Meet The HEC Paris MBA Class Of 2023

During the Outdoor Leadership Seminar, students spend two days proving – and improving – their team-leadership skills during a series of increasingly difficult field exercises supervised by military-trained professionals.

Samuel Deason, a 2022 MBA graduate, describes HEC Paris as a “learn-by-doing curriculum. If you ask alumni, that philosophy is personified by the program’s Saint Cyr’s Outdoor Leadership Event, which is run by former military officers. Deason describes it as “progressively challenging adventures” held in the woods or on water. In one case, he writes, his team had to build a raft…using plastic tanks and rope. For Arvind Rajan, the event was a glimpse into how the best teams operate — and why many teams fail.

“As with any organizational time-bound project, we had to chart out a strategy and improve upon it as we went along,” Rajan reminisces.” Just as in the real world, some people knew each other, and some people were just getting to know each other. Some had heard of similar missions and therefore had an idea about execution; However, they had to get crucial ‘buy-in’ from the team to proceed with that plan. In one sense, the mission itself was not as important as ensuring that despite information asymmetry, lack of trust, and team politics, we delivered as a team. This has been my biggest takeaway from OLS, and I shall be eternally grateful to HEC for this!”


The Leadership Event is one of the defining experiences touched upon by Andrea Masini, Associate Dean, MBA Programs at HEC Paris. In a wide-ranging interview with P&Q, Masini looks at some of the new developments on campus, along with popular campus traditions and the school’s deep connections in the Paris business community — and beyond.

Andrea Masini of HEC Paris. Magali Delporte photo

P&Q: What are the two most exciting developments at your program and how will they enrich the MBA experience for current and future MBAs?

AM: “We are continually revamping our curriculum to meet the needs of our students and provide them with the freshest business knowledge. Our students have a strong desire to make impact following their MBA – they want to make a difference in the world. In recent years, we launched the Sustainable & Disruptive Innovation specialization. In addition, we keep our courses up-to-date with top research faculty – the research, which has a strong focus on impact, that we produce in-house ensures our students graduate with the most innovative and up-to-date knowledge. It also instils in them an ability to not only think creatively and innovatively moving forward, but also to practice purposeful leadership.

We have a number of core and elective courses that address impact leadership, including: Diversity and Inclusion Strategy, Ethics and Performance, Globalization and Corporate Social Action, Leading in a Diverse World, Positive Psychology for Managers, Responsible Leadership, and Social Entrepreneurship. And, our newest core course, Purposeful Leadership.

In addition, last year we successfully launched the Creative Destruction Lab-Paris, an initiative that puts our MBA students on the front lines of creating or growing a startup. Dedicated to climate change, the HEC Program has attracted some of the most innovative start-ups in the field and it will benefit from the expertise of an impressive pool of experts from all around the world.”

P&Q: What are two biggest differentiating features of your MBA program? How do each of these enrich the learning of your MBA students?

AM: “The HEC Paris MBA experience is unique due to its ideal program architecture and strong sense of community and diversity.

While maximizing ROI, the 16-month duration of the program, maximizes our participants’ chances to transform their careers. It gives students enough time to graduate with the latest knowledge of today and well-prepared to solve the business problems of tomorrow.

In the first phase of the program, participants develop the core management skills needed to excel in any industry, anywhere in the world. And go deeper during the second phase of the program, where they have the flexibility to pursue specialized studies and hands-on learning in the sector of their choice.

It is the ideal length of time to have a real impact on the future of our students – it gives them time to digest new information and build a CV through internships and specialized courses without keeping them out of the workforce for too long.

Our MBA students form a close-knit community for life. A perfect equation between our class size –around 290 participants today – and our individualized approach to learning means that our students’ ideas and input are valued.

Our 94 percent international student body enriches the overall experience of the program, helping students to shape their view points, and prepares them to work with people from many different backgrounds and cultures.

Students discuss, debate and brainstorm in a personalized and stimulating environment, with 140 professors – representing 25 nationalities – who sharpen their analytical skills and give them rock-solid insights for making decisions.”

The HEC Paris MBA program empowers women by giving them the necessary leadership and management skills to excel in a competitive business environment.

P&Q: In recent years, there have been several areas that have gained increased prominence in business school programming, including STEM, analytics, artificial intelligence and digital disruption. How does your full-time MBA program integrate these concepts across its curriculum?

AM: “MBA programs prepare the leaders of the future, whether they be leaders of companies in the tech sector, leaders in other companies that leverage new technologies to gain competitive advantage, or leaders in industries that are going to be disrupted by tech. We tie STEM, analytics, AI and digital disruption into many of our courses, while still providing a solid training in the fundamental disciplines of management.

