Us vs. Them.
That’s history in a nutshell. It is a story of encounters with “the others.” Many times, these engagements resulted in war and exploitation. Periodically, these differences stirred imaginations and exposed common ground. Ultimately, these connections sparked a surge in wealth and knowledge.
This is the hallmark of diversity. It comes in many dimensions: culture, class, gender, religion, and politics. As transportation and technology increasingly bind us, diversity is inescapable and understanding is essential. That’s what Ryan Howard experienced as an MBA student at HEC Paris. A 2015 MBA grad and Amazon engineering manager, he learned from classmates that diversity involved ideas as much as nationality.
PREPARATION FOR THE NEXT STEP
“I’ve had arguments and debates on every subject you can imagine,” he tells P&Q in a 2019 interview. “I’ve taken sides I never thought I would. There was just this wide diversity of ideas, of backgrounds, and of subjects. It was pretty interesting.”
In many ways, you could view HEC Paris as a laboratory. Here, 95% of students hail from outside France. According to Benoit Banchereau, HEC Paris’ director of marketing and admissions, such backgrounds prepare students for their next career, where they’ll work alongside peers from different backgrounds and cultures – just like their MBA cohort. In a program like HEC Paris, with 295 full-time MBA students in the 2021 Class, the school’s size ensures that “student ideas and input are valued” according to Banchereau.
In the best labs, diversity fosters collaboration. That’s the first thing that Danilo Feitoza Fraga noticed about his first-year MBA classmates. For him, the Class of 2021 is consciously coming together to create a diverse environment where everyone is treated as indispensable parts of the whole.
‘EVERY CLASSMATE COULD TEACH A COURSE’
“HEC Paris fosters a rich multicultural environment and unique opportunities for sharing and learning from each other’s differences,” he explains. “The program format, with a 16-month duration, allows the students to have a greater cultural immersion…I do not feel a competitive climate among my classmates…[For example], the class has built a collaborative environment with a WhatsApp group in which we help and teach each other. This exemplifies how the class as a whole sees the MBA: as not only an educational and professional experience but also (and most importantly) a cultural and life experience.”
Looking back, Ryan Howard notes that he felt every member of his class could’ve taught a course at HEC Paris. The MBA Class of 2021 is equally accomplished and distinct. Feitoza Fraga, for one, earned a medical degree in his native Brazil. Due to doubts about being a pediatrician, he pivoted to business, serving as a senior analyst for Bayer. After graduation, he plans to move into pharma industry leadership.
“All the trajectory I have gone through will help me become an inspiring professional who leads through example, respecting and valuing differences and keeping in mind that regardless of position or experience, we still have plenty to learn.”
A CLASS WITH IMPACT
Anshul Garg was inspired to enroll at HEC Paris after witnessing the growing influence of data analytics on corporate strategy. As a senior manager at Stubhub, Garg didn’t just enjoy a front-row seat to this development…he helped to drive it.
“I created a first-of-its-kind ‘Stubhub Festival Pass’ which gave users access to all music festivals in America,” he explains. “To be able to convince the senior leadership team to implement something Stubhub had never done before was the biggest accomplishment of my career.”
Indeed, the Class of 2021 arrives in Jouy-en-Josa from all corners of the globe. Fernando Montero Leiva grew up in Costa Rica, eventually becoming a consultant at McKinsey & Company. At Coca-Cola, Cecilia Fernandes Ramos spearheaded integrated marketing campaigns that have reached millions. The same could be said for Sally Ghaly, a New Jersey native who managed content and acquisitions for Viacom’s Nickelodeon brand. Then again, Fang-Ling Hsueh’s impact at Ernst & Young could be measured in the billions…as in dollars.
“I had the opportunity to act as a key member in an energy project by analyzing stock exchange ratio for three listed solar power companies and advising a government fund to invest in the surviving one, with the deal size of over US$1 billion,” writes the Taiwan-born Ernst & Young manager. “The transaction was considered a major integration of regional solar power supply chain and is expected to accelerate the transformation of the local green energy industry.”