2018 Best MBAs: Priya-Darshinee Ramkissoon, HEC Paris

Priya-Darshinee Ramkissoon

HEC Paris

 “Eager to learn, love, improving with minimal resources and terrible Excel nerd.”

Age: 29

Hometown: Brisée Verdière, Mauritius

Fun fact about yourself: I speak 5 different languages – Creole (my mother tongue), English, French, Hindi and Bhojpuri. On a typical day, I wake up to my grandmother’s Bhojpuri, engage with my surroundings in English, French or Creole and end up dreaming in a jumbled mixture of all of these languages!

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Université Lumière Lyon II, France

  • MSc Financial Markets Operations
  • BSc Economics, Management and Econometrics

Where did you work before enrolling in business school?

  • Assistant Customer Network Manager (Barclays Pan-African Graduate Development Programme), Barclays Mauritius
  • Bancassurance Manager, Barclays Mauritius

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? I interned with Amazon in one of its fulfilment centers in Orléans, France.

Where will you be working after graduation? I will be working for Amazon as an Operations Manager on the Pathways program, an Amazon leadership development program centered on building future leaders in the Operations function.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: I was in charge of organising accommodation for the 1,100 external participants in the 2017 HEC MBA Tournament (MBAT), an annual inter MBA school tournament organised by HEC students. MBAT is an amazing event, in which students from across the best business schools in Europe compete against each other in different sports and I am proud to have played my part, both as an organiser and a badminton and football player!

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? While it may not sound like much, I am actually most proud of successfully making it through the first term’s exams. Unfortunately, I had to undergo emergency surgery in Paris shortly before the end of term and was essentially bed-ridden for a number of weeks thereafter. I basically ended up preparing for my finals from bed on my phone, supported by my eldest sister who flew over from home to look after me. It was a particularly tough time and I am glad I made it through without it affecting my performance too much!

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? During my summer internship with Amazon, I became involved in a project to optimise the use of space in our fulfilment centers. In order to automate various manual decision-making processes, I developed a tool in Excel that could update itself automatically, provide a simple recommendation and keep track of all decisions and results for audit purposes.

In my last few weeks on internship, I saw first-hand how this tool was making certain colleagues’ lives much easier on a daily basis, by saving them up to an extra 40 minutes a day. Many were very grateful to me and I take a lot of pride in this.

What was your favorite MBA Course Strategy Beyond Markets taught by Professor Susan Perkins was one of the highlights of my MBA course. Thanks to this class, I learned about non-market factors and how ignoring these can kill even the best of investment cases, particularly in emerging markets.

I also really enjoyed the format of this intense one-week class, in which Professor Perkins pushed us to form an opinion on limited facts before the start of each session. We even ended the week with a somewhat heated Lincoln-Douglas format debate on the role of the pharmaceutical industry in emerging markets. This format was a first for me and I thoroughly enjoyed being grilled by my classmates while defending the pharma industry!

Why did you choose this business school? I had initially established a shortlist of four business schools for consideration, based on a combination of rankings, career prospects and my budget. In the end, I ended up applying to HEC Paris alone and accepting my offer thereafter for the following reasons:

  • I really liked the ‘feel’ of the HEC Paris MBA due to particularly seamless application process and hitting it off with the various alumni and other representatives I spoke with prior to application.
  • HEC Paris offered certain unique extra-curricular activities such as the Saint-Cyr Leadership seminar run by the French Army in Brittany, which turned out to be an incredible experience.
  • Given that I was already a fluent French speaker, I felt that my career prospects in France would significantly increase with the HEC brand on my CV.
  • I received the HEC Excellence scholarship from the HEC Foundation, without which I would have been unable to afford to attend business school.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Demonstrate consistency. If you are studying for the GMAT, consistent daily practice for 2-3 months will get you a good score. If you are writing up your application, showing consistent superior performance across both your professional career and extra-curricular activities will be viewed positively. Finally, if you are going through the interview phase, remaining true to yourself and your application will definitely earn you a spot at HEC Paris.

