not only great fun but also enhances the INSEAD brand. As I say, together we are stronger, not only for us, the alumni, but also for the School.

What other recent developments are worthy of note?
INSEAD Alumni Forums in the Americas, Europe and Asia now take place regularly in partnership with the school. Last year it was the turn of San Francisco, Cascais/Lisbon and Sydney. This year it’s Washington D.C., Stresa/Milan and Tokyo. The IAA has also initiated important developments in Lifelong Learning and Career Services, where the School has made and continues to make substantial investments.

In your opinion, what is the key to the success of the IAA?
This is clearly the engagement of our volunteers whom I would like to thank again today! Then it is regular communication, the lifeblood of our bonding with each other and with the School. One example is our new alumni magazine, Salamander, which you’re reading right now and this also brings me to my last initiative as President of the IAA: the launch of a Global Visibility Campaign, strengthening the INSEAD brand through a series of NAA speaker events that showcase successful alumni. In addition to our own alumni we hope to invite the press, and potential future MBA applicants. There can be no better, more inspirational or more aspirational testimonial for the excellent education at INSEAD than the continued professional success of our alumni. As our Dean, Ilian Mihov said “ALUMNI = BRAND”!

And what do you consider to be the key to INSEAD’s future success?
Fundraising will be a strategic challenge going forward. As I said, the IAA started the IAF in 1976. Collaboration has been effective ever since – and, I am glad to say, has been strengthened during my tenure. Today, we start from a good base. INSEAD is in great shape and the alumni are committed to contributing more to its future success as the only fully independent “Business School for the World” in an increasingly competitive environment.

Why is it so important for alumni to support INSEAD, when there are so many other worthy causes?
“Business is a force for good.” This is the powerful and convincing mantra of our Dean, Ilian Mihov. In other words, together we are stronger, not only for us, the alumni and for our School but also for a better world – through better business education – and we want our beloved school INSEAD to stay at the forefront of delivering such education!

Who will take over at the helm of the IAA?
At the Annual General Meeting on 24 May this year, Sadia Khan MBA’95D, was elected as my successor. Sadia was a member of my Executive Committee and contributed strongly to the success of our team. She will make an excellent President.

And what’s next for you? How will you use your newfound spare time?
I am looking forward to spending more time with my family, travelling and on my other hobbies, such as hunting (which I totally abandoned) and skiing, but – after 54 years! – I am glad to continue supporting INSEAD as a member of its Advisory Council.

In the next issue we meet new IAA President, Sadia Khan, and hear about how she plans to build on Sven’s achievements.

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