2022 Best & Brightest MBA: Samuel Deason, HEC Paris

Samuel Deason

HEC Paris

“Musician-turned-business professional with a penchant for rigor, abstraction, and getting things done.”

Hometown: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (Canada)

Fun fact about yourself: In 2009, Meryl Streep came to one of my concert dress rehearsals.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Bachelor of Music – The Glenn Gould School
Master of Music – Johns Hopkins University
Doctor of Musical Arts – Northwestern University

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Northwestern University – Instructor

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? I didn’t do an internship since I was recently elected President of the HEC Paris MBA Council, so that was my job!

Where will you be working after graduation? N/A

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Elected President of the MBA Council, and Academic Representative. I was voted by class of 2022 to receive HEC leadership award for outstanding contribution and leadership throughout the MBA Program.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Last October, I led the organization of an Integration Weekend for 150 incoming Sept 21 MBAs. We travelled to Chantilly where we witnessed a theatrical horse-riding show, toured the Chateau de Chantilly, and capped off the night with a Halloween party in our own private castle. This HEC tradition had been on a bit of a hiatus due to COVID, hence, bringing it back for the new MBAs was particularly meaningful.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? It was March 2020, and the COVID pandemic was beginning to unfold. I was engaged to teach an introductory music course at Northwestern University. However, as the entire course had to be digitized, I chose to also redesign the curriculum. Instead of the standard textbook approach outlining the past 500 years of Western music history, the course instead touched on radically disparate ways in which music intersected with life. Topics included sound acoustics, music theory, ethnomusicology, philosophy, and cognition. The result was a learning experience which challenged each participant to think beyond their own concept of music, ultimately fostering intercultural awareness during this very uncertain time.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose HEC because Paris is one of the artistic hubs of the world. Not only can you interact with some of the most iconic luxury brands, but you can enjoy any number of artistic events as well. My favorite outing thus far was an intimate concert by the virtuoso harpsichordist Jory Vinicour, which took place in the cozy workshop of the legendary harpsichord builder Reinhard von Nagel – a concert truly unique to Parisian culture!

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Denis Gromb’s corporate finance course was an unforgettable experience! Gromb has a unique ability to focus a class on the essentials of corporate finance without losing sophistication or oversimplifying things. His own award-winning cases were a highlight – they were clearly constructed and reasonable to digest, yet they contained a wealth of knowledge one you started to dig into them. Above all, his caring, lighthearted-yet-serious personality was infectious. I owe him a lot and would encourage anyone to make his acquaintance.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? Every year, HEC offers an outdoor leadership seminar to its MBA participants. Run by ex-military members, this seminar consists of a number of progressively challenging adventures taking place in the woods, the fields, and in the water. My favorite challenge was fording a lake on a raft which our group had to build ourselves. All we had to construct the raft were a few plastic tanks and a rope! This tradition reflects the concept of having skin in the game – if you don’t build your raft well, you’re going to sink!

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? As a professional musician, I’ve travelled a lot. Hence, staying put during lockdown was somewhat comforting. However, I definitely should have travelled more, especially after many COVID restrictions were lifted. The French countryside is full of so many beautiful treasures!

What is the biggest myth about your school? It’s in our name – HEC Paris isn’t actually in Paris! That being said, we’re not that far away, and have a beautiful campus which wouldn’t be feasible if we were located within the city limits.

What surprised you the most about business school? The learn-by-doing curriculum was pleasantly surprising. Many of our courses did not take on the traditional form consisting of a single professor standing on a pedestal delivering knowledge. Instead, our learning experience was supplemented by a number of activities including simulations, excursions, discussions, debates, projects, and adventures!

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? HEC requires a number of short essays, more than any other school I applied to. One of them concentrated on creativity, asking “What would do you if you lived a different life than your own?” I dedicated quite a bit of time to crafting an answer which was extremely radical, almost comically so. Think thousands of years in the future, gender bending, parent of dozens of “children”, a newly-invented neurosport, etc. Perhaps this imaginative response set me apart.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I admire Mariana Arnaut in so many ways! Her intellectual talent is formidable, especially as a strategist. She voices her thoughts directly and convincingly and is admirably disagreeable. The world needs more entrepreneurs like her, although she’s definitely one of a kind!

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My father is a small business owner. He always encouraged me to learn more about business, and taught me many business concepts from a very young age. He was probably the first person to plant the idea in my head that pairing an MBA with my music background would be a cool idea, and so for that I am thankful.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? My two main goals are to work in consulting, and to lead an arts organization. As a consultant, I feel like my background in the humanities can help solve real-world business problems using qualitative analysis and ethnography. As for my artistic goals, my dream project would be to open a performing arts festival in northern Saskatchewan, inviting some of the most meaningful artists from around the world to mentor the next generation of musicians.

How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? I’m sure many other performing artists will agree that the pandemic has revolutionized the way we understand our own careers. We’ve dealt with our concerts being cancelled, and had no choice but to make extraordinary quick digital transformations in order to survive. Let’s hope we can keep our best learnings from the pandemic, all while resuming the magic of in-person concerts as soon as possible.

What made Samuel such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2022?

“I had the joy of teaching Samuel this month. Samuel has shown himself to be a professional and very pleasant student. Over the elective “Consumer Understanding For Business Action”, he was motivated and has developed his skills in connecting consumer understanding with business opportunities. Given his background in ethnography, he was particularly at ease in understanding consumer needs in depth, highlighting his motivations, tensions, needs…

He worked with his teammates on a practical case study. The team has been excellent in applying the methodology taught in class, generating strong and relevant consumer insights, and proposing concrete ideas of application.”

Aude Darrou
Affiliate Professor, HEC Paris

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