Milena Ivanova MBA’03D Podcasting and Paying It Forward

Milena Ivanova MBA’03D
Milena Ivanova MBA’03D

Many INSEAD Alumni may already know Milena Ivanova MBA’03D from her insightful podcast ‘Republic of INSEAD’. She was on campus in October 2023 for her 20 year-reunion, and we had the privilege of speaking with her about the inspiration behind the podcast, her long-standing commitment to fundraising, and her time at INSEAD. 

Born in Bulgaria, Milena initially worked in the recruitment industry in Poland before enrolling at INSEAD in 2003. During her time at INSEAD, she discovered her passion for finance, and after graduating she pursued a successful career in investment banking. After a decade in finance, Milena decided to take a break from the corporate world to travel, ultimately transitioning into a portfolio career of Non-Executive Director roles and the creation of her own direct-to-consumer aromatherapy businesses. 

Milena credits her time at INSEAD with giving her the skills and confidence to create a career path of her own design. By instilling students with a passion for lifelong learning and an ability to identify opportunities for both personal and professional growth in any situation, INSEAD alumni are uniquely positioned to think outside of the box. Milena believes there is also a humility among INSEAD alumni that often belies their success, allowing them to continue developing and adapting their ideas long after graduation. 

As a recipient of an INSEAD scholarship, Milena has been passionate about paying it forward since her time as a student. Unable to contribute financially whilst studying, she began class fundraising whilst still a student, a commitment she has maintained ever since. Her driving force has always been the belief in the power of education, particularly for emerging markets. Milena firmly believes that scholarships play a crucial role in developing future leaders in these regions.

Despite her commitment to fundraising, she realized that after 20 years of reaching out to her fellow alumni for donations, it had started to feel repetitive. To foster more meaningful connections and inspire her former classmates, she decided to create a podcast to celebrate their 20 year-reunion. Initially planned for 12 episodes, it expanded to 26 episodes, due to the number of remarkable individuals from her class that she wanted to feature. The podcast also encouraged more alumni to return to campus for their 20-year reunion!

Towards the end of our conversation, Milena reflected on the fact that INSEAD holds the distinction of being the first business school to advocate business as a Force for Good. Milena recognizes the important role that academic institutions play in promoting such transformative ideas and believes that INSEAD's commitment to develop responsible leaders who transform business and society inspiring responsible leaders is both commendable and inspiring.

If you'd like to hear more from Milena, watch the video below:

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