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.