2021 Best & Brightest MBAs: Michael Venditto, HEC Paris

Michael Venditto

HEC Paris

“A collaborative but decisive leader and a passionately devoted friend.”

Hometown: Trumbull, Connecticut, USA

Fun fact about yourself: I ran an impromptu half marathon from HEC’s campus in Jouy-en-Josas to Paris to celebrate the end of the first COVID-19 confinement despite not having run more than 8 km (5 miles) in over 3 years. I joined my friend Matthieu who casually suggested the idea a few hours before we began.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Villanova University, Bachelor of Arts in History

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Rexel Incorporated; Sales Manager, Lighting and Controls

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? Amazon Web Services (AWS), France

Where will you be working after graduation? Amazon Web Services (AWS), Retail Rotation Program MBA 

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

President MBA Council: I was elected President of the MBA student governing body. I oversaw increased integration of the MBA program within the school, led a revision of the Council’s governing charter, and helped facilitate new MBA student-organized events despite the challenges of the COVID pandemic.

MBA Student Life Representative: I served as a point of contact for my classmates to address and resolve daily student-life issues. During the first COVID-19 confinement, I met regularly with the school’s administration to find collective solutions to the unprecedented challenges faced by students on and off campus.

Class of 2021 Transformational Leaders Award: I was honored to have been one of 15 students selected by my classmates to receive this leadership award.

French American Chambre of Commerce (FACC) Serge Bellanger Scholarship Winner 2020-21: I was one of 10 French or American students pursuing graduate business studies abroad (from 84 total applicants) to receive this scholarship in recognition of my academic achievements, work history, career goals, leadership qualities, and commitment to promoting French-American business relations.

HEC Paris MBA – HEC Excellence Scholarship recipient: I was chosen for this scholarship upon acceptance at HEC Paris based on my academic record, the strength of my application, the results of my selection interviews and my GMAT score.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? The most challenging but rewarding experience of the MBA was my six months as a Student Life Representative. The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting initial confinement in France transformed the scope of this role. Literally overnight, I became one of a few points of contact between the University administration and the student body. Classmates reached out to me daily with questions and personal problems they could not resolve on their own. I met daily with the administration to receive French government updates and get answers to my classmates’ questions. Most of all I ensured that student perspectives and experiences were considered as the University developed new academic and campus-life policies to respond to the evolving health crisis.

I was particularly concerned with the physical and mental well-being of the more than 300 students and their family members who, like myself, were forced to remain on campus. Specifically, I organized food delivery to around 20 students who were experiencing COVID systems and were quarantined in their rooms in the first days of confinement. I helped classmates get visa extensions for family members who were stuck visiting France when international travel ended. For students living with children and/or partners on campus, I reserved study rooms in which they could individually work in a calm environment outside the apartment they shared with their family. I also created an outdoor gym where students could work out while respecting the strict social distancing and sanitary requirements put in place by the French government.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I concluded my first managerial sales role having grown my team’s revenue nearly 6x and increasing commercial margin more than 65% over 3 years. I hired, trained, and managed all three of my team members and these results represented our collective achievements. I am most satisfied that I created a collaborative environment of shared ownership.

Why did you choose this business school? I wanted to pursue an MBA at a worldwide top-ranked program and in a European university. I ultimately selected HEC Paris as my top choice due to the cultural and professional diversity of its MBA program. MBA students with whom I spoke typically described working in small study groups in which everyone came from a different nationality and a different professional background. I felt this learning environment would best prepare me for my post-MBA goal of working in international business.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favorite event was the MBA student-organized inaugural 5km “Turkey Trot” race that took place the week of American Thanksgiving. For me, this event embodied the immense perseverance and resilience of my classmates. Nearly all of the traditional HEC Paris MBA in-person events were cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the “Turkey Trot” was organized in strict accordance with France’s health restrictions during the country’s fall confinement. Over 100 students from across all of HEC Paris’ degree programs ran on campus and 98 participants took part virtually in 10 different counties, collectively completing 1,010 km. As an American, I particularly enjoyed sharing a traditional Thanksgiving Day event with classmates from all over the world.

