The INSEAD MBA Experience Arrives in Abu Dhabi!

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INSEAD MBA students listen to a presentation by Mr. Mazen Hayek, Official Spokesman for the Middle East Broadcasting Corporation, about how the network became the largest pan-Arab media company in the Middle East and North Africa.

After 10 days of travelling through the relative wilderness of East Africa, my Etihad flight made a smooth landing at Abu Dhabi’s International Airport. My journey to a brand new continent had just ended, but another, entirely different adventure was about to begin. Aside from the sprawling lights from buildings and cars, I was greeted by a vast number of tower cranes erecting the new terminal expansion of the Abu Dhabi Airport – probably three times the number used to construct the new Vikings stadium in Minneapolis. When travelling through Abu Dhabi and Dubai, it is truly astonishing to see how fast the cities have developed. After all, this was a land of desert, bedouins, and simple fishermen just 50 years ago.

After stepping into the Grand Millennium Al Wahda hotel, I began meeting my fellow INSEAD classmates, some of whom I came to know on the Fontainebleau campus in France, and others from Singapore, who I met for the first time. Out of a group of just 44 students forming the pioneering class of INSEAD’s first 2-month residential MBA exchange in Abu Dhabi, a total of 30 nationalities are represented. Students arrived from all corners of the earth following a month-long recess for Christmas holidays, eager to begin their studies in an entirely different context and environment than before.

At first glance, Abu Dhabi is a city of simple architecture and urban design compared to neighbouring Dubai. The entire island of Abu Dhabi is arranged into neat blocks with large avenues that accommodate roughly 12 lanes of traffic. The buildings are all quite similar, and with few exceptions do not exceed 20 stories. INSEAD’s home for the past 10 years has been a modest office building around the corner from the Al Wahda mall. While rather simple from the outside, the interior has been transformed into a state-of-the art facility that caters mostly to executive education. There’s a small library, a restaurant, an open floor for seminars, three lecture halls, multiple break-out rooms, and offices for the school’s faculty and staff.

This period, our classes include “Doing Business in the Middle East” (DBiME), “Live Action Learning Project (LLP)”, “Negotiations”, “International Political Analysis (IPA)”, and “Macroeconomics”. DBiME is lead by INSEAD Professor Neil Jones, who has arranged for us to visit a variety of businesses across the region and attending various seminars and panels. To date, we have visited Mubadala, Masdar, Middle East Broadcasting Centre (MBC), Bain,Unilever, and look forward to more visits in the future. We will also prepare research posters on prevalent business themes in the region, which will be presented at INSEAD’s Middle East Talent Networking Forum on February 28 in Dubai. LLP has students working in teams of five on a variety of consulting engagements with local companies including Google, The Crown Prince Court of Abu Dhabi, Arthur D. Little, E&Y, and Deloitte. Our Negotiations course is INSEAD’s most sought after elective and will be taught by Professor Horacio Falcao, one of INSEAD’s most famous professors and author of the book Value Negotiation: How to Finally Get the Win-Win Right. IPA and Macroeconomics are the last of our core courses, taught by visiting professors from NYU Abu Dhabi: ProfessorJeffrey Timmons and Professor Jean Imbs, respectively.

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INSEAD MBA students enjoying a hike in the beautiful Hajar Mountains near Ras Al-Khaimah.

Aside from a busy schedule of classes and company visits, we have had many opportunities to explore the region. Some of the more memorable experiences include a hearty meal of fresh seafood at the Abu Dhabi fish market, ripping across sand dunes in a Landcruiser and trying sand boarding for the first time, a day of relaxation on the beaches of Abu Dhabi’s Lulu Island, sipping Moroccan tea and conversing late into the night in Dubai’s old city on the banks of the Dubai creek, waking up at 5 :30am to ascend the Burj Khalifa and watch the sun rise, and a day-long hike in the Hajar Mountains near Ras Al-Khaimah.

