The champagne is flowing.
White-gloved waiters await a group of MBA students in the stately drawing room of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin’s 19th Century headquarters in the Champagne capital of Reims, France. As the students stroll into the room, the servers waste little time in generously filling glasses with the bubbly liquid that sustains this famous region of France, followed by light canapés to nibble between sips.
The students aren’t there to toast or celebrate anything special with their chilled drinks. It’s just another day in the life of an HEC Paris MBA where treks to this place or that are as commonplace as the Pinot Noir grapes that dominate Veuve Clicquot’s champagnes. It’s one of the school’s MBA treks, a central part of the HEC Paris MBA experience.
HEC PARIS TREKS FOR MBAS CAN BE A TRUE JOIE DE VIVRE EXPERIENCE
This luxury trip to Reims is unique, a quintessential joie de vivre experience, not part of the more mainstream treks to visit with companies and executives in finance, technology, or marketing (see below). It’s a rare private peek at one of the world’s most successful luxury businesses, from the vineyards, wine tanks and cellars to an executive presentation in the company’s boardroom and an elaborate dinner in what was once the residence of Madame Clicquot, the iconic female entrepreneur who made Veuve Clicquot a global brand.
“Treks are unique opportunities for our participants to gain hands-on insights into a specific company or industry and to develop their professional network,” explains Andrea Masini, dean of the school’s MBA program. “They play an important role in helping our students get jobs. Not only because participants develop professional contacts, but also because the insider knowledge of the industry they acquire during the company visits makes a difference when they interview with recruiters. Besides all that, treks are also great fun and a wonderful opportunity to create stronger ties within our student community.”
Befitting HEC Paris’ diverse global culture, the MBA students lucky enough to take this trek hail from all over the world. The group includes students from Brazil, Chile, China, Germany, Lebanon, Pakistan, and the U.S. After all, 93% of HEC’s MBA students are from outside France yet have chosen to get their MBAs from a school that is a French institution founded in 1881. The school boasts more CEOs of Fortune global 500 corporations than any other university in Europe.
‘TREKS GIVE US INSIGHTS ON HOW DIFFERENT COMPANIES WORK’
For Janika Naust, a German who is being sponsored by Johnson & Johnson, the trip is the third HEC trek she has taken. On an excursion to Milan with the MBA Luxury Club last year, she met and engaged with a long list of fashion brands, including Bottega Veneta, Ermenegildo Zegna, Yoox Net A Porter. Earlier this year, she ventured to Amsterdam with the MBA Marketing Club to meet with the likes of Heineken, Uber, and Google.
“The treks give us insights on how different companies work in a certain field of interest,” she says. “Being able to speak with leaders in certain industries and functions enables us to better understand trends, challenges, and demands for certain roles, companies, and industries.”
They’re also an opportunity to strengthen and build a network outside of France and HEC while still an MBA student. Last April, Marc Chbeir, a former consultant from Lebanon, who flew off on a consulting trek to Dubai organized by the school’s career center and the MBA Consulting Club. During the week in Dubai, students met non-stop each day with the major consulting firms, including McKinsey, Bain, Monitor Deloitte, and Accenture Strategy. “This experience allowed us to interact with the consultants, associates, and partners, get insights about their daily activities, visit their offices and build strong network and connections,” says Chbeir.