2020 MBAs To Watch: Liz Miller, HEC Paris

Liz Miller

HEC Paris

“A genuine person who likes to use humor to help people feel comfortable being themselves.”

Hometown: Ankeny, Iowa USA

Fun fact about yourself: I’ve visited every country in Western Europe (except Lichtenstein).

Undergraduate School and Degree:
Central College in Pella, Iowa USA
Bachelor of Arts in French and Secondary Education

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school?
John Deere in Kaiserslautern, Germany
Marketing Representative (Regional Product Manager)

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? I took the opportunity to visit my family in the US over my summer break.

Where will you be working after graduation? I’m in the recruiting process focusing on Marketing jobs in France.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Leadership Roles:

  • President of Industry Club

Coming from an industry background and wanting to continue in industry following the MBA, this was my opportunity to meet with major industry players and plan events for the class together with my team of 10 people.

  • President of LGBT+ & Allies Club

As the President of the club, I aimed to provide a welcoming environment for anyone who identifies as LGBT+ as well as increase the visibility of the club and the LGBT+ community on campus.

  • Student Ambassador

I welcome prospective students to campus and share my experiences in the MBA with them. It’s a fun way to meet people and invest in the future of the program.

  • Student Life Representative

I worked with the administration to improve student life on campus. It also allowed me to get in touch more with my classmates.


  • MBA Leadership Award for Class 2020

I was nominated and voted by my peers for outstanding contribution and leadership throughout the MBA Program.

  • Finalist of RAHM Global LGBT+ Leadership Contest 2019, Berlin (UHLALA Group)

In my efforts to promote LGBT+ inclusion, I was a finalist in the RAHM LGBT+ Leadership contest in Berlin, working on 3 case competitions with leaders from all over Europe and other parts of the world.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school?
I am most proud of my accomplishments as the President of the LGBT+ and Allies Club. During my time as President, I rebranded the club from the LGBT+ Club to the LGBT+ & Allies Club. In doing so, I aimed to actively bring allies into the equation, including having several club board members who are allies. As future leaders, I want my classmates to be aware of what struggles LGBT+ people have in the workplace and be able to support their employees and coworkers.

One event I organized and moderated was a “How to be an Ally” workshop. People shared stories about what it means to be an ally and what it means to have allies. We had an open discussion about what challenges LGBT+ people face and how allies can best support them. The event was so successful, the club has already scheduled a second workshop on the same topic in the coming months.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Six months into my first job at John Deere, I applied for a position in our Germany office because it was a personal goal to move back to Europe and the position fit my profile perfectly. I never dreamed I would get the position as it would require an international relocation and visa. I also assumed they would be able to find a French native speaker as the job was supporting the French market. Despite these hurdles, the company saw potential in me that I was up to the challenges that came with the role as well as moving to another country. This two-year contract turned into seven years in Germany and has shaped me both in my career and personal life.

Living and working in Germany has taught me numerous lessons. I have built my network from zero in a foreign country, learned a new language, and worked in an international team. I’ve also notched everyday life accomplishments, such as filing German income taxes and wiring light fixtures in my apartment. Not everyone is able to live abroad, so I am very proud of having the determination and drive to do so. It all started by taking a chance and applying to a position that I never thought I would get.

Why did you choose this business school? When searching for MBA programs, I looked only in France in order to relocate permanently to France and accelerate my career here. The HEC Paris MBA program was a good fit for me in terms of the alumni network, course offerings, and location…among other things. In November 2017, I did a campus visit and everything just came together. The program offered what I was looking for and beyond that; I felt deep down this was the right choice. I visited other schools as well. As nice as those programs seemed, I didn’t get the same feeling of belonging as I did at HEC Paris. In the end, I made the decision with my head and with my heart.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Before starting the program, I was really excited about going back to school and taking classes again. At the end of the program, what I take away is so much more than the academic side of the MBA. I’ve learned to work with people from various backgrounds and nationalities. I’ve learned to overcome my fears, for example speaking in front of 100+ classmates about my personal life. I’ve learned how to lead others through my club presidencies. The MBA is what you make of it. Take the opportunity to make the most of it.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? The only regret I have with my MBA is that before the program, during the hustle of moving to a new country, I didn’t apply to the TEC program. I regret not taking more time to find out about the program and applying. Not being in TEC, I missed out on the opportunity to really work on my soft skills and get structured mentorship. In hearing stories from classmates. Although TEC is obviously a great deal of work during a busy time of the program, it would have been worth it for my development. Having said that, there are activities I was able to take part in that my TEC classmates were not able to attend.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? In general, I admire each person in the program who is doing an MBA in their second or third language. It’s hard enough for me even when English is my native language, so I often tell my classmates how impressed I am by them.

