How do you become a leader? Forget those myths about “natural ability” or “rising to the moment.” Leadership requires work — lots of it. You practice it everyday. You study various industries and issues. In a global marketplace, you seek exposure to people very different from yourself.
These are some of the hallmarks of HEC Paris. Not surprisingly, the school ranks among the top producers of CEO talent, with current alumni running firms as diverse as L’Oréal, Best Buy, and Lafarge. Chances are, you’ll find several future CEOs among the MBAs joining HEC Paris’ 16-month program.
FINANCE SPECIALIST BY DAY…CHILD’S PLAYMATE BY NIGHT
Just imagine the classroom conversations. On one side of class, you’ll find Antonio Mont’Alverne, who previously coordinated engineering activities on the H225M helicopter used by the Brazilian military. On the other, you’ll see Christine Weitbrecht, who managed bloggers for cosnova Beauty GmbH — a website that reached as many people as Germany’s largest newspaper. Talk about a contrast! At the same time, Priya-Darshinee Ramkissoon was part of a team that won the “Barclays Africa Innovation Award,” while Shruti Gupta earned three promotions in her first three years at Morgan Stanley. Against the odds, Evgeni Tsenter led a 12-member team through 15 hour workdays to close a major deal for IBM.
This year’s 203-member class is certainly diverse. With past employers ranging from Microsoft to the Peace Corps, they’ve held titles ranging from economist to petroleum engineer. The class also hails from 54 different countries, including Israel, Senegal, Mauritus, China, Argentina, and the United States. “The HEC Paris MBA Class of 2018 continues the tradition of diversity that is at the heart of the program,” explains Benoit Banchereau, director of communications, development and admissions for the HEC Paris MBA. “From an Egyptian candidate who worked with a prestigious multinational utility company in France, to a Peruvian who designed and launched a business to export gold from his country, every student profile in the HEC Paris MBA program is unique and atypical.”
“Atypical” might just be an understatement, as the Class of 2018 is as colorful as they come. Looking for a common thread for this class? Try adventurous. Gupta describes herself as an “adventurer with a passion for traveling, who loves being out of my comfort zone, except for heights!” Silvana Ramos takes a similar tack, portraying herself as a “steadfast, risk-taking woman who doesn´t give up the ship and always looks on the bright side.” However, Vejko Brcic Bello is careful to keep his footing in both imagination and reality, explaining that he is a “mining-finance specialist during the week, dinosaur or anything my two year old wants me to be during the weekends.”
HIGH SCHOOL DROPOUT JOINS BANKER WHO SPEAKS FIVE LANGUAGES
This l’amour de la vie manifests itself in what the Class of 2018 does outside of class too. Maria E. Martyak swam with Tiger and Galapagos Sharks — without a cage. Oklahoma’s Stanson William Dobbs drove into HEC Paris from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia —a 12,000 kilometer journey through eight nations. Tsenter is a Renaissance man, listing Krav Maga, salsa dancing and chess as his hobbies. Argentina’s Ramos is a rebel, “being vegetarian in a country with the highest meat consumption per capita.” However, none face a daily identity crisis like Ramkissoon, who speaks five languages. “On a typical day, I wake up to my grandmother’s Bhojpuri, engage with my surroundings in English/French/Creole and end up dreaming in a jumbled mixture of all of these languages,” she jokes.
None had an easy path to HEC Paris, making them the perfect candidates for leadership. Just take Dobbs, who lists graduating from the University of Oklahoma as his crowning achievement. “I never graduated from high school. I dropped out after the 8th grade, and it took me some time to realize that I had chosen the wrong path. Once I did, I worked very hard to make up for my poor decisions. I double majored and double minored while working one or two jobs throughout my college career.”
Such courage is almost a prerequisite for the next 16 months of business school, says Mont’Alverne. “Going for an MBA is not an easy decision, and it demands commitment all the way through. Even before setting our feet on campus, it does completely change our lives and takes us way out of our personal comfort zones.”
ONE OF THE MOST DIFFICULT PROGRAMS TO EARN AN ACCEPTANCE
By the numbers, HEC Paris has increasingly become a destination for globally-minded students. The number of applications to the full-time MBA program increased from 1,908 to 1,994 this year, with the school admitting 332 students and ultimately enrolling 203 students, good for a 16.6% acceptance rate, making it more exclusive than powerhouse American programs like Northwestern, Chicago, Yale, and Michigan. Overall, the 2018 Class arrives with a 689 average GMAT, nearly identical to the year before with GMAT scores ranging from 620-779 (just 5.6% of students submitted GRE scores).
Overall, 30% of the class consists of women, down 3% from the previous year. However, the percentage of non-French students rose to 92%, comparable to global magnets like IE Business School (93%). Engineering undergrads comprise the highest portion of the class at 26%, with finance professionals (19%) making up the biggest bloc in terms of business experience.
The combination of a relatively small class size with a truly global cohort was one of the program’s major selling points for Mont’Alverne. “The HEC program does have the right class size and composition. Every year the class is composed of around 200 students from the most diverse backgrounds, and the absolute majority of them come from outside of France. In an ever-more-connected world, this multicultural and diverse learning environment will be a major asset in our preparation for our post-MBA careers.”
TRIP TO THE SAINT-CYR MILITARY ACADEMY AMONG HIGHLIGHTS OF THE MBA EXPERIENCE
The global nature of HEC Paris is far from the program’s only appeal. Ranked by The Economist as the top MBA program in Europe from 2014-2015, the program offers some unique wrinkles. For one, the school is the annual host of MBAT, a student-run tournament where over 1,500 European MBA students gather to compete in sports ranging from swimming to poker. For a dozen deserving students, the school holds a TEC mentoring program, where students receive intensive personal and leadership growth training, along with mentoring from CEOs. In leadership, there is also no substitute for learning by doing. That’s the foundation for HEC Paris’ leadership seminar at the Saint-Cyr Military Academy, where students develop the toughness and poise needed in leadership. Working in teams of twelve over two days of dawn wake up calls, students face real fears, pressures, adversity through activities like building rafts or walking tightropes.
Such traditions give the program a “vibrant feel,” says Ramkissoon. However, HEC Paris also creates a culture with equal dose high demands and support. “I wanted to learn from the best,” says Weitbrecht. “[HEC Paris] fosters a community whose members want to become leaders for the sake of bringing about change and creating something new, rather than for the sake of just “being top dog,” which was exactly what I was looking for.”
For several first years, HEC Paris’ traditional strength in luxury goods, coupled with emerging digital applications, make the school a pioneer in a new and potentially game-changing convergence. “The digital world experiences change at a rapid pace, and many possibilities for luxury companies within the digital world remain unexplored, Martyak notes. “As technology continues to break down traditional geographic barriers and allows for a more globally focused online experience, I feel that an entirely new skill set will be required for digital executives to be successful.” Gupta is equally effusive. “HEC caught my eye by providing the chance to experience the field of e-commerce and LuxTech near Paris, one of the major, culturally rich cities of the world. It also provides some non-degree programs such as the Digital Transformation Certificate, which I believe can be instrumental in building deep insights and hands-on learning in digitalization.”