2020 Best & Brightest MBAs: Nefe Etomi, HEC Paris

Omonefe (Nefe) Etomi

HEC Paris

An adventurous, supportive, and dynamic personality with a zest for life and a contagious smile.”

Hometown: London, UK, and Lagos, Nigeria

Fun fact about yourself: I’m on a mission to visit 50 countries before I turn 30… I have 7 countries to go and 1 year left. Ah!

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Warwick (UK), BSc Accounting and Finance

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Areedi Consulting, Lagos, Nigeria.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? Orange, Paris, France

Where will you be working after graduation? Currently deciding between options but will likely be Sustainability Consulting.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Recipient of ‘Class of 2020 Leadership Award’ for outstanding contribution and leadership
  • Volunteered at La Cloche (an institution supporting individuals without homes) as part of the ‘Inclusive and Social Business Certificate’
  • MBA Student Council, Head of Student Life and Academics
  • HEC MBA Africa Club, Head of Internal and External Relations
  • Mastercard Innovation ‘Payment-4-Good’ Competition, 1st Place for designing an inclusive fintech solution that provides migrants with a secure identity, safer alternative to carrying cash, and access to job opportunities
  • Events Director and Co-founder of Social Impact Cup at the MBA Tournament (an event that welcomes over 1500 students from various MBA schools to compete in over 20 sports at HEC campus).
  • Hult Prize 2019 Competition, Selected for Regionals for building the foundations of an eldercare service that will ‘provide meaningful work for 10,000 youth within the next decade.’
  • Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Global Case Challenge 2019, 1st Place in Change Management Case

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I was an Events Director for the MBA Tournament commonly known as MBAT (an event that welcomes over 1500 students from various MBA schools to compete in over 20 sports at HEC campus). Part of my responsibility included working with my team to find vendors and negotiating prices for meals and set up, as well as finding a venue, vendors, entertainment, and negotiating prices for the final gala. Alongside this, I was part of the Basketball team and tennis team. I also choreographed the Dance Competition and served as lead singer for the Battle of the Bands. It was the most exhausting (I don’t think I slept for more than 3 hours each night that weekend) yet rewarding experience, as I gave my all to a once-in-a-lifetime activity and got to plan and participate in an event I had looked forward to since before I joined HEC.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Prior to the MBA, I always viewed social impact and business as separate initiatives and thus kept my social impact/sustainability focus separate from business by volunteering for charities and planning Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) events. However, now I have discovered the world of Social Business, where companies can do good and make money. I am so proud of this because I started off by working with teams to pitch various social venture ideas at different competitions, which were always well-received. Now, I am going into a career where I can support businesses in doing just that, advising and supporting social enterprises as well as helping already exciting companies gain their ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) Certificate. We live in a world where almost every action we take impacts our society and planet in some way and I am glad that I get to focus on making a positive impact.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? Definitely the Culture Weeks! Every term there were about 3-5 Culture Weeks to look forward to these activities: Taiwan Week, India Week, Europe Week, North America Week, etc. It reflects the diversity of the HEC MBA population, which is by far its best asset. We got to learn about the country or region’s politics, economics, business landscape, and more. You get to write your name in some of the local languages, see a popular film from the country, or enjoy a meal from the region. It was just such a great experience learning about people’s cultures from multiple angles. It’s one of the things I will miss the most when I graduate.

Why did you choose this business school? Three main reasons. First, it was the ability to learn French. It’s a language I’ve been studying for a while, so the ability to immerse myself in an environment where I could use it more in my daily interactions stood out to me. Second, I treasure the diversity. Even though it’s one of the reasons I picked the school, it’s still one of the things that has shocked me the most; my classmates have completely changed the way I view the world and I will always be grateful for this experience. Third, I value the curriculum: the ability to do an exchange (which I did at Darden Business School), go on a leadership training with the French Army, and host the MBA Tournament/Olympics are all aspects that I really looked forward to. I was keen to be in an environment that met my personal as well as professional needs and HEC did just that.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Showcase your diversity (which could be in anything! Where you’re from, how you think, what you do – diversity cuts across more areas than we realise). HEC is big on this, they have rightly identified that individuals, companies, and even countries will do and be better if they embrace diversity so showing your willingness to add to and learn from the diverse pool should go a long way.