If students want to take a more focused approach, we offer the hands-on, Digital Transformation specialization, in which participants are learning how digital innovation can create new business opportunities, disrupt industries and support the development of new and revolutionary business models. Among the topics covered:

  • Blockchain Economics
  • Business Analytics & Data Management
  • Workshops : Data Visualization, Startup

The Entrepreneurship specialization, which focuses on deep-tech, is another option. Working in teams of four or five, our students collaborate with inventors and scientists to bring an actual product with a differentiating technological advantage to the market. Among the topics covered:

  • Design Thinking for Innovation
  • Managing Innovation in Established Firms
  • Zero to one for Deeptechs

Our Marketing specialization also includes several analytics courses, such as: Basic Marketing Strategy Analytics, Advanced Marketing Strategy Analytics and Marketing Research. And our Finance specialization has a strong focus on Fintech. And, of course, we offer all students take our Statistics & Business Analytics core course.”

P&Q: What have you learned during the pandemic and the shift to hybrid or remote learning and how will they impact the MBA experience going forward?

AM: “HEC had already started digitizing certain elements of our curriculum, in different programs. The crisis has accelerated the process and increased the acceptance of certain solutions. We typically leave it to each professor to decide the pedagogical format that best fits the needs of his/her course. For instance, in certain disciplines, asynchronous online courses are particularly well-suited for assimilating hard skills, as the model facilitates self-paced learning and leaves more time to engage in rich and informed discussions during the in-person sessions.

Synchronous online sessions are well suited when we have geographically dispersed participants and when we invite guest speakers who have busy agendas and mobility constraints. In that respect, the development of remote learning has opened many doors and has created several opportunities to enrich our courses.

This crisis has been a great opportunity for stimulating innovation and we need to take advantage of all the efforts we made. While the HEC MBA program will remain a residential program with a great emphasis on the in-person experience, it can certainly be complemented and enriched by digital pedagogy.

* Asynchronous components can help participants come to class better prepared and ready to engage into meaningful conversations with their professors and their peers. It can make the in-person experience even more valuable.

* The availability of synchronous online sessions offers increased flexibility to participants (who can follow courses regardless of their ability to attend in-person) and also to professors, who can create richer sessions, and invite guest speakers who would be otherwise unable to attend.

* In this regard, we upgraded our infrastructure, equipping our lecture theatres with better AV systems to facilitate a seamless and smooth interaction between participants and lecturers in the classroom and participants connected remotely.”

The Outdoor Leadership Seminar develops participants’ confidence to lead in all circumstances and teaches them how to motivate others to work toward a common goal.

P&Q: The HEC Paris campus is roughly a 50 minute train ride from Paris. What are some of the biggest advantages to studying near Paris and how does HEC Paris capitalize on these resources to enrich student learning?

AM: “Students love that HEC Paris provides a residential MBA, while still being close to Paris. Students can take advantage of the beautiful, 340-acre campus with its athletic fields, chateau, forest and lake, and also the City of Lights. The HEC Campus is located just a 10-minute walk from the charming medieval village of Jouy-en-Josas.

Situated in the Paris-Saclay Innovation Cluster, our location enables our students to draw upon the expertise of the cluster and team up with scientists to bring their technological inventions to market. Our proximity to Paris allows students to easily find an internship in the city and to take advantage of Paris’ location as a travel hub for all of Europe.

Our Alumni House is located in the heart of Paris, overlooking the Champs Elysees. And students often hold events or career treks in the city. Most years there is a luxury focused trek in Paris and in recent years students toured the MH Lab 78, while others travelled the short distance to Reims for an inside look at Veuve Clicquot.”

P&Q: What are two of the best MBA traditions at HEC Paris and what makes them so special to students?

AM: “Students continually name our Off-Campus Leadership Seminar and the MBA Tournament (MBAT) as two very memorable traditions at the HEC Paris MBA.

During our Off-Campus Leadership Seminar, students spend two days proving – and improving – their team-leadership skills during a series of increasingly difficult field exercises supervised by military-trained professionals. Just as in the real world, the Off-campus Leadership Seminar teaches them to lead in situations where they don’t have all the answers, where they confront obstacles that they’ve never seen before. During the seminar, they stretch their limits and go farther than they ever thought possible, learning how to leverage the strength of their team to accomplish a common goal. After each timed exercise, their mentor provides feedback about their effectiveness at leading the group and their methods of problem solving.

The program develops participants’ confidence to lead in all circumstances and teaches them how to motivate others to work toward a common goal.

The MBAT, renowned as the MBA Olympics, is the largest gathering of MBA students in Europe. Students participate as members of the MBAT’s core team, and take on the responsibility of organizing a three-day, multisport competition for 1,500 participants. Students are entirely responsible for the MBAT, including all of its organizational and operational details.”

Next Page: Profiles of HEC Paris first-years.

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