What is the biggest myth about your school? HEC Paris has very close ties to the luxury sector. This is true for professional placement, but I was surprised to learn the dress code on campus is explicitly casual. I packed suits, dress shoes, neckties and button-down shirts which remained in the closet except for professional interviews. The move to online classes only furthered the selection of comfort over luxury.

What surprised you the most about business school? I did not expect that my classmates and I would come to rely so very intimately on one another’s support and encouragement academically, professionally, and personally. This was particularly pronounced during confinement on campus due to COVID-19 as many of us went nearly a year without seeing our families. We shared the solidarity of being in a foreign country, managing the uncertainties of the pandemic and the stresses of the MBA program together.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? One word: research. I spoke with more than 10 current and former students before applying. I learned about the school’s culture and the ‘typical’ HEC student, which made me confident HEC Paris was the right mutual fit. I also benefited from the advice each student gave. I arrived on campus prepared to network with my classmates and to take part in the professional-recruitment events that occurred during the first month.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Marco Ferarri – A great friend, Marco demonstrates values I hope to emulate above all: a fearlessness to face his weaknesses and grow. Initially, Marco’s writing in English was a professional deficiency. He has a Master of Finance degree and was incredibly helpful tutoring me and other classmates in quantitative courses. In exchange, I reviewed and critiqued his individual writing assignments before submission. Witnessing his determination first-hand was inspiring as he wrote multiple drafts, embraced criticism, and spent many late nights improving his final submissions. By the end of the first term, he had already greatly improved and regularly earned top grades on his individual essays. He is hard-working, relentlessly positive, very funny, and creates a great working environment. We served 6 months together on the MBA Council and his attention to detail, persistence, and willingness to take on difficult tasks made our team better and consistently motivated me to step out of my comfort zone and develop as a leader.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? The pedagogical shift to online courses was initially very disruptive. In face-to-face classes, I kept my laptop in my bag to minimize distractions which was no longer an option in an online format. After a few months, I largely adjusted to this “new normal.” Professors increased interaction by embracing virtual breakout rooms and puncturing classes with polls and video capabilities. Class discussions surprisingly evolved as some students proved more comfortable speaking online than in person and the chat feature on Zoom developed into a new live forum of meaningful exchange.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My eldest cousin Michele influenced me the most in pursuing a business education. I had never studied business and was very skeptical that pursuing an MBA was the right choice for me. She came from a nontraditional MBA background, but completed her MBA in 2007, transitioned into a new sector and currently works in Europe. She achieved what I hoped to accomplish professionally, and her example was very encouraging. Michele also provided advice on how to evaluate different programs and find the right fit based on my professional and personal development goals. She even reviewed my personal essays and I only felt comfortable applying once she said my application was ready.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? To be consistently considered trustworthy and dependable by my colleagues and to successfully lead a large, multi-disciplined and multi-cultural team.

What made Michael such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2021?

“If you want to know why Michael Venditto is one of the Best and Brightest of 2021, you don’t need to look at his transcript that displays a rock solid academic performance. You don’t need to look at his extracurricular activities on campus, which show his leadership skills and his commitment to making a difference and helping others in times of crisis. You don’t even need to spend more than a few minutes with him to realize how thoughtful he is on a wide range of disruptive and game-changing subjects and that he has many transformational abilities.

Instead, just come to an HEC Paris MBA class. You will immediately notice the effect he has on his classmates and on the dynamics of the discussion. He brings this positive energy with words that don’t crush other people but instead invite further discussion and further questioning in a world that desperately needs open doors rather than definitive answers. He knows when it is time to be calm and thoughtful, but he also knows when it is time to be angry and when it is time to act. Michael played a key role in this year’s class and in particular in the Sustainable and Disruptive Innovation track, keeping us honest and keeping us hopeful (most of the time). This is why he is definitely one of the best and brightest of 2021.”

Jeremy Ghez
Associate Professor of Economics and International Affairs
Coordinator of the HEC Paris MBA’s Sustainable and Disruptive Innovation Track


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