Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Williams Demanou, HEC Paris

Williams Demanou

HEC Paris

“An introvert who loves spending quality time with people. Optimistic human being and empathetic associate.”

Hometown: Yaounde, Cameroon

Fun Fact About Yourself:

My one and only brand of watch (Daniel Wellington) – I’m in love with the minimalistic designs – has a logo featuring the initial letters of my name and it makes me feel like the watches were designed for me.

Undergraduate School and Major: National Advanced School of Public Works Yaounde, Master of Engineering in Civil Engineering

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Sol Solution, Head of Design Office and Business Engineer, Yaounde, Cameroon.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of the school’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? Many aspects led me to select HEC Paris to pursue my MBA, including the adaptability of the program and the emphasis on leadership development. But ultimately, the duration of the program was key to my choice. I think that a 16-month program is really ideal for someone like me with a non-business background as it would allow me to learn a lot of concepts, challenge myself and eventually change my plans during the curriculum, shifting my focus towards specific knowledge areas. This duration also offers the opportunity to do a 6-month internship before the formal graduation, while staying in a two-year window before getting back to a full-time job.

What club or activity excites you most at this school? I am really excited about completing the Off-campus Leadership Seminar, because I think I will benefit a lot from the leadership activities directed by French officers whom I witnessed the caliber on TV.

What makes you most excited about getting your MBA at HEC Paris? What makes you most nervous about starting business school? I am most excited about the fact that I will spend time in a renowned institution with a drive of academic excellence, with classmates of high quality and so close to the beautiful city of Paris.

I am most nervous about the difficulty of time management, as according to alumni it is not easy to take the best out of all what the program offers to its’ students (i.e knowledge, social interactions, and networking). Alumni say sacrifices need to be made and I hope to make the right choices.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: During the last two years of my engineering career, I have dedicated myself in improving the road pavement design process in my organization using state-of-the-art design methods. As an employee in an important design firm in the country, I was able to raise awareness to engineers of the Ministry of Public Works, making them more proficient in the assessment of designs of other firms.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I thought of joining an MBA program because I wanted to have a career with impact. I noticed during my career as a civil engineer that dramatically, a good proportion of road infrastructure projects reach the construction phase being poorly designed or not really profitable, resulting in huge losses by financial institutions or the state. I then wished to be in a position that would allow me to shape the development of infrastructure projects or assess the quality of such developments, on financial and strategic terms. At the same time, about a year ago, I started feeling that the scope of improvement in my engineering career had dramatically narrowed, already gained a great experience in the field at a young age.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? When I started preparing for the application process, I had a clear preference for HEC Paris for a lot of reasons. Later on, I started considering other top-tier schools, but I didn’t apply to because of the closing of the only GMAT test center in my country from December 2019 to April 2020 in round 4. To fight against my perfectionist nature, while waiting for HEC’s response, I finally decided to apply to EmLyon in France as well.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? I didn’t find any question particularly difficult during the process. That may be because I noticed my profile suited all the main criteria HEC Paris looks for in candidates while determining my fit at other business schools. I instead enjoyed filling the five compulsory essays, and appreciated how much the school wanted to know about the background of the applicants. Also, during the interviews, I didn’t find it very hard to answer any particular question.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? If I had to specify a defining moment in my life, it would be the virtual meeting of Mr. Celestin Monga, a Cameroonian economist. On December 31, 2016, I saw on Twitter the video of a man wearing a shirt of the Cameroonian national football team, and dedicating a guitar tune to his friend Richard Bona, my favorite artist. Puzzled, I conducted some research and found that Mr. Monga was at that time Vice President at the African Development Bank and a former executive at the World Bank. He had also been an impactful activist in my country before I was born. Upon discovering Mr. Monga through his books and Twitter, I found that he had a career with impact, similar to the aspiration I have for mine, and I knew that to work on issues that matter to me I needed to widen my skill set with a business degree.

This meeting also increased my envy to document myself in economics, particularly development economics. I think the understanding I gained from my readings would be helpful in diving deeply into business concepts and in defining what I would ideally have to learn during the program in order to fulfill my career objectives.

What have you been doing to prepare yourself for business school? As a preparation, I’ve maintained my interest in reading business-related topics (books and web articles), researching on my dream companies, and contacting alumni and current students of the school on LinkedIn. Also, I enjoy having insights from Poets & Quants – I recently read a nice article featuring B-school graduates talking about what they wished they knew before the start of the program, and I try to follow their advices as much as possible.

What is your favorite company and what could business students learn from them? My favorite company is McKinsey & Company because I am impressed by how the company has constantly maintained high standards since its creation even though its founder passed away just few years after its creation. It is, for me, the expression of a clear vision and the result of keeping focus on delivering quality results and I think it is an example that business students can benefit.


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