Like many high school graduates before her, Himanshi Vij signed up for an engineering degree — and quickly realised she did not enjoy it as much as she thought she would.
She didn’t have any guidance counsellor or career coach to help her realise that while software engineering may be a popular subject, it may not be the right subject for her.
Still, she stayed put. “Wanting to pull through, I decided to sign up for a French language course without realising that it would later connect the dots to fulfilling my dream,” she says.
That dream was to study, live and work abroad. To put that plan into action, she first went for an internship abroad in Singapore during the final year of her degree.
It was her first time outside India on her own — a relishing discovery. “I fell in love with the diversity and never imagined the opportunities I could get outside my bubble,” she says.
Vij would later graduate and find work in software engineering — again, in a year, she felt the searing lack of interest and decided she had to get out.
“That was the moment I realised it was the right time for me to do a master’s degree,” Vij says.
While she was in Singapore, Vij decided to visit the INSEAD campus for a networking event. However, she realised she was too young and it was not the right time — yet.
That dream of studying at INSEAD was put on hold.
“For the next decade, I studied, worked and lived around Asia, Europe, and North America and discovered aspects of myself that I didn’t know existed.” she says.
“Subconsciously, the INSEAD dream lingered on.”
Fast forward to 2016, during a consulting assignment in Paris, a client told her she would make an ideal INSEAD candidate as she speaks four languages, has lived across seven countries, has international experiences, has exemplary displays of leadership, and a significant employment history.
Her consulting client, an INSEAD graduate herself, also later supported her with a letter of recommendation to join the MBA programme.
That once-distant dream suddenly seemed much closer. “I always thought, ‘Why would they think of accepting me?’” she says.
Vij notes that achieving her dream would not have been possible without the strong support she received from her husband, family and friends.
It was her husband gave her the final push to apply to INSEAD.
“A couple of days after we got married and returned to Paris, he asked me why I was not applying to INSEAD,” Vij says. “He gave me the support to finally go for it.”
Studying and living in Paris
At INSEAD, Vij was finally in the driver’s seat of her career. Opportunities and possibilities were beyond any she had imagined.
“INSEAD gave me the chance to pinpoint and make my own criteria of what I am looking for in a job and what would work best for me,” she says.
This boosted her confidence. By the time she graduated, she had four job offers lined up for her — including one by Amazon in Paris.
At Amazon, coincidentally, her first manager was an INSEAD graduate. “She was instrumental to me, for my integration at Amazon, learning about Amazon’s peculiar culture and then also supported me the most when I had to take an internal transfer to relocate to join my husband in Luxembourg during the pandemic,” says Vij.
Today, she is a new mum juggling a career in business and tech. That, in itself, is a feat — but Vij has plans to take her European-centric career to go global.
Looking around her workplace and leaders, she’s confident she has the support she needs to achieve her next milestone.
“Though the dream of Paris and INSEAD felt distant and unachievable, especially coming from a city like Chandigarh, I continued to believe in my dream,” she says.
“I think persistence is what is important. Not just having a dream but putting in effort and working towards achieving that dream.”