In just 5 short months, I have completed 14 courses, met hundreds of fellow classmates, visited dozens of companies, startups, and alumni, and travelled to 12 different countries spanning 4 continents. I am truly grateful for the opportunities I have been provided thus far to grow as a future business leader and look forward to my remaining time at INSEAD and the many journeys and adventures that will surely unfold.

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MBA students in Abu Dhabi celebrate INSEAD’s ascent to the top spot of the 2016 Financial Times’ Global MBA Ranking.

You may follow the journey of INSEAD MBA students in Abu Dhabi on social media by following #P3inAD!

INSEAD MBA Class of July 2016 – Demographics

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My first official day of studies at INSEAD began today. It has been a long journey for everyone to reach this point, and each student faced their own challenges and obstacles to arrive in their seat. All students have an interesting story to tell and hail from a variety of different professional backgrounds and nationalities! With 298 fellow students starting on the Fontainebleau campus (and another 192 starting in Singapore), I am constantly meeting new people and already building my network.

In order to protray the incredible diversity of my class, I have prepared the following infographic displaying the (unofficial) demographics of INSEAD’s MBA class of July 2016:

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Sorry to everyone! New posts are on their way!

Well.. there’s not much I can do to apologize to all of you for such a huge delay in updating my blog (it’s been about 4 months). Here’s what I’ve been busy with:

  • Getting my “Club Coach” certification from the Canadian Freestyle Association. I coached entry-level (Jumps and Bumps) freestyle this season, and it was probably the most fun I’ve had as a ski coach so far!
  • Deciding what to do with my life (i.e. applying to jobs and grad school, interviews, rejecting offers, etc.)
  • Being EngSci Club Chair (leading the Graditude Campaign, organizing Iron Ring, running a ski trip, etc.)
  • Receiving awards (Cressy Student Leadership Award, Spirit of EngSci Award)
  • Designing an airport.
  • Designing a highway bridge.
  • Designing Finite Element Analysis Software and modelling the Skydome.
  • Writing a public policy paper on the Ethanol Fuel in the United States.

My point is… I’ve been pretty busy, and that’s why I’ve been absent for a while. Look for some future posts related to my recent experiences, future plans, and other random tidbits that will appear once in awhile when I am so inspired!

My Acting Career

Well, I can’t actually call it a career, perhaps hobby is a more suitable title (sorry for the misleading title :P).

Here are two short films that I’ve acted in, and are both about engineering. So if you like the Big Bang Theory, you’ll love these films about life in Canada’s most challenging undergraduate engineering program.

Annual Engineering Science Dinner Dance Movie (2006):

Annual Engineering Science Dinner Dance Movie (2007):

Thanks!

Thanks to everyone who voted for the EngSci Club Elections! It was a tight race for chair, I won by only 2 points!

Congratulations as well to Megan Lund, the new Vice-Chair, Henry Shi, the new Finance Director, Thariq Shihipar, the new Communications Director, and Peter Badea, the new Athletics Director.

You can look forward to an incredible and exciting year ahead with your new Exec Team!

Raphael Sammut is running for EngSci Club Chair!

If you haven’t heard already, I’m running for EngSci Club Chair next year!

View my Facebook group, comment on this post (ask me questions), and vote in the EngSci Club Elections this Friday in the Common Room (if you’re on PEY, you can vote by e-mail).
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Here’s what I’ve done:
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  • EngSci Class Rep (twice)
  • Former Director of Communications for the EngSci Club
  • UTEK/OEC/CEC Champion for Engineering Communications
  • EngSci Leadership Working Group
  • Head F!rosh Leader and F!rosh Week Chair for Leadership Development
  • Faculty Representative for the National Engineering Summit
  • TA for Praxis I & II

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Here’s what I bring to the table:
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  • Strong relationships with key university administrators, professors and option chairs from the Division of EngSci as well as the Faculty of Engineering.
  • Loads of experience running and planning club events
  • Excellent leadership and communication skills
  • Enthusiasm, Creativity, and Spirit!
  • Fresh Ideas (see below)

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Here’s what I will do for the EngSci Club next year:
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  • Set Office Hours for Exec Members to be available in the Club Office
  • New Events to enhance the student experience for EngScis
  • Scheduling to ensure the Pop Machine is always full
  • Better collaboration with EngSci Student Groups including NScientia, the Leadership Working Group, and NSight
  • Creating new opportunities for student input and involvement on club decisions

IN SHORT: A more active, more fun, and more accessible EngSci Club!

