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Nida Januskis - Associate Dean of Advancement at INSEAD & WIL Board Member

23 Feb 2024 11:39 | Deleted user

Meet Nida Januskis, Associate Dean of Advancement at INSEAD and a Board Member at WIL Europe and RefuSHE. In this interview, she sheds light on the positive social impact of the organisations she's involved in, navigating the intense Executive MBA programme alongside her Dean position, and offers valuable insights into balancing professional and personal commitments.

Interviewed by Anastasiia Hresko

Let’s start by getting a deeper insight into your current role as the Associate Dean of Advancement at the business school INSEAD. What is your approach to building relationships with key stakeholders, including alumni, corporations, and foundations?

In my role at INSEAD, the essence of my work revolves around cultivating a network of trust and partnership with our 68,000 alumni across 170 countries. It's a journey of fostering deep connections, grounded in mutual respect and understanding. This requires a collaborative spirit (and perseverance!) and we rely on the alumni volunteers across our 60 National Alumni Associations and Global Clubs; these volunteers, who are our global ambassadors, amplify all of our engagement strategies.

Furthermore, we have developed many digital tools that have expanded our toolkit, enabling us to strengthen our connections remotely and reach across borders that were previously difficult to access. Most recently we are working on launching an app to enrich our alumni and student experience. It's critical to stay relevant and agile, and for me, digital innovation is a reflection of any organisation’s commitment to innovation and impactful engagement.

There was an interesting shift in your career trajectory: you started it in finance and then switched to work in the education field. Could you share the motivation behind this change?

My career trajectory took a significant turn from finance into the realm of education and philanthropy, after a compelling encounter with an inspiring mentor. This shift was further motivated by my belief in education as a transformative force, capable of empowering individuals and shaping future leaders, with a particular focus on uplifting women. My journey through the international corridors of Harvard Business School to INSEAD has been underpinned by this belief, guiding my efforts to contribute to a world where education stands as a cornerstone of societal advancement and equity.

Education is a transformative force capable to change the world, and we can use it to empower and shape future leaders, particularly women.

Coming back to your current role at INSEAD, you have spent a substantial amount of time there, both as Associate Dean and most recently as an MBA student. How did you juggle one of the world’s most intense executive MBA programmes alongside your position as a Dean, and how did this experience as a student enrich your professional role?

Embarking on INSEAD's Executive MBA program while serving as Associate Dean of Advancement definitely presented a unique set of challenges -- and opportunities. The 14-month journey is renowned for its rigor, combining intensive on-campus academic sessions with periods that allow for flexibility, a design that caters specifically to the needs of working professionals. However, it was more than just getting my MBA. My tenure at INSEAD, spanning over multiple years in a leadership role, had already introduced me to the unparalleled alumni network.  I always felt that INSEAD was my tribe, and I wanted to be a part of that as an alumna!

The support system around me was pivotal. The encouragement from my family, friends, and the INSEAD leadership was instrumental in my ability to navigate the dual demands of my roles. It was rewarding to see my team rise to the occasion, demonstrating their capabilities and growth, and facilitating a (mostly) smooth journey through these commitments.

For women contemplating something like an EMBA, the journey is undeniably complex yet profoundly rewarding. It comes down to your support network, both professional and personal. My advice? Surround yourself with individuals who uplift and motivate you. And then be as transparent about your commitments, and seek understanding (or forgiveness!) from those around you; there will be inevitable conflicts of time and energy. There will never be a "perfect" time to do something so intense – so buckle up and enjoy the ride!

In light of the ongoing debate about climate change, what is your perspective on the role of business schools in addressing this global challenge? Could you provide an insight about how INSEAD aligns fundraising efforts with its social impact goals, given that it is a part of the United Nations Global Compact?

As the the world's largest ranked MBA programme, with 1,000 students graduating each year, INSEAD is dedicated to being at the vanguard of integrating sustainability and climate change action into the heart of business education. This mission is embodied in our recent curriculum overhaul, where sustainability principles are woven into core courses, a large portion of electives, and a dedicated capstone course, emphasizing our commitment to preparing leaders equipped to champion sustainable business practices. The establishment of the Hoffmann Global Institute for Business and Society, further amplifies our dedication, aligning business strategies with global sustainability goals, a vision supported by the transformational contributions of alumnus André Hoffmann and his wife, Rosalie.

Recognising the power of collective action in tackling environmental challenges, INSEAD initiated the "Business Schools for Climate Leadership" alliance, fostering collaboration among peer business schools to cultivate sustainability-minded leaders. In fulfilling our mandate as the "Business School for the World," we are committed to pioneering a future where business acts as a force for positive change, leveraging our global influence to foster a sustainable and equitable world.

We believe in collective action – more business schools acting as forces for good, together amplifying our impact.

Beyond your role as Associate Dean at INSEAD, you are also a board member at WIL Europe and RefuSHE. Could you describe the responsibilities that come with this role and how you contribute to the mission of these organisations?

As an advocate for women's empowerment through education, my involvement with WIL Europe and RefuSHE is deeply rooted in this conviction. At INSEAD, serving as WIL's academic partner, we collaborate to offer webinars and generate insightful knowledge and content, further enriching the organisation and initiatives such as the Women Talent Pool program. My role extends to mentoring some of these remarkable women, a part of my work that brings me great satisfaction!

In my capacity as a board member for RefuSHE, I am committed to supporting and advocating for one of the most vulnerable groups globally: refugee women, girls, and their children. The escalating global refugee crisis, with over 100 million people forcibly displaced, and a significant portion being women, underscores the urgency of RefuSHE's mission. The organization's holistic approach, encompassing education, mental health support, legal advocacy, and community integration, is pivotal in protecting these women from marginalisation and exploitation. My engagement with RefuSHE is not just a role but a passion, driven by the belief in creating a more equitable world through education and empowerment.

What accomplishment, either within or beyond your career, do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

Stepping away from my professional achievements, my most cherished accomplishment unfolded unexpectedly during the COVID-19 pandemic. With travel and events on pause, I embraced an unusual opportunity: joining Pandora's Box, an all-mom rock band (despite having no prior experience with musical instruments btw). This led me to learn the bass guitar, and I have since performed many concerts in Paris -- and totally rocked it! I think for me, it has been a profound reminder of the value of self-care, lifelong learning, and embracing new challenges.

What is the best advice you've ever received?

The best advice I've ever received came during a moment of vulnerability, right before my first-ever TV interview on France 24, representing INSEAD. The anticipation was overwhelming, my nerves a mess. Sensing my fear, the host offered a moment of unexpected solace. She firmly grasped my shoulders, met my gaze, and said a simple yet powerful reassurance: "You’ve got this…don't get in the way of yourself." This advice resonated deeply, teaching me the importance of conquering self-doubt. Sometimes the greatest obstacles we face are often the ones we place before ourselves. We cannot control every external circumstance, but we do have the power to control our mindset, and ultimately, our impact. So, to all WIL members: don't get in the way of yourself!

Video edited by Claudia Heard

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