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2018 MBAs To Watch: Paul Warren, INSEAD



Saturday 14 July 2018, by Jeff Schmitt

Paul Warren

INSEAD

“Product person, designer, creator, and facilitator in love with challenge, adventure, and a lively conversation.”

Age: 29

Hometown: New York, NY

Fun fact about yourself: Riding the initial hype of the AR sensation Pokemon Go, my former co-founder Erik Duindam and I released a guerrilla marketing app that allowed people to share geo-tagged screenshots from the game. In a matter days, we gained millions of downloads and temporarily topped the app store in what I believe was 17 countries around the world.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Columbia University, Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Classics

Where did you work before enrolling in business school?

Unboxd, Co-Founder and CEO

Unboxd was a video technology, media, and artificial intelligence startup focused on e-commerce.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? N/A

Where will you be working after graduation?

Planning to create a new startup based in Europe in the AI or talent space.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: N/A – Our intake (18D) hasn’t had the opportunity to take up leadership roles in clubs as yet, although I plan to.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? N/A

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? It is hard to describe the feeling of launching your first product. It was certainly my proudest moment and, ultimately, a failure.

New entrepreneurs are usually quite attached to their ideas, but experienced hands will tell you the real work is in the execution. The beginning of my entrepreneurial career was an onslaught of activity and information. I not only worked on building a company, but educated myself on product design, market research, management and business strategy. I read books and professional blogs voraciously and learned to establish unique equity agreements, agile business practices, and a lean mindset.

It was a necessary education, but also a demonstration of inherent disadvantages in approaching big problems alone. Realizing my predicament, it was only a couple of months until I had a co-founder who shared the mission and vision. Our launch, nine months after I first quit my day job, is my proudest achievement, not because it was the culmination of a lot of hard work, the congratulations, or coverage by the press, but because it stands as a symbol of embracing my weaknesses and teamwork.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My Uncertainty, Data, and Judgement professor, Theos Evgeniou, has a habit of teaching indelible lessons in a wildly engaging and entertaining fashion – adjectives that I don’t readily associate with a subject like statistics. One didactic method he uses is actively demonstrating our implicit biases – a favorite is overconfidence – using group participation exercises, typically where students have something on the line. Failure and relatability, I find, make lessons last.

It might be a bit indelicate for these purposes, but a quotable phrase from Theos that has had real weight in my experience is, “Nature doesn’t give a sh*t about your equations.”

What was your favorite MBA Course? N/A

Why did you choose this business school? INSEAD was the only business school I applied to. To put it simple, I chose to submit the application and accept the offer for INSEAD’s people, diversity, and rigor.

In a top-tier business school context, I’d argue that nothing is more important than the people. INSEAD is known for building intelligent, interesting, hard-working, and international classes. When speaking to alumni, they talk about the close bonds that were formed in a way that I hadn’t experienced before. The forests of Fontainebleau cater to these lasting connections. If you’re the kind of person interested in an international career and a life story that would make for a great read, I really can’t think of another option.

Secondly, I love working with interesting and challenging people with unique perspectives. Moving forward as a team in this environment teaches you how to be a flexible and effective operator, along with a well-rounded leader and person. The diversity of cultures and personalities at INSEAD is unparalleled – any statistics in this regard don’t do it justice. Having worked in a culturally diverse environment before in the UAE and Azerbaijan, I was familiar with the conflicts this kind mix creates, but even more with the depth of learning and forced growth it brings about.

Finally, the intensity of the program was a large draw. I am an experienced professional with a relative sense of direction. As such, the one year format and academic rigor were very attractive to me. It may be cliché – but for those who thrive more in the work hard, play hard context, this program makes a lot of sense. Given the shorter span, the curriculum itself was also an important factor in my decision. I had heard rave reviews about INSEAD’s core courses, especially in negotiation. Electives focusing on entrepreneurship, fundraising, and working with engineers are also highly relevant to me personally. Moreover, an outsize percentage of INSEAD graduates work in an entrepreneurial capacity and something about the school attracts creators, or converts others to the entrepreneurial mindset while they’re here.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? If you have a story to tell, tell it. Narrative and academic excellence at INSEAD go hand in hand.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Many people characterize INSEAD as a pure consulting school. While it has certainly earned its stripes in this regard and continues to have an incredibly strong preparation and recruitment process for consulting, the same can be said about its pipeline to verticals like investment banking, industry, and technology. This is evidenced not only in the academics and school-driven programming, but also the very active student organizations and clubs. The list of verticals includes names like TMT, Fintech, Retail, Consumer & Luxury Goods, Industry, and Healthcare to name a few. What’s I find more impressive is that the breadth is matched with passion and experience in the students. Diversity at INSEAD is not limited to your country of origin.

What was your biggest regret in business school? N/A

Which MBA classmate do you most admire?Arnaud de Rambures, a student I’m lucky enough to have in my own working group, is a prime example of the potential overlap between professional success and social good. His entrepreneurial career has brought him to Gabon and Rwanda, where he not only created lucrative businesses in agriculture and fishing, but also meaningfully improved the lives of both his employees and the local communities in which he worked. He’s a living example of exactly the kind of impact a business with a soul can have. A talented, humble, and truly decent human being.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? (N/A

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…most likely building a startup or working as a product manager at a scaling tech company.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I’d try to modernize the digital side of the MBA experience. There is an incredible (and at times overwhelming) amount of opportunities, resources, and events to take part in – in truth, I’ve never seen anything like it. The obvious downside is that not only is it impossible to find time for everything, but it can be difficult to identify and prioritize what to do and where to go. I think this is a problem that can be solved.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As the guy who helped them realize, refine, or build on their next great idea in a random, serendipitous conversation.

What is your favorite movie about business? 12 Angry Men: When introducing a dissenting opinion, tread lightly, find an ally, and build consensus. Once you have the majority on your side, apply the pressure.

Silicon Valley (television you should binge): Chaos in a startup is perfectly normal.

What would your theme song be? “How Far I’ll Go” – Auli’i Cravalho (written and produced by Lin-Manuel Miranda)

Favorite vacation spot: Alta, Utah – the greatest snow on earth.

Hobbies?

Exercise:

Lifting and running (NY Marathon 2016).

Design and Art:

Building user interfaces and painting.

Travel and Culture:

Lived and worked in multiple countries (US, UAE, Azerbaijan, Italy, India) and travelled to may many more. I have developed a love affair with languages at varying degrees of competency as well (German, Arabic, Italian, and now French for spoken languages, Latin and Ancient Greek for the older “dead” ones).

Skiing:

NZSIA-Certified ski instructor. Jumped out of a helicopter once or twice to ski fresh powder.

What made Paul such an invaluable addition to the class of 2018?

“The Admissions Committee was impressed by the fact that Paul has been proactive about seeking international exposure and is a risk taker. He for example chose to work on setting up a tech incubator in Azerbaijan. Paul also completed the New York marathon in 2016.”

 

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