Here are my posters, which have already been posted in the EngSci student space:

(Almost) Virtually Exploding Buildings

Professor Bentz with Drew and I
Professor Bentz with Drew and I.

This past summer, I had the opportunity to work with a prominent Civil Engineering professor at the University of Toronto. Professor Evan C. Bentz specializes in structural engineering, and his work focuses on developing software to aid in the analysis and simulation of structures. Professor Bentz has an incredible personality, great sense of humour, and can talk about almost anything to almost anyone for as long as he is able to talk and someone is able to listen. Some of the most interesting and random conversations of my entire life were had last summer in Professor Bentz’s office. This was my first research position, and I really lucked out because I got to work with some incredible people, and ended up doing something I found enjoyable.

My main projects this summer were centred around making Professor Bentz’s software run more efficiently and accurately. The software suite includes Membrane-2000 and Response-2000 for modelling walls, beams, and columns, and Augustus for assembling elements into a structure and running tests on them.

One particular project involved writing a Visual Basic script to accept data from a large spreadsheet database of experimental test results for beams and convert individual tests into a series of input files that could be read by the software. This allowed for an automated way of verifying the simulation test results with real data. Once completed, the macro generated all necessary files in under a minute for over 2000 entries, whereas it probably would have taken a year to do them all by hand.

My next project  was meant to push Augustus to its limits by designing and testing a model of a 20-storey apartment building in the Greater Toronto Area that Professor Bentz had previously done some analysis for. After three weeks of interpreting design drawings, mapping out the geometry of the structure, and defining all the structural elements, I excitedly pushed the button to run the tests and the software crashed. While it was disappointing not to get any results, it ended up leading to my most interesting and challenging project.

The core issue, or so we believe, with the Augustus software not being able to run the tests on the building was that the data that the software reads in is not stored efficiently. The software performs its analysis using the “Stiffness Method”, which is an easy way for a computer to calculate displacements on large structures. Every node, or point of interest, in the structure is represented by a number stored in a matrix. The matrix contains all the information about how each node has displaced as the tests run.

This issue lead to the development of a Genetic Algorithm (based on this blog post) to try and optimize the matrix before any calculations were run. After banging my head on a desk for about a week, things started to click, and the development began to progress fairly rapidly. By the end of the third week working on the project, we started getting some positive results that the Genetic Algorithm we implemented performed better than more traditional methods, but took significantly longer to execute (especially for matrices greater than 100×100 in size).

After spending a week on optimizing the algorithms used thanks to MATLAB’s handy profiler, the operation time was cut down significantly and our program could compute matrices up to 500×500 in size within a minute, even on a slow (1.86 GHz) processor.

The Genetic Algorithm project was the focus of a presentation I made at the Undergraduate Engineering Research Day at U of T, mainly since the use of genetic algorithms was such a novel and interesting approach to solving the matrix bandwidth reduction problem. The presentation, which was developed from 10pm – 3am the night before (since we only got results the same day) went very well and I was awarded the prize of a top presenter.

Overall my research experience was fun, challenging, and a great way to spend my summer. While I was paid roughly the same as when I was the Site Director for an entire YMCA camp, I had far less responsibility, got to work with some brilliant and dynamic people, and enjoyed the great flexibility in working hours that the academia world offers. My research team had very little supervision, and the vast majority of our work was all self-driven. The best part of the position was that I was constantly challenged. Whenever I began feeling comfortable and in control of a project, I was thrown something else that seemed impossible in the beginning, but was always successfully accomplished in the end. Furthermore, this project will serve as an excellent lead-in to my PEY work term in Spain with CYPE Ingenieros, and has opened the doors to future thesis work when I return to Canada in 2010 to finish my degree.

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