At 130 years old, institutions naturally get set in their ways. They develop a certain outlook, following methods and messaging that sustained their longevity. They’ll pay lip service to innovation and reinvention, of course. In practice, they’ll only embrace it on the edges.
That might be a mindset you’d expect from HEC Paris, which was founded when Queen Victoria ruled the seas and the Eiffel Tower was still a sketch. In an accelerated age, purpose trumps prudence and daring drubs deference. That’s one reason why HEC Paris introduced a new tagline: “Tomorrow is our business.” It is a signal that an HEC Paris MBA will be focused on what’s ahead: entrepreneurial thinking, digital disruption, and social enterprise. At the same time, the school will remain committed to what made it one of Europe’s business schools: an academically-demanding curriculum that focuses on leadership and boasts the top luxury programming in the world.
A SCHOOL FOR LEADERS AND “EXPLORERS”
This 1-2 punch attracted an impressive Class of 2020 to Jouy en Josas. That includes Natalia Navarro, a Microsoft sales executive from Mexico. “This school does not have a “business as usual” approach,” she writes. “Activities such as the Saint-Cyr leadership seminar, the MBA Tournament, its close relationship with Station F (the biggest start-up campus in the world), and their specializations on innovative disruption and digital transformation are some of the things I did not find anywhere else. I think their program helps you grow and develop different areas of yourself as an individual, not only as a business student.”
In their careers, the Class of 2020 has worked for some of the top names in business, including Google, the Boston Consulting Group, and Ericsson. That’s common at HEC Paris, where establishment credentials are a staple of the HEC Paris mystique. In fact, the program has been stamped the “Leadership School of Europe” due to its high concentration of alumni CEOs running top companies in France and beyond. Think of names like Best Buy’s Hubert Joly, L’Oréal’s Jean-Paul Agon, and Danone’s Emmanuel Faber. However, these graduates were imbued with more than deep connections and technical mastery during their time at HEC Paris, says Amanda Moritz. An MIT grad who moved into marketing management, Moritz found that the HEC Paris alumni she encountered possessed an innate curiosity that was only matched by their flexibility.
“I was drawn to HEC because the alumni I have met are explorers,” explains the first-year. “From our conversations, I learned that they came to HEC with an idea of what they were seeking, but we’re still open to possibilities that presented themselves. In some cases, this meant taking a different job or living in a different country than they originally planned. I was attracted to being around people who do not dwell on expectations or do not create stereotypes of what it means to be an HEC student.”
FROM FEARING EXCEL TO TEACHING IT
Chen Kossover, who joined the Class of 2020 after working as an attorney for one of Israel’s largest law firms, noticed this same spirit with his “down-to-earth” classmates. “The conversation with fellow classmates at HEC Paris is very open. It seems we all share the feeling that the MBA experience is a personal adventure and not just a professional opportunity.”
Alas, this class was open and adventurous long before they became MBA students. Take Dominique Christiansen. Despite being “deeply scared of the ocean,” she strived to become an advanced scuba diver. “Deep water diving was definitely a life-changing challenge for me,” she admits. “A high level of mental and physical strength is required, but it can be very rewarding. I gained perspective and had the opportunity to conquer one of my biggest fears.”
The same is true of Rihards Garancs. As an undergrad, he avoided spreadsheets. In fact, he never thought he’d have any use for them. Fast forward to now, where he works in global supply chains and teaches Excel at his alma mater, the Stockholm School of Economics. Excel is a life-saver for
Omonefe Etomi too. A consultant and recording artist from Nigeria, her spreadsheet helps her track family members. The reason? Her dad has 29 siblings!
A FAN LETTER FOR THE AGES
Lauren Anne Appel brings an artistic bent to the Class of 2020 as well. She is a published poet, whose work has been featured in a 50th-anniversary poetry compilation. Amanda Moritz brings those same talents to the kitchen, serving as a pastry cook at iconic Brooklyn restaurants like Marlow & Sons. If you ever need to network, Anubhav Mital is the guy to know at HEC Paris.
“My friends call me the ‘connections guy’, I somehow end up finding at least one existing connection whichever city I go to.”
