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Carmen Cucul is an MBA student at Insead, currently based in Singapore.

Born in Romania, Ms Cucul studied international business at the Academy of Economic Studies in Bucharest. After graduation, she worked in the not-for-profit sector for five years, running a professional association that offered human resources practitioners in Romania various opportunities for networking.

Ms Cucul is interested in social entrepreneurship and travel and has visited more than 40 countries.

Carmen Cucul will be available to answer your questions in a live web chat on Thursday, 1st December, 2011 between 13.00-14.00 GMT. Post your questions now to ask@ft.com and they will be answered on the day.

1. When did you know you wanted to study for an MBA?

Five years ago, I was attending a lecture in Germany given by Chan Kim, an Insead professor and co-author with Renée Mauborgne of Blue Ocean Strategy, a business strategy that is expanding worldwide. I was inspired by the depth and breadth of this theory.

2. What is the best advice given to you by a teacher?

Last year, I had the chance to talk to my first boss. In 2004, he studied at several prestigious US universities, where he accumulated not only state-of the art knowledge, but extensive experience in handling multi-cultural settings. I asked him what would be the single most important advice he could give me. He told me to stay healthy. I guess it takes a large amount of maturity to first acknowledge and second to deliver such a message to a relatively young person, instead of the expected, sophisticated business response.

3. What would you do if you were dean of a business school for the day?

A day is too short to induce sustainable change however a quick win would be to have a shadowing day for students and administration. This would allow the MBAs to understand the work behind their programme and the staff to have greater clarity on what it is that students want. I am convinced that many issues hindering the experience at business schools could be solved through better communication between students and MBA offices.

4. Who are your business influences?

Dave Ulrich is one of the long-lasting gurus in management and human capital development. He is a professor at Michigan University and as much as he is outstandingly influential, accomplished and insightful, he is humble. I hope to be able to keep up with such standards at all times throughout my career.

5. What is your biggest lesson learnt?

Before coming to Insead, I had a strong perception of myself as being a highly tolerant and adaptable person. I was sure that I would find myself ‘at home’ anywhere in the world. This year has proved that my previous acceptance level was framed in a particular and narrow setting referring to countries that are on a par with or above Romania, in terms of quality of life and economic development. After having travelled to very different areas recently (like Myanmar, Vietnam, India), I must admit that I am far from being truly tolerant and adaptable.

6. What advice would you give to women in business?

My advice to all women either in business, civil society or the public sector is to think, act and build your careers based on the third wave feminist model: be genuine, be feminine, be different from today’s accepted recipe for success.

7. How do you deal with male-dominated environments?

As I mentioned, I truly believe in what is called third wave feminism: the differentiation model. According to this paradigm, men and women’s management styles are complementary and are not in direct competition. This is exactly how I have successfully built my career so far in male-dominated environments: safeguarding what is genuine, being soft on people (and of course tough on issues) and using a mix of rationality and intuition in the decision–making process.

8. What is your favourite business book?

I still remember Charles Handy`s autobiography that I read a couple of years ago: Myself and Other More Important Matters. It is a book where the author, one of the well known management gurus, reflects upon his life and gives some advice on how to navigate through tough decisions and big questions.

9. What are your future plans?

Professionally, I intend to work hard towards a general management career in healthcare. Being new to the sector I am yet not fully aware of all existing development opportunities, therefore I allow myself some degree of flexibility in terms of future career plans.

10. If you could do it all again, what would you do differently?

My hidden dream is to be a professional dancer. If I were to go back to high-school, I would spend my energy and time on achieving this. It is not too late now either, so in a couple of years you might hear about me in a totally different context.

Compiled by Charlotte Clarke

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