The classmate I admire most in the program is Ritsuya Niwayama from Japan. With a Ph.D. in Biology, Ritsuya is doing a career transformation, trying to go into Marketing. As you can imagine, Ritsuya is extremely smart. At the same time, he’s humble and is always willing to help classmates on topics, such as statistics, and patiently explains the concepts. My favorite story about Ritsuya is during our Statistics final project, each group needed to analyze data from cities around the world to recommend areas for potential real estate investment. Ritsuya didn’t want to input thousands of data points, so he created a program in Python to extract data from various sources. What impressed me, even more, was that Ritsuya shared the program with other groups instead of using his work as a competitive advantage. He’s a team player with a heart of gold. I feel honored to have Ritsuya as a friend and colleague.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? The person who most influenced me to do an MBA was my friend and coworker Ninja Hellert. She did a part-time MBA in Mannheim, Germany, while working full-time at John Deere. I was impressed with her multi-tasking and time management doing her job while taking classes on the weekends and using her vacation time to work on papers and projects. Seeing her example of being able to take a major step in order to advance her career inspired me to look at furthering my own education. She helped me while I was researching schools and during my application process to HEC. One of the reasons I chose to do a full-time program was in part because I didn’t think I had the discipline she had to do the MBA while working full-time. I’m grateful for her role in getting me to where I am.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?
The top item on my professional bucket list is to be CMO of a major international organization. I want to be a leader and make an impact on my future company. The role itself is of high interest to me as Marketing is my passion and being able to drive the marketing strategy for a company is exciting! What’s even more important to me is to be a role model to other women and LGBT+ people. There are so few lesbian leaders, so I see it as my responsibility to be visible and to help others feel comfortable being authentic at work. So often it is the “G” within LGBT that are actively involved and most visible. I want to do my part to empower lesbians and women in general.

Second, I have always dreamed of living in Australia. I would love to have an assignment there for a few years to be able to explore the country more. I went on a 3-week vacation to Australia in 2015 and fell in love with it. The landscape is absolutely breathtaking, and it was just incredible seeing kangaroos out in the wild. I also really liked the Aussies’ laidback attitude and friendliness.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Someone who is innovative, humble, a great friend, and doesn’t tolerate injustice.

Hobbies? Hobbies? There’s no time for hobbies in the MBA! When I finish my MBA, I look forward to traveling again. There are so many places on my list I’d love to visit – Greece, Poland, Norway, India – to name a few. I really enjoy reading. I often find myself longing to read a book but have to read case studies for class instead. I have a long list of books to read after the MBA. Finally, I love cooking and food. Meeting people from so many different countries has inspired me to learn to make new dishes, such as Japanese noodles and curry. I use cooking as a creative outlet as well as a way to fight homesickness by making foods I miss from home.

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

“It is so easy to write about Liz. Her personality stood out in her group of MBAs who took my Decision-Making and Influence class. What quickly transpired about Liz is a no-nonsense, know-what-I-do-not-want approach to life, while remaining remarkably open-minded about what she may want to do next. These assets make me confident that Liz will, in all likelihood, successfully occupy a leading position in the future. I can see her both perform well and rigorously individually, as well as convince others around her to follow her lead.

Liz has an interesting duality in her. She is both firm in what she says and soft-spoken; she is both humble and self-assured; she is kind but strikes me as not likely to be dumped on! These are precious ingredients in the making of a leader opening new paths. And we badly need such leaders! I feel privileged to have crossed her path. If you are like Liz, please apply to our program.”

Anne-Laure Sellier
Associate Professor of Creativity and Marketing at HEC Paris

“I met Liz immediately after her arrival at HEC, when she proposed herself as the leader of the LGBT+ Club at the MBA. She chose an ambitious task, as the club’s activities in the last year had been quite intense, spanning an increased support for the HEC DiversiTALKS (the workshops on diversity and inclusion that I direct on campus) and the creation of the Delta Diversity Conference, deemed to be repeated yearly. In assuming her office, Liz totally fulfilled her predecessors’ promise to make the LGBT+ and Allies Club rise among the most active student organizations on campus.

There are many characteristics I could remark about Liz, her being kind, sincere and funny. But two characteristics I appreciate most in her are trustworthiness and the ability to be an example for others. Not only is she absolutely dedicated to bringing her tasks to a successful conclusion and in respecting the deadlines, which is essential for leaders. She also exchanged the support I offered to the association’s activities with ensuring her personal full commitment and the association’s presence at the events we planned together, especially the DiversiTALKS. Given the busy agenda of MBA students, Liz’s engagement with the association appears to be not simply significant, but indeed extraordinary. Her contribution to HEC’s campus life has been outstanding.”

Matteo Winkler
Assistant Professor at the Law Department of HEC Paris


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