As a further tip, if you have already earned your place in HEC Paris and hope to stay or would consider staying in France after the MBA, I would definitely recommend that you start learning French as soon as possible.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth about HEC Paris is that it is in Paris! The School is actually located on a large campus in Jouy en Josas, a village around 17km south-west of Paris. While the train connections to central Paris can be infrequent on weekends and many shops in the village close at lunch time, I nevertheless enjoyed my time on campus largely due to the incredible grounds – the school is located in the middle of protected forest area and has great sports facilities. All of these were more than enough to keep the runner in me happy!

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? It would be Paul Lemaire, one of my classmates who is a commander in the French Army and who was enrolled in the MBA by the French military to further develop his military career. Paul is one of the most composed people I have ever met, and his level of maturity was way beyond the rest of us students. He also has this incredible capacity of putting things in to perspective, which I have endeavoured to pick up from him. As an example, when many of us were running around like headless chickens over internship or job prospects, Paul would help us calm down, relax us and focus on the positives. As a perfect Frenchman, he would make it through the hardest subjects, such as Financial Accounting, by revising with a glass of wine!

In short, I really admire Paul for his friendship, his modesty, his humour, his maturity and his way of finding positives, even in the hardest of situations.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My partner is the person who most influenced me to pursue an MBA. He had been applying for an MBA himself a couple of years ago and really pushed me to think more seriously about it for myself, as he thought I would be a make an excellent candidate and the degree would help me in achieving my potential.

Encouraged by him, I did my research and soon realised how much of a career boost an MBA could be, which helped me decide to really go for it.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…I had already been earmarked for promotion by my former employer (a bank) to a senior role in Retail Credit Risk. Had my eyes not been opened to the wider opportunities an MBA could offer me, I think I would still be in that role today or possibly at a competitor bank back home in Mauritius.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I would change the structure of the MBA Tournament (MBAT) planning to create more structured learning opportunities for the whole class. While the MBAT was certainly one of the highlights of my MBA experience, the planning phase quickly became the responsibility of those who had initially volunteered to support (Tarun Rangi, Shir Sheftel, Andrew Unsworth, Kevin Dujat to name a few), without a formal structure or scope to involve the rest of the class thereafter.

I would link the MBAT to a formal class, such as Operations Management for example, with a view to involving the whole intake and obtaining more formal guidance (and learnings) from an assigned professor.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Climb to base camp on Everest and overcome my fear of deep water.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Someone dedicated to everything she puts her hand to and who is always ready to help others out.

What is your favorite movie about business? My favorite business story is the story of BlackBerry, which has sadly not been made into a movie yet but definitely should be! I have always been impressed by the way BlackBerry’s founders turned this small unknown Canadian company into a global leader in the phone industry thanks to their dedication and innovative features such as push e-mails. Most importantly, the rapid downfall of BlackBerry offers another great lesson – a company, however big or successful, can very quickly disappear if it fails to renew itself according to its customer needs.

I believe that both these lessons can be applied in our day-to-day professional and personal lives. I really hope that we get to see this fantastic story on the big screen one day.

What would your theme song be ‘Ode to my family’ by the Cranberries. My three sisters and I have many great memories linked to this song as we were growing up. ‘Ode to my family’ is our common theme that brings us back home, wherever we might be in the world.

Favorite vacation spot: Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean, one of the most beautiful places I have visited. Réunion offers up a striking contrast, from black-sand tropical beaches to Swiss Alps-style hills and chalets to Mars-like barren land around its famous volcano, Le Piton de la Fournaise.

Hobbies? Winning board games, playing sports, cooking (and eating!), and having fun with Excel.

What made Priya such an invaluable addition to the class of 2018?

“I had the pleasure of teaching Priya during her MBA program at HEC Paris. Priya stood out from her cohort from day one as a thoughtful, talented, intuitive and determined individual whose well-rounded personality also allowed her to work easily and efficiently with others in a team setting. She subtly balances a profound respect for others’ opinions – especially when they differ from her own – with an uncompromising attitude of self-respect that makes her state her views and stand her ground when challenged. This is a rare and impressive quality in an MBA student. Priya is rigorous and insightful, a careful listener and a fast-learner. In sum, Priya is an example of how a student can be sharp and direct and still be socially adroit – a model of what student leadership should look like.”

Gonçalo Pacheco de Almeida

Associate Professor of Strategy and Business Policy

Academic Director of the MBA Strategy Specialization, HEC Paris


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