Priya Ramkissoon defies the stereotypes typical to Mauritius. Women in Mauritius face an intense social pressure to marry young – “30 is already too old,” she says – and to settle down locally, yet Priya came to France to earn her degrees in Economics and Finance, and now an MBA at HEC Paris. “My mum and dad always encouraged my sisters and I to go beyond what was typical,” she says.
Midway through her 16-month-long MBA, we sat down with Priya and asked her about her experiences in the program.
Why an MBA?
I was 27 years old working as a product manager in the insurance division at Barclays Bank in Mauritius. I was about to be promoted again, but I realized that because of my age and possibly my gender, I wouldn’t progress beyond that level for a very long time, even if I deserved to based purely on merit. I wasn’t ready to say, “this is the job I’m going to have for the rest of my life.” I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and explore my options.
How does the MBA curriculum differ from what you learned during your Master’s in Finance?
A Master’s in Finance is very theoretical. The professors I had during the Master’s program were researchers, meaning that as a student, I was taught only a certain view of finance.
In business, it’s not just financial theory that’s required, but also understanding how to look logically at an entire situation. For example, what do I need to think about if I’m acquiring a company? If a company says it’s going to make so much money in the next few years, does that make sense, given the direction the industry is going in? Through the MBA, I’m gaining a broad understanding of how business works.
What about the MBA classes?
Just to give you an example, one of the professors I had was Marc Vermeulen, who has handled M&A for BNP Paribas for 37 years. The insights he shares are based on what he’s actually done during his career. His M&A class was fascinating.
How is the MBA helping you reach your career goals?
I have always been interested in efficiency in business, so I secured a summer internship with Amazon within their operations team. With this internship, I was able to discover that operations is really a career path I want to pursue.
Ironically, one of the things I’m discovering is that I really do enjoy finance classes, and maybe I should try and combine both finance and operations at a later stage in my career.
Describe your overall experience at the HEC Paris MBA.
My top three positives are the friendships that I have made, the education that I’m receiving, and the fact that the professors are absolutely great. Yesterday, I was in class with Jeremy Ghez, and I actually thought, ‘you’ve opened my mind.’ I would’ve never thought about the subject in the way he presented it.
What can you tell me about the other students in the program?
To be honest, before starting the MBA, I was not expecting to make the types of close friendships that I’ve made during the program. I’ve met people that I’m very similar to, even though we come from entirely different backgrounds. I know I’ll be friends with them my whole life.