Meet the MBA Class of 2021: The Go-Getters

Léa Urien

HEC Paris

“A multi-cultural millennial woman who enjoys life whilst pursuing ambitious career plans.”

Hometown: London, UK

Fun Fact About Yourself: I started opera singing at the age of twelve and studied at the French Music Conservatory for six years. At that time, I was a soprano and performed various roles in theatres, such as Barberine in The Marriage of Figaro (Mozart) and Eurydice in Orpheus in the Underworld (Offenbach). In my early twenties, I also composed and recorded my own songs that I sang on stage in Versailles. Future classmates, be prepared: my guitar is always near!

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne, Master in Public Law

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Taylor Wessing LLP, French Qualified Lawyer

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: This is a typical question where I can see people may tend to exaggerate. I will keep things very simple here: my biggest professional achievement has been the acquittal of a former international company executive in a €7m bribery case. During three years, I have been part of an incredible team of lawyers and counsels who devoted their time and energy to the defense of a man who had been wrongly accused. Seeing him walking away as a free man was the best professional feeling ever!

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? The program has not started yet, so I have only spoken to a few classmates so far. I met two of them in London and found that they were ambitious, multi-cultural, and open-minded young people. Despite living in London, none of us were British and we were all eager to explore a different country or continent upon completion of our MBA. I love that adventurous spirit – the class of 2021 is promising…

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? Coming from an extremely specialized law background, I wanted to broaden my skills to transition into management related roles. Therefore, the length of the program was key. HEC Paris has always been my number one choice with its 16-month program, including eight months of core foundation courses. I will also have the opportunity to do a summer internship and experience whether I have made the right career choice. An MBA is a once-in-a-lifetime experience so I want to make the most of it and consider all my options. Time will definitely be my best ally along the way.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I will definitely be part of the HEC Luxury club, which I already follow on the social networks. I am also very excited about the MBAT – the MBA Olympic Games organized every year by HEC Paris. Last but not least, I am very curious (or should I say nervous?) about the 2-day Leadership Seminar at Saint Cyr, the French military academy.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? I found the whole application process very smooth and straightforward. I cannot remember any particularly tricky questions. I started my application with the idea that I had to be myself and show who I am. It took me about two months to be completely happy with my essays. This drafting period allowed me to truly think about my past failures, my recent achievements, and the attention I wanted to give to my career. A new professional and personal plan clearly came out from these long hours thinking about where I wanted to be in the short- and long-term. I was very well prepared for my interviews with HEC Paris alumni and I really enjoyed the moment. I responded with honesty to all questions, which focused on my presentation (“The impact of the digital age on the legal sector in the UK”), work experience, and career aspirations. Finally, at a time when most applicants are ambitious men with outstanding GMAT scores, I found that the most challenging part of the application process was to demonstrate that my atypical profile was my biggest strength.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I have spent the last seven years working at top international law firms in Paris and London. Although my role has always been challenging and satisfied my intellectual curiosity, I could not imagine myself working within the same industry for the next 35 years. I wanted to explore things and work in a different sector, function, and country. That might be a millennial thing! Especially, I learned from my experience abroad that diversity and a multi-skilled background are essential to succeed in today’s business world. I am also convinced that more and more women will emerge as corporate leaders in the coming years and I want to be part of this trend. When I turned 30, I thought the time had come to embrace the MBA journey and I started the application process.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? INSEAD, EM Lyon, ESSEC.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I spent a lot of time connecting with the marketing team at each business school that I targeted. I also carefully read the various MBA brochures available on the schools’ website and I attended various alumni events in London. Most importantly, I based my decision to go to HEC Paris on the four following factors:

  1. Location: After 6 years spent in the UK, I wanted to come back to France and be closer to my family. HEC Paris, as the best French business school, was on top of my list.
  2. International Exposure: I did not want to lose the international exposure I had gained in London. HEC Paris has an outstanding exchange program and alumni network that will boost my capacity to switch countries in the short and long-term.
  3. Length of the program: I wanted to implement my career changes smoothly and 16 months is perfect for that.
  4. Placement and income statistics: Most HEC Paris students change sectors, functions, and countries right after the end of the MBA. Their post-MBA salary is competitive compared to other French business schools. The program has also a strong focus on career development and has partnerships with top international companies such as LVMH. This was key in my decision to join the school.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? My defining moment was in November 2012 when I decided to cross the Channel to get married and fulfill my professional aspirations.  Moving to the UK was a big challenge: if my career path in France was already clearly defined, no one was waiting for me in London. I took a risk and started from scratch. In the end, I managed to build a happy and successful life abroad. This helped me gain the confidence that I was sometimes missing in my early twenties. I have learned to go beyond my comfort zone to embrace new cultures and environments. My experience in the UK allowed me to meet inspiring people, open new doors, and be more ambitious. It seems that the lyrics of an old song have become my personal mantra: “if I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere“…

Where do you see yourself in ten years? I see myself as a senior manager at a top international company within the luxury or hotel industry. I am not sure about my country of residence at that time, but I like the fact that current plans are not written in stone! Most importantly, I hope I will have maintained a well-balanced life and started my own family whilst fulfilling my professional ambitions. Whatever happens in the future, it seems that the most exciting time of my life is ahead of me and that feels really good.

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