2023 Best & Brightest MBA: Jay Yen, HEC Paris

Jay Yen 

HEC Paris

“Taiwanese-American who loves and has operationalized travel so well to become HEC’s Minister of Travel.”

Hometown: Tainan, Taiwan

Fun fact about yourself: Because of the video game Assassin’s Creed, I started learning Italian by practicing with Italian opera arias like “La Donna e Mobile” from Rigoletto.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Rice University, Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Operations Manager for the high-profile moderation operation at Meta Dublin and Austin

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022?: During the summer 2022, I chose to leverage my first long career break since high school and pursue my personal goals. I fulfilled my dream of living in my favorite city of Venice for one month, and then returned to my home country of Taiwan for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

Where will you be working after graduation? To Be Decided

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Trip-Advisor of the Francophile social club “French Connections”
  • Ally Advisor of LBGTQ+ & Allies Club
  • Ambassador of the HEC Paris MBA Program
  • Beneficiary of merit-based HEC MBA Excellence Scholarship
  • Recipient of peer-nominated Class Leadership Award

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? My proudest business school achievement is being titled by my MBA peers as the unofficial “Minister of Travel” due to my reputation of an avid traveler who is knowledgeable of the complex transport network of Paris region and travel in general.

Even before our program started, I have been sending regular information to my classmates of upcoming travel deals and transport disruptions. As a person who likes to plan, I make efforts to understand the transport network and fare system and stay updated on any transport disruptions (an important skill in France that is notorious for many strikes), and regularly share my findings with my peers as my hobby. Because of this, my peers jokingly called me the Minister of Travel, a role that I took seriously with more formal announcements by breaking down convoluted transport news to digestible, more relevant news pieces so that people avoid disrupted train lines! I am also the go-to person for my classmates to consult for travel recommendations in Europe due to my travel experience. All these contributed to my reputation in even other class batches and is one of the reasons why my peers nominated me as one of the class leadership award recipients.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? One of my responsibilities as an operations manager in Meta was to prepare for a planned high-profile event to mitigate any risk to the company operations and reputation. As a Taiwanese, I am proud of combining this responsibility with the opportunity of being a part of the task force that protects the digital integrity of Taiwan’s 2020 presidential election, which was the most watched in Taiwanese history by international media like BBC and CNN because of the election’s potential effect on the Asia-Pacific geopolitics.

My role in this task force was twofold: 1) provide internal communications to the moderation operations forces with upcoming risk mitigation plans and heads-up to ensure total alignment and 2) collaborate with other internal teams on improving content policies and processes in handling relevant hate speeches and misinformation. One of the hot topics in this election was the cross-strait relations between Taiwan and China. As a popular platform in Taiwan, Facebook must strike a delicate balance of disallowing hate speech towards the Chinese people and allowing free speech for criticizing the Chinese government. One of my accomplishments within this task force were developing enforcement process improvements that strike this delicate balance. Another accomplishment was creating a hate speech protection policy on Facebook for a Taiwanese minority in which a presidential candidate belonged but was not yet identified with protected characteristics due to Taiwan’s complicated history. Although I had to forgo my right to vote in an election that allowed only in-person voting, I am proud to contribute to this effort which no bad actors could use Facebook to spread misinformation or hate speech to disrupt this election.

Why did you choose this business school? Living in English-speaking countries for most of my life, I chose HEC Paris so that I could live in a completely different environment to challenge myself for personal development, which is one of the big reasons why I wanted to pursue an MBA. Although all courses in HEC Paris are delivered in English, the French language dominates outside the campus gate – more so as one moves farther from Paris! Exceling and navigating this language barrier is a truly transformative experience that also provides an excellent opportunity to learn French. Thanks to this experience, I went from knowing no French beyond the basic bonjour to high intermediate fluency.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor is Professor Amer Madi. I first encountered him as the instructor of the core course “Giving and Receiving Feedback”. Before MBA, I worked at Meta, which highly valued feedback-giving culture and hence offered many good feedback trainings. Hence, I initially did not think that this course would be groundbreaking. However, Professor Madi proved me wrong with his effective and concise teaching method delivered in a calming, stoic demeaner. I enjoyed and learned from this course so much that when I discovered that Professor Madi was the head of Advanced Management specialization, I changed my original plan of choosing Strategy specialization to join his specialization.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? My favorite course is Organizational Behaviors, a core course in the curriculum. Taught by Professor Newark, OB brilliantly analyzed leadership and human behaviors like power structure with modern and historical examples, and integrated group activities that effectively delivered a taster or a practice round of how to apply classroom concepts. One of my motivations for pursuing an MBA was to hone my people skills as a leader, so this course hits home for me!

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favorite event is the MBA Olympics “MBAT” which gathers many business schools on HEC campus to compete in sports and connect with one another in many social events like galas over three incredible days!

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? If I had a do-over, I would set a priority list of exactly what and how I want to maximize my experience before starting my MBA term. The program offers countless events like seminars, guest speakers, and social events – many of which are overlapping in schedule, so everyone must decide which events to go or not. With a priority list, I would have a better idea and can decide quicker on what to choose among HEC Paris’s large roster of events.

What is the biggest myth about your school? When I mentioned to others that I am studying in HEC Paris, I was often asked whether I could speak French or not. I think there is a misconception that French proficiency is required to study in French schools like HEC, but the reality is the opposite. Everything in the HEC MBA program is taught in English, so French proficiency is not required. HEC does require graduates to master 2-3 languages (including English which is an admission requirement), but none of these languages needs to be French! While knowing even the basic level of French will help immensely in immersing in Paris, English is sufficient to do well in Paris where many expats are infamously known for not knowing how to speak French even after many years of living in the French capital.