While class members have already held high-powered roles in high-profile companies, many found their proudest achievements in the smallest of acts. That was true for Chen Kossover, whose pro-bono work on behalf of a wrongly-dismissed elderly baker still resonates with him. “The client was only fluent in Russian and we had to communicate through an interpreter. I helped this worker enforce his rights and noticed the immediate impact of winning the case on his sense of dignity and self-worth.”
Although Omonefe Etomi never became a pop sensation, that doesn’t mean her music didn’t have an impact. She released an album to little fanfare, though her two music videos were aired across Africa. She has persevered, however, with the knowledge that her work was making a difference. If Etomi has any doubts, she can always look back at a fan letter that reminded him that someone somewhere is always listening:
“My New Year has absolutely sucked so far with an onslaught of bad news,” the message began. “I couldn’t work yesterday because I was so down. I watched your music video today and I was smiling so hard, I cried tears of joy! If you ever feel like what you are doing is minor, it is not! Follow your dreams and keep touching lives as you do. You genuinely put a smile on my face and it is safe to say your song is going to be on repeat for the rest of the evening.”
APPLICATIONS UP BY DOUBLE DIGITS
It was another banner year, admissions-wise, for the full-time MBA program, which saw applications increase by 16% during the 2017-2018 cycle, says Benoit Banchereau, director of MBA admissions, during a 2018 interview with P&Q. Through August, the school had also reported a class size of 239 students between two intakes. This is a size, Banchereau adds, that amplifies the school’s strengths.
“The small size of our MBA cohort…guarantees a personalized learning experience that prioritizes each individual and their unique goals.”
That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for more, says Andrea Masini, associate dean in charge of HEC Paris’ MBA program. In a November interview with P&Q, he pegs the full-time program’s ideal growth to 300 – a “critical mass” that provides the school with the highest visibility to top employers without sacrificing the program’s customizable, student-centric model.
ONE OF THE MOST DIVERSE MBA PROGRAMS IN THE WORLD
The HEC Paris full-time MBA program also remains among the world’s most selective. Just 16% of applicants were ultimately offered a seat. The class also brought a 691 average GMAT to the program, up three points over the previous year. International students also comprise 92% of the class, creating a wide-ranging network for graduates. Hailing from 55 countries, the class ranks alongside the London Business School as one the most diverse two-year MBA programs in the world. By the same token, the percentage of women continues to climb at HEC Paris, with women accounting for 32% of the class.
Academically, the largest segments of the class majored in business and engineering, which each represent 30% of the class. In terms of professional experience, 28% of first-years worked in consumer products. Another 20% held roles in finance, with consulting (13%), technology (12%), and energy (9%) rounding out the class.
Like previous years, HEC Paris fared well in international MBA rankings, finishing 21st last year with The Financial Times and 13th with The Economist. Notably, the program thrives in networking. According to the 2018 student and alumni survey conducted by The Economist, the school ranked 1st on the “Potential to Network” metric, while placing 4th and 7th respectively for “Internationalism of Alumni” and “Breadth of Alumni Network.” Over the next year, Andrea Masini notes that the school intends to boost its strength of the network.
NEW ALLIANCES AND OPTIONS
That starts with deepening the school’s ties to the HEC Paris Alumni Association. “Due to this increased cooperation and integration between the School and the Alumni Association, MBA participants with benefit from two major initiatives,” Masini tells P&Q. “The membership will be included in the tuition fees and offer a lifelong membership to HEC alumni association and its services. It will also open up a lifelong learning opportunity, as members will have the possibility to take HEC courses after graduating (subject to certain conditions).”
The school is also building a strategic alliance with NEW UNI, a pool of engineering schools that includes Ecole Polytechnique. The goal, says Masini, is ultimately to develop a center of excellence in technology and business innovation. “This new alliance, which should take the agile form of a joint venture, will heighten our capacity in research and teaching and strengthen HEC’s position in the international market.”
Living up to its forward-thinking philosophy, HEC Paris has also been revamping its curriculum to integrate more cutting-edge content and career-furthering options – an advantage that is only bolstered by the varying experiences of a class that boasts 40 different nationalities. Notably, the program has rolled out a Digital Innovation specialization, which is designed, Masini says, to cover the strategic, operational, and customer-related issues involving digital transformation.
Comments or questions about this article? Email us.