2020 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Joel Lee Panugayan, INSEAD/Tsinghua University

Joel Lee Panugayan

INSEAD/Tsinghua University

“Strong desire to contribute to the world with nothing else but my own talents and motivation.” 

Age: 39

Hometown: Manila Philippines

Family Members: Married with 2 kids

Fun fact about yourself: I don’t take myself very seriously.

Undergraduate School and Degree: De La Salle University-Manila, Bachelor of Science in Electronics and Communications Engineering

Where are you currently working? HP Inc., Head of global print supplies marketing

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work, and Leadership Roles:  

  • Summa Cum Laude – De La Salle University 2002
  • Ten Outstanding Students of the Philippines -2003
  • Globe Telecoms Academic Achievement Awards -2002
  • Bank of the Philippine Island Science Excellence Award
  • Volunteer – Make a wish foundation

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I have only been in business school for three modules so far, but I find my role as class representative fulfilling because I am able to help out my cohort in navigating the challenges of the pandemic situation, and in the process learn to deal with crisis and uncertainty.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of my ability to influence my company to build our programs around children’s learning. A company like HP is built on engineering products and selling them with speed and feed. Until I joined, it never really looked at investing and developing programs to help children learn better until now, after a decade of patience and unrelenting to pressure.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Charles Galunic, Professor of Organisational Behaviour – for the simple reason that he is teaching the intangibles of leadership and self-awareness that makes a business manager become a leader.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I chose the Tsinghua-INSEAD Executive MBA program specifically because of access to a truly global learning experience, and by that I mean one that is built around perspectives from the whole world including Asia, which is oftentimes diminished in other programs.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I enjoy the learning process with peers. Unlike STEM courses, the people in business schools are more confident and articulate, and it helps to hear other people’s perspectives to learn more of the whole truth rather than my own version of it.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? I am still to gain so much more given we only had three modules out of 12, with some delays due to the pandemic lockdowns happening all over the world. However, I have already discovered that every single problem is an opportunity to learn. That in every interaction and discussion, be it in the classroom or with the programs committee planning on the adjusted plan, there is a chance to learn from the opportunity presented to become a better leader. While it is unfortunate that our graduation might be delayed, we have the unique opportunity to experience such a situation on a global scale, and the learning experience is simply unparalleled.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? I am experiencing it in this very moment of global lockdowns. My work is intensifying because of its global scope and how the pandemic is affecting parts of the world in different intensities and phases, requiring constant monitoring and adjustment of plans to ensure the business is sustained despite the crisis.

My kids are stuck at home and need to continue to learn and experience life. Being a class representative means I am in weekly calls helping the programs team and my cohort to navigate the crisis and get our program back on track.

It is overwhelming at times but I rely on careful planning and reflection every day to improve on opportunity areas. I also had to learn to prioritize and delegate wherever I can.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? There will never be a right time to do it. As long as you are certain of what you want out of it – and what you want to achieve – take the leap and go do it. You’ll find that you will gain much more than just what you were hoping for.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? The workload is unbearable. It isn’t at all with careful planning and discipline. In fact, it also helps to improve one’s stamina and control of one’s self in terms of motivation, much like how it is for strenuous activities or marathon running I suppose.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I do wish I can have more time to meet more people in the process. In the current situation with my need to stay disciplined and focus in managing work, family, and my responsibility as class rep, I am not yet able to extend my network to beyond my cohort. But for now that might be fine, because I firmly believe that networking with the alumni network is a lifelong activity.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I admire Yu Shu, who is in my TIEMBA21 cohort. Her perspective in life as well as her grace in handling conflicts is magical. She has the unique talent of dispelling any tension and negative energy in any arguments, and getting everyone onto the same plane and have a dialogue.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I realized that I have gaps that I needed to address in order to become a better leader. And I knew that the way I could address them was only through business school. That’s because it’s the only place where I believe I can experiment without fear on my technical business mastery and leadership in organizations. I couldn’t get there as fast if I just decided to go through it at work.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I want to contribute to society; leading organizations is just a means to a bigger means to the end of having an opportunity in my lifetime to make a significant impact to the world. Individually I can contribute in little ways but together with a big commercial organization that I can influence, I want to be able to make a bigger impact – much like how I I leveraged on my position at HP to drive higher awareness and efforts into children’s learning.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Someone whom they can count on.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  • Impact the world to make it better than how I experienced it.
  • Ensure all children in the world are able to learn and be what they desire to be.

What made Joel such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“In view of Joel’s academic record, his GMAT score of 730 was expected and on par with a career progression that led him to take different roles at big companies such as Shell, P&G, and currently HP. He adds an extensive international exposure, having lived and worked in Singapore, Philippines and Indonesia. Joel is a very involved Class Rep who is engaged to influence in business and society in a positive way. In his current position at HP, he is using his natural leadership to ensure that every child in the world has access to education.”

Teresa Peiro-Camaro
Associate Director
INSEAD Executive MBA Admissions


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