What did you love most about your business school’s town? Although HEC Paris is actually located in the suburban town of Jouy-en-Josas, I love how we are still close to central Paris! Thanks to the free shuttle buses that the school offers, I go to Paris frequently because the bus ride is less than 30 minutes. HEC Paris is also a short 25-minute taxi ride away from Orly Airport (France’s 2nd busiest airports) and a 15-minute ride from Massy high-speed rail station, so traveling afar is easy from HEC.

What surprised you the most about business school? One of the reasons why I chose HEC Paris is the option to live on campus with other MBAs, which is a rare feature among many other MBA programs. I spent my undergraduate studies at Rice University in campus dorms which augmented my undergraduate experience and helped me develop lifelong friendships, so I highly value this campus life perk that HEC offers.

However, even with these expectations, I was surprised by how much campus life has defined my HEC experience! Living amongst my MBA peers gave us easy access to both planned and spontaneous social gatherings like birthday celebrations which we connect and even exchange helpful personal and professional advice. The fact that we could bump into one another in our dorm corridors also lead to spontaneous project ideas, group trips, and gift exchanges like souvenirs from people traveling from various places. For instance, I lost count how much zaatar (Middle Eastern herbal mix) my Lebanese friends have given me in these chance encounters!

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I believe that what gave me an edge was that I approached the application from the perspective of how my school could benefit by having me in its student body. In other words, what would a business school gain by enrolling me? In my case, I highlighted my experience of making the triple jump from an engineering role in the US manufacturing sector to a business operations role in the Irish tech sector, living in Europe for years, and working in a FAANG company. Then I detailed how I could leverage these experiences to aid my future classmates in their moves to the tech sector or Europe. This builds a case that my admission would be a mutual benefit for both me and my target business schools.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? My admiration goes to Luke Carpenter, the president of the student government body “MBA Council”. In the age when leadership seems to be a match of who can shout the loudest even without substance, Luke proved that quiet leadership still exists and even thrives. Usually quiet and stoic, Luke commands attention in the rare moments that he spoke due to his brevity and confidence in his speeches. Behind the scenes, he led his diverse cabinet in the student government in an organized, efficient manner to launch many initiatives and events that were both impressive in execution and inclusive of every demographic in the student body. Luke not only embodies the HEC Paris values, but also exemplifies that true leaders are not and should not always the loudest in the room.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? First, I would love to work in continental Europe or United Kingdom! After living in four countries across three continents, I enjoyed not only personal growth but also professional growth in working in the increasingly globalizing business by living abroad in different environments, so I would like to continue this learning experience. Second, I want to continue my work in tech operations but at more senior level. These two reasons are my main professional drivers to pursue an MBA and ultimately choose HEC Paris.

What made Jay such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?

“In my role as Marketing and Events Officer at HEC Paris, I have worked closely with Jay through our Ambassador Program. Jay embodies exactly the type of student and future alumni who we strive to admit and attract to come to the HEC Paris MBA program. If I had to describe Jay in three words it would be: leader, dedicated, and excellence. Throughout his 6-month tenure, Jay went above and beyond in his dedication to his role as an MBA Ambassador, always willing to give his valuable time and energy to supporting future HEC MBA students. His passion for the program and his respect for his peers shines through when you listen to Jay describe his HEC experience. All of our team knew that we could count on Jay when we needed an Ambassador who could really “close” on a fantastic candidate.

In addition to his contributions to our Marketing and Recruitment Team, Jay’s excellence also contributed to his classmates. Jay’s leadership of his cohort started far before he set foot on campus for the first time: he nurtured the HEC spirit from the moment he received his admissions letter, taking pride in organizing virtual meetups and starting WhatsApp Groups to bring his classmates together from all around the world. Once he arrived on campus, Jay’s reputation as a leader did not disappoint! He was dedicated in his leadership role in the French Connection Club, leading trips to some of France’s most beautiful and significant sites and helping his fellow classmates make the most of their experience here. As a true testament to the appreciation of his fellow MBA students, Jay was selected by his peers to receive the MBA Leadership award. He is known by students and staff for his dedication, hard work and warm, cheerful attitude. I can say without a doubt that, in the HEC community, Jay goes out of his way to help his peers.

While I could continue sharing countless examples of how Jay has contributed both to his own cohort and to future cohorts, I will simply reiterate the adjectives that I think sum up Jay and his legacy at HEC: leader, dedicated, and excellence.”

Hannah Moser
Marketing and Events Officer, MBA Programs
HEC Paris

“I had the pleasure of having Jay in my Advanced Management class. He was always curious, inquisitive, and eager to learn and grow. Much of his passion, interests, and concerns centered around the role of business and leadership in contributing to the greater good, and to a morally just and fair world. These topics would always bring him to life, and he would not shy away from sharing his own experiences with the rest of the class or even challenging the status quo. On top of that, he was always receptive and respectful towards other people’s points of view, and unafraid of questioning his own assumptions and beliefs.  These qualities made him stand out, and I believe are part of why he was selected by his classmates for the MBA Leadership Award. His sensitivity and care towards others, courage to speak out, and genuine interest in humanizing organizations, is what exemplifies true leadership in my opinion—and what our world increasingly needs. I have no doubt that wherever he goes, Jay will inspire those around him, and I am eager to see where the journey takes him.”

Amer Madi
Adjunct Professor
HEC Paris



Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.