What is the biggest myth about your school? You’ll be fluent in three languages by graduation (for those of us that came in speaking one language at least). Ha! It’s definitely different than what I experienced. You do need to graduate with at least a B1 level in another language, which is great. Naturally, a lot of people pick French and if you move into Paris you get to practice it a lot more, which has been my case. However, thanks to the amazing Latin American and Lebanese Communities, I do feel like I have Spanish and Arabic on lockdown –haha!

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? There are so many amazing opportunities for you to take part in during the program, especially if you include resources available to you from the wider school and not just the MBA program. I wish I took part in more Language Speakeasy’s and engaged with the HEC IDEA Centre (Innovation | Digital & Data | Entrepreneurship | Acceleration) more.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Eduardo Ortiz Reynaga. He really pushed to raise the awareness of Impact Investment and Sustainability in our class and stepped out of his comfort zone to lead the Impact Club. In whatever project he was involved in, he got the group thinking about how the business could have a positive impact on society. Furthermore, he was very good at spotting the potential in some classmates, understanding their strengths, and seeking their advice, collaboration, or support. He was always keen to learn more about our classmates and get them to share their personal, cultural, and professional experiences with the wider MBA student body. For someone who lived off-campus, he made a huge effort to be actively involved in various aspects of on-campus student life which was not easy. Lastly, he is one of the reasons I got involved in so many competitions and challenges. He believed in my abilities and always encouraged and supported me. He definitely inspired me at various points in the program.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My Aunt – I had just finished my Chartered Accounting Qualification and after congratulating me, she said ‘in a few years you’ll be ready for your MBA and then BAM! The sky is your limit!’ At the time, I couldn’t imagine studying ever again, but she mentioned it from time to time and explained the benefits to me and well, here I am.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? Starting a social venture that invests in and supports multiple social ventures that will make a difference in West Africa.

It’s about time I became fluent in a second language. Becoming comfortable working, winning bids, and making presentations in the French language (as my dad says: You could be the next Christine Lagarde, Nefe!). After this, I can tackle Mandarin!

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? A positive individual, who was always open to working outside of her comfort zone and brought a diverse and international perspective to conversations in and outside of the classroom.

Hobbies? Travelling, Singing, Dancing, Playing Sports and Planning Events

What made Nefe such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“Nefe came to HEC Paris to push herself out of her comfort zone. Initially, that meant switching careers from finance to consulting but it has been so much more. The very essence of who Nefe is, from her life experiences to her cultural background, elevated awareness in the MBA community. Not long after arriving on campus in September 2018, she planned the MBA’s first Africa Week that November. It was a landmark year for the MBA, as we had the highest number of African students in the program. Nefe used this opportunity to enrich her peer’s knowledge and understanding of African cultures in fashion, dance, cinema, food, and an Africa Business Day.

Nefe wanted to add value to the world outside of the high-pressured environment she came from while living in London. Although she stepped into a new high-pressured situation, the MBA was fulfilling, because she had an opportunity to lead and learn from others who came from backgrounds unlike her own. If there was a chance to be involved, Nefe was the first to sign up from singing and playing sports at MBAT to an exchange at Darden Business School, UVA. She knew it was the last chance to be a student to take advantage of these opportunities.

In nearly two years, Nefe pushed herself more than she ever has, especially learning to ask for help, a very personal achievement for her. Whenever I speak with faculty and students about Nefe, they often light up about how inspirational she is to people around her. She inspired me too. Above all Nefe’s achievements, I am most impressed with her ability to connect with people from any background, her self-confidence, and her positive attitude.”

Monique Antonette Lewis
MBA Communications Program Manager

“Without any hesitation, I would recommend Nefe as an invaluable addition to the class of 2020.

She is one of the most determined, popular, and modest persons I’ve ever seen in my entire career in HEC. Her “joie de vivre” and positive attitude are her leitmotivs and this has made her appreciated by everyone.

Nefe was one of the members of the MBA Council team. She helped me a lot to improve the quality of service given to partners and families. It was a huge challenge that she took up successfully. I really enjoyed working with her.

I also remember that because she loved so much her classmates, she organized their integration weekend while she was not even on campus or in the country! She was so involved. Actually she is always involved 100% in any project that she starts. She always gives her best.

Nefe has my full respect and I am convinced that she was one of the best participants that HEC recruited for its MBA programme.”

Johanna Abouteboul
Relationship Manager


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