2023 MBA To Watch: Thandiwe Mkhetshane, HEC Paris

Thandiwe Mkhetshane

HEC Paris

“A renaissance woman, a risk-taker who enjoys fashion & photography.”

Hometown: Johannesburg, South Africa

Fun fact about yourself: I attended a Lifestyle TV show in 2018 as an audience member and ended up being featured in the show’s promotional trailer. This earned me my 2 seconds of fame, which I got to enjoy every time the trailer was played on TLC Africa.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

University of Cape Town, Bachelor of Commerce in Financial Accounting

University of Cape Town, Post Graduate Diploma in Accounting

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Government Employees Pension Fund, Investment Accountant.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? N/A.

Where will you be working after graduation? Still to be determined.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

I served as the President of the MBA Africa Club. This role was specifically important to me because I saw it as an opportunity to celebrate the diversity of the African continent. The best part was working with a team of dedicated leaders who served the Africa Club with great pride and passion. It was an honor to have a platform that allowed us to show and promote the beauty, rich culture, and business of Africa.

I was presented with a leadership award for Outstanding Contribution and Leadership throughout the MBA Program, an award I received after being nominated and voted for by my classmates.

I am currently part of a team that is working on a documentary series with the Cité, Internationale Universitaire de Paris, Vivre Ensemble Commission, and HEC Paris to provide education on what consent means and to encourage consensual engagements among students with a specific focus on sexual consent.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of the opportunity to present my fashion collection at the school’s talent show. This was an important milestone because it allowed me to showcase something I created from scratch. Through this show, I also got to work with my classmates who showed me tremendous support in planning the presentation of the collection.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? My biggest career accomplishment thus far has been starting my journey in the fashion industry as a designer and creator of ready-to-wear garments through my fashion startup. I am hoping to continue this journey post the MBA.

Why did you choose this business school? HEC Paris is not only a business school with a good reputation, but one that embraces diversity and inclusion of candidates from different backgrounds. This is important because it is what creates an unforgettable and compelling MBA experience. Although, there is still a long way to go to bridge the gap in diversity, equity and inclusion, I appreciate that the school is taking active steps to achieve this.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Anne-Sophie Chaxel was my favorite professors. She taught Managing value through Marketing in term 1. As someone who came into the MBA with limited marketing experience, she created an interest in the subject. Through course cases and examples, I gained an understanding of how marketing is influencing our behaviors and decisions.

I appreciated the teaching style, which came with the encouragement to express our honest opinions during her classes. Her passion for marketing drove her delivery of the course and her engagements with her students. She is also one of the few professors who have expressed genuine interest in getting to know her students.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? I enjoyed Organizational Behavior. This course covered various topics focusing on human behavior from both individual and interpersonal perspectives. This course was important for me because it allowed me to learn more about my blind spots, biases, and motivations – and how these drive the decisions I make in my personal and professional lives.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? The MBA Tournament was my favorite event. HEC Paris hosts this 3-day sports tournament which is open to all European business schools. I truly enjoyed this experience with students from other business schools, brought together by the love of a universal language – sport! I made an intentional decision to participate in the CrossFit competition as it is one of the sports I enjoy. I also volunteered as a co-host for the MBAT opening ceremony, an event that was followed by lots of sports, music, dance, and a formal evening ball at the end of the 3-days.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I would connect with students from other programs like the Masters in Management and the EMBA at the earlier stages of my MBA journey to further enhance my professional network, and promote opportunities of working on collaborative projects.

What is the biggest myth about your school? HEC Paris is all about business. It is a business school that focuses on enhancing leadership skills. These are skills that are important in all spheres of one’s life. The impact of good leadership skills expands beyond the business space. HEC Paris understands this and tries to introduce activities and initiatives that are geared toward developing impactful and daring leaders.

What did you love most about your business school’s town? HEC Paris is located in Jouy en Josas. This small town is an escape from the busy city of Paris. It has hidden gems and beautiful natural surroundings, which our campus also has in abundance. Jouy is also not far from the famous palace of Versailles.

What surprised you the most about business school? The school offers a plethora of opportunities to connect with people from different professional backgrounds. This comes in many ways, including through student-led club initiatives, events arranged by the school, and cross-program events. I expected to be busy, and this is a fact every alumnus of the school confirmed. Little did I know that this would be the most eventful and tiring, yet exhilarating roller coaster ride!

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I took full ownership of my story and embraced it throughout my application. I knew that my personal and professional experiences gave me good exposure and the right fundamentals. I also knew that I still had gaps in my leadership skills and knowledge of the business world. I was honest about these and focused on how the school would help me with developing these skills.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I admire Karla Pons because of her drive to empower women professionally within the financial services industry and personally within her circles of influence. Her determination and work ethic is impeccable and aspirational. Karla embraces every challenge and navigates through it trying to find the lessons out of it. She has a genuine interest in other people, and she brings out the best in others. I appreciate her for teaching me a lot about empathy and resilience.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? To run my fashion startup full-time and to make a sustainable impact in the diversity, equity and inclusion space.

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

“Once every few years a student walks in and blows you away. It is a reminder of why you have chosen a career in Education. Meeting Thandiwe and being a small part of her MBA experience has been a great honor. She will leave big shoes to fill when it is time for her next step post-MBA.

Thandiwe has thrown herself into the MBA at HEC. Whether it be via speaking at TEDxHEC, holding the position of President of the MBA Africa Club, Advising the Women in Leadership Club, working with Professors on DEI events, Co-hosting MBA, or winning leadership awards, everywhere you turn she is there giving back to others and to the school. Her engagement has inspired not only the other members of her MBA cohort but members of our staff and Faculty. We can all do more, we can all help the person next to us.

I want to personally thank her for all that she has given to HEC and to our program. Her never say no attitude to learning and giving is a model for us all. I cannot wait to see what wonderful things she is going to the world once she leaves Jouy.

Thank you for choosing HEC!!”

Patti Brown-Varnier
Executive Director for Academic Affairs & Program Delivery
MBA Programs, HEC Paris



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