2019 Best & Brightest MBAs: Isabella Ganem Espinosa, HEC Paris

Isabella Ganem Espinosa

HEC Paris

“Clever, Creative, Energetic, Leader, Passionate, perseverant and challenger but above all, a friend!”

Hometown: Monteria, Cordoba, Colombia

Fun fact about yourself: Even though I am a fourth generation Lebanese and my DNA only reflects a small 8%; I am part of the MBA HECédres and brought together the Lebanese community in our class as if I were 100% Lebanese.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Universidad de Los Andes, Bachelor in Business Administration

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABInbev); Marketing Experiences Manager for Colombia, Peru and Ecuador

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? Currently as an Intern at The ESTEE LAUDER COMPANIES EUROPE within Marketing for Jo Malone London

Where will you be working after graduation? Hopefully in a regional or global marketing role for a luxury brand in Paris or London.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Social Media Coordinator for the HEC Paris MBA Program: I worked closely with the school’s marketing team, the student ambassadors, and all of the clubs to show on the different social media networks our experience at the HEC Paris MBA.
  • President of the HEC Paris Marketing Club and Member of the Luxury Club: I managed to unite my function expertise, marketing, and my desired industry. It was an enriching experience since I got to create new initiatives such as case sessions, bring companies and speakers to campus that back in my country I would not have access to (Firmenich and MAC Cosmetics), and make my classmates fall in love with my previous industry, FMCG and digital marketing.
  • HEC Paris MBA Leadership Award: I felt really honored because it recognizes and celebrates the contributions of participants who made the MBA an overall more meaningful experience and the selection is made by the whole class of 2019, my classmates.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Launching the first “Marketing in art, fashion and luxury company trek” in London where we visited Alfred Dunhill, The Estee Lauder Companies, Bentley, Christie’s, Farfetch and L’Occitaine. They opened their doors for us and showed us the latest marketing campaigns and retail experiences, so we learned face-to-face from the best and enjoyed our time meeting alumni. It took me months to plan this trip, reach out to new people, and make some personal sacrifices but it went perfect! Beyond imaginable…

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Six months after I got my first job at Coca-Cola FEMSA in Colombia, I was promoted to Brand Executive for the Flavored Carbonated Soft Drinks segment, consisting of seven brands. I led a price segmentation plan nationwide and one year later the results paid-off. We managed to grow double digit in volume sales! The best reward for a rookie just out of school.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Patrick LEGLAND. An unprecedented approach to corporate finance and valuation. He took part in many mergers, acquisitions, and finance-related projects during his professional life and translated that into his teaching materials and style. He encouraged all of us to take risks and work in cases where we never thought we would. My final project, for example, was on the brick-and-mortar French retailer Mr. Bricolage.

What was your favorite MBA Course Advanced Strategy by professor Gonçalo PACHECO DE ALMEIDA. This class went beyond the traditional case-based learning in strategy courses. Through a series of negotiations, I really got to know myself and explore deeply other cultures in terms of interests, social capital, and negotiation strategies. In the end, in strategy, finance, marketing, sales, supply chain, retail or other functions, it is about people and how to build meaningful relationships in order to succeed.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose HEC Paris mainly for the extensive alumni network in my dream field: luxury. Everyone I have reached out to has had a kind word and a sense of community in helping the HEC Paris community, no matter the location, program or year of graduation. The second reason was the specializations being offered. That includes, in particular, the Strategy specialization which later on exceeded my expectations regarding the quality of the content and expertise of the professors.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? At HEC Paris, we live to the fullest two of our main values: diversity and academic excellence. Be prepared to be in an environment with more than 50 nationalities and be truly open to ideas and exchanges while delivering your best. Prepare to be challenged by the best.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I am sure that this is not the first time that someone points it out but that is actually located in Paris due to the fact that it is called HEC Paris. The school is located in a lovely town called Jouy-en-Josas, metro two train stations away from Versailles.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? Today’s Isabella is a better version than last year’s Isabella. For instance, in the past, I had been on exchanges in both Canada and The Netherlands, but 2018 was a full immersion into French culture and a first glimpse of nationalities that I had never interacted with before. Now, I am part (I will always be) of a strong community of open-minded, analytical, problem-solving, confident and unique community all over the world, together with living intensively the past 365 days has made me a more mature professional and human being.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Halima ZRAIDI – she is such an inspiration for all professional women. Born and raised in Morocco, she was one of the few field engineers during her early years in Casablanca, who managed to reinvent herself and persevere day-and-night in her strategy and finance studies during the MBA to finally achieve her dream of being a Consultant. She was the first person to get a job from the Class of 2019 where she will be joining McKinsey and Company in Dubai. Along with her determination, I admire her sweet personality, sense of family and the fact that she speaks 5 languages!

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My grandparents. Monteria, Colombia’s cattle ranching hub, was the starting point on who I am today. I come from a single-mother type of family. When I was little, my grandfather used to teach me English and Math while my grandmother introduced me to the artistic world in a town with limited cultural resources. Every Saturday, we got together to paint, and she revealed a world, outside of the agribusiness society through her canvas and art books. Together both of them led me to the passion that unites creativity, people and an analytical side: marketing, a fundamental part of business.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? These may not be acronyms, but I will always remember that everything in financial markets was a “NO BRAINER” and that in France, there are camembert instead of pie charts.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…dreaming about going to business school! And probably working back in LATAM looking for a new challenge as a brand manager within spirits or beauty.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? I believe placing a dollar amount is somehow underestimating the value I have gotten out of my MBA at HEC Paris. Here there are a few reasons: 1) It is a life changing experience where you get to be exposed to people from all over the world, 2) Solidifies the fundamentals for long term career success and 3) Allows you to have either a location, function or industry change. Nevertheless, I do believe that the value created by the MBA is definitely positive, but the ROI cannot be measured in the short term.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Running the Polar Circle Marathon in Iceland and honoring my grandfather by visiting his town of origin in Lebanon.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? A determined businesswoman, always there to help and co-create.

Hobbies? I used to be crazy about indoor cycling, but last year it all changed by living on campus. My friend Dany, the beautiful forest, and the running tracks that lead to our lake got me into running; and on April 14th of 2019, exactly one year after I started my first run, I will pursue my first marathon in here in Paris. From 1.5 to hopefully 42km.

What made Isabella Ganem such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2019?

“Isabella Ganem is the type of student every professor wishes to have in a top MBA program. She brings a great deal of marketing and general management experience from AB InBev in class discussions. She is able to connect insightful anecdotes and sharp real-life observations with concepts from the course. For example, she brought to life the repeatable model of successful acquisitions at ABI and greatly enhanced the class learning.

She raises interesting objections and challenges to the accepted theory, always constructively, in a way which moves the discussion forward. When confronted with two conflicting notions, she sees the path to resolution and shares it with the class.

Isabella has very high standards for her work. She constantly pushes herself to make it methodologically sound, thoroughly researched and above all, practical and actionable.

Isabella is a natural team player: She enthusiastically participates in group exercises with contagious energy, high spirit and fun. She is equally happy to speak up or to let her teammates take center stage. It felt absolutely logical that she was recognized among her peers with the prestigious HEC MBA Leadership Award.

What particularly impressed me is the way Isabella solicits input from her professor on career path. She is not looking for any favors, but rather for an experienced viewpoint which she will weave in with her own thinking. Isabella knows where she is going. She is in control of her professional trajectory and continuously solidifies her plan with meaningful networking, contacts and discussions.

To me, Isabella’s skills and behavior truly exemplify the best and brightest MBAs.”


Vice President and Director of Bain & Company France

Affiliate Professor of Strategy at HEC Paris




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