Meet The MBA Class Of 2023: Lily Kisenga, HEC Paris

Lily Kisenga

HEC Paris

“I’m a quirky, curious, but deliberate person who lives life in colour.”

Hometown: Nairobi, Kenya

Fun Fact About Yourself: I’m more handy with a screw driver than I am with a spatula.

Undergraduate School and Major: The University of Nairobi; Sociology

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: TaroWorks LLC; Customer Success Manager

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of HEC Paris’ MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? In addition to diverse cohorts, the flexible course curriculum attracted me as I could customize it to my specific goals. While the first eight months of the HEC program are standard, the last 8 months are customizable and the school has so many offerings for each student to mix and match in a way that works with their career aspirations and interests. You can go on exchange, work on an MBA project, and take part in a summer internship. Of course, there are many, many electives to choose from. In addition, the curriculum is current. Everything we learn is directly applicable to the business world today which is critical for success after the MBA.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at HEC Paris? I’m most excited about the Africa Club. Historically, the African continent has been written off when it comes to doing business. The last two-to-three years have brought startups on the continent to the forefront not just in terms of fundraising, but also growth and acquisitions. I’m excited to learn more about opportunities for MBA students on the continent, particularly within high-growth startups and SMEs, and companies interested in setting up business on the continent. I look forward to applying what I’ve learned in HEC back home and being part of the Africa’s growth story.

HEC Paris is just 17 kilometers from Paris. What do you see as the best part of earning your MBA so close to Paris?  It goes without saying that Paris is a city with strong history and a rich culture. It is essentially an art piece in-and-of-itself. I’m excited to spend as much time as I can exploring the city and discovering hidden gems in addition to the more well-known tourist attractions. I’m also eager to train my ear to the Parisian French accent, which has so far been very difficult for me.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: At TaroWorks, our product was built to help streamline tasks for organisations with field teams working offline in the last mile. When movement restrictions were put in place due to COVID-19, our business was directly affected. As a subscription-based business, it was crucial for us to find a way to support our customers and help them find ways to continue their operations, especially because many of them delivered life-saving goods and services to their beneficiaries.

After speaking to my account contacts, I proposed a subscription freeze for those customers for whom remote work was not feasible and those who could not reach their beneficiaries remotely. These included those working with schools (at the time we had a strict no flexibility policy on subscriptions). The professional services team planned a special series of deep-dive webinars to re-educate our clients on features they could leverage to maintain some of their field operations despite not being able to meet their beneficiaries in person. It was my responsibility, as primary account contact, to ensure our customers engaged with these deep dives, and implemented the changes that were relevant to their operations. This resulted in the business having no customers churn due to the pandemic, and we remained on track to hit more than 100% ACV renewal.

How did COVID-19 change your perspective on your career and your life in general? COVID-19 made me realise how critical it is to have skills that are easily transferrable. For a lot of people who lost their jobs during the pandemic, most who were able to bounce back quickly had skills they could apply in a different industry, sector, or function. In my personal life, while I was aware of the privilege that I have in my country, the pandemic made it clearer just how much I’m now more intentional about not just checking in with close friends and family, but also support staff who tend to be the most ignored (but the most affected in situations like this).

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? I wanted to accelerate my career. My career has been centered around identifying customer needs and continuously providing solutions to these needs. After four years as a Customer Success Manager, I’m ready to move into a position that’s directly responsible for P&L so I need to fill in the gaps in my knowledge in areas like understanding financial reports, business analytics, strategy, and of course, managing people and teams.

In the long run I aspire to be a Chief Customer Officer, so after the MBA I hope to get into sales, which is one of two parts of the customer life cycle I have no experience in (the other being marketing). I hope to leverage my experience in Customer Success to make the transition.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? I also applied, and was admitted, to Emlyon Business School. I was in the process of submitting an application to IMD Switzerland and The Lisbon MBA when I got my admission letter from HEC.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into HEC Paris’s MBA program? This may sound obvious, but it’s important to know why you want an MBA and, more importantly, why you want an MBA from HEC Paris. Think about where you are in your career, what your aspirations are and then tie that into how HEC can help you pursue your goals. And remember to be authentic in your responses.


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