Meet The HEC Paris MBA Class Of 2020

Lauren Anne Appel       

HEC Paris

Describe yourself in 15 words or less: Resilient, ambitious and tenacious in the pursuit of my dreams.

Hometown: Cape Town, South Africa

Fun Fact about Yourself: I have published poetry. When I was 16 years old, my work was published in an anthology of writings from students in Southern Africa. Ten years later, the editor, informed me that my work was to be included in the publications 50th-anniversary edition.

Undergraduate School and Major:

University of Cape Town: Bachelor of Sciences in Engineering in Chemical Engineering (2012)

University of South Africa: Bachelor of Commerce in Quantitative Management (2017)

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Sasol, Process Engineer

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My most notable achievement was the work I completed in 2016 helping to secure a Water Use License for the Sasolburg site, which is a license to operate. During this process, I was responsible for the initial data collection and modeling of the results, while taking a strategic look forward to ensure compliance over the next 20 years. I had the privilege of working with various disciplines and across different fields, from Research and Technology to Environmental. I was actively involved in discussions with key stakeholders and was responsible for selling the final proposal to senior management. Thereafter, I played a pivotal role in the final negotiations and reviews with the Department of Water and Sanitation to obtain a license suitable to both entities. It was a privilege to be part of a team that worked on a project of such great importance to the site. Thanks to my contributions, I was recognized as an Exceptional Performer and achieved the highest performance rating given by the company.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you have met so far and why? I had the opportunity to meet one of my MBA classmates and I have interacted with many more on social media platforms. I would describe these interactions as warm and welcoming. I met a fellow classmate in Johannesburg who was very friendly and helpful in answering my many questions. She also kindly put me in touch with other MBA candidates. The reception from everyone has been phenomenal and I look forward to meeting everyone in person. I already feel part of the HEC family.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? When choosing a business school, it was important that the MBA program was the right fit in terms of what I hoped to achieve professionally. As someone who aspires to lead a multi-national corporation one day, HEC Paris was the natural choice for me. HEC Paris is the business school for leadership and educated the most CEOs in Europe. I look forward to further developing my leadership skills over the next 16 months through participation in the leadership seminar at St Cyr, the annual MBA Tournament and through my involvement in student clubs.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? The activity I am looking forward to most is the annual MBA Tournament hosted by HEC Paris. I am excited about the prospect of working with my future classmates in planning and coordinating the three-day event, which hosts 1500 MBA students from across Europe. I believe this will be a great opportunity for us to put our leadership and teamwork skills to the test.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I have decided to pursue an MBA at this time because I feel that I have acquired the necessary experience in my career that will allow me to gain the most from the MBA curriculum. In my professional journey, I have had the opportunity to lead capital projects, work with various disciplines, functions and stakeholders. I have also learned to operate effectively in high-pressure environments while presenting solutions that are both technically sound and economically feasible. I am now ready to take my career to the next level and transition from a technical role to a more strategic one which is why the HEC Paris MBA is the next step for me. Understanding the collaborative nature of the HEC’s MBA program, I am confident that my professional experiences will allow me to add value to the MBA class. I look forward to embarking on this next chapter of my business education with HEC Paris.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? Before I applied to the MBA program, I reflected on what I hoped to achieve professionally and looked at the ways that I could achieve this. Since I wanted to move from a technical function to a strategic one, an MBA was an important part of my plan. Pursuing an MBA is a big financial investment especially an international MBA. It is important to find the right fit and I feel HEC Paris is the right business school for me and worth the investment.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? The Wharton School, Said Business School, Olin Business School, EDHEC Business School and Hult International Business School.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? The three main criteria that I used to assess each school was international recognition, diversity, and access to a customized education. Since I plan to work abroad after graduation, it is important to me that I chose a business school that has a good reputation internationally as well as a good placement rate post-graduation. Diversity was also a key criterion, as I wanted to learn in a classroom with students of different nationalities and industries. Lastly, I wanted an MBA education that could be customized to what I hope to achieve professionally. In addition to HEC’s reputation being the leadership school in Europe, a key factor that led me to choose HEC Paris was that I could pursue a specialization in Strategy, which is in line with my career goals.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? A defining moment for me was to be awarded a full bursary to study Chemical Engineering at the University of Cape Town. This bursary was my ticket to a tertiary education and an opportunity to earn a degree, which changed the trajectory of my life. Coming from a country where we still face many challenges with access to higher education and youth unemployment, I have always understood that I am privileged. My degree allowed me to become financially independent at a young age and it gave me the opportunity to pursue the things that I always dreamt of such as traveling across Europe and Asia. Through my travels, I have met people from all ‘walks of life’ who have both inspired me and challenged my thinking. What I am most grateful for is my ability to give back to the people and causes that I care about. Without my bursary and degree, I may not have been able to achieve many of these milestones.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? After completing my MBA, I plan on working in Europe for a few years to gain international work experience. My goal is to secure a job within strategy consulting.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In five years from now, I see myself back in South Africa occupying a management position within a global corporation and continuing on a leadership track. I hope that by then I would have kicked off several projects that I am passionate about. These include the supply of drinking water and dignified sanitation to underprivileged communities as well as youth mentorship.