06 June 2017

Arrival at Faiveley

HEC Paris MBA students took an exciting field visit to Burgundy, visiting Beaune, a walled village in the center of the winemaking region, and took part in a private tour of the Faiveley wine cellars in Nuit St. Georges. The group included Cristina Harrell, Stephanie Rickards, Barbara Calvi, Antonio Mont’Alverne, Flore Poughon and Julien Perronneau. They were joined by Associate Dean of the MBA Program, Andrea Masini, Affiliate Professor Anne Michaut, an expert in luxury marketing and Adjunct Professor Alain Lorenzo, the former President & CEO LVMH Fragrance Brands.

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24 May 2017
Our Kitchen is a student-run startup dishing up homecooked meals on campus

Our Kitchen is a tasty, student-run startup

A food-sharing startup is luring hungry HEC Paris MBA students away from the school cafeteria to exotic, home-cooked meals 

If there’s one thing on-campus students crave, it’s a home-cooked meal. Preferably one prepared by someone else–someone who actually has time to cook–and who knows the flavors of their homeland.

Siddharth and Shir making a delivery on campus

Shir and Siddharth making a delivery

That’s why three HEC Paris MBA students, Siddharth Gurnani, Varad Deshpande and Shir Sheftel, and one MBA partner, Roei Ben Haim, created Our Kitchen, an online marketplace that connects home cooks with hungry customers at HEC Paris. The food-sharing platform has already had 165 eager customers subscribe since its January launch. Members log in, choose a mealtime and meal, then anticipate the delivery of tasty, exotic dishes such as Korean Bibimbap spiced with gochujang sauce and hot Aaloo Paratha (stuffed Indian bread) served with melted butter.

The startup builds upon an idea that started several years ago within the MBA, in which partners of students occasionally sell homemade lunches. “I participated in one of those events, and everyone wanted to try the food,” Siddharth says. “We started brainstorming, and decided to expand on the idea of just cooking and selling food. We decided to create a platform and work toward a much bigger solution. We’re at a business school, after all, and we have a really good test market, so we went for it.”

The co-founders each agreed to kick-in a small amount of money—just enough to create the marketing materials and launch the website—then contacted people they knew who shared their passion for cooking. On the advice of the HEC Entrepreneurship Center, they decided to release the platform quickly, to discover if there was really a market for their product.

Varad cooking an egg breakfast at Expansiel

Varad cooking an egg breakfast at Expansiel

One of the benefits of launching a campus-based startup is the freedom to experiment. Siddarth explains that the project is a pilot, a learning-by-doing experience which, if successful, the co-founders plan to continue after graduation on a much larger scale. “We want to understand what the true pain points are when it comes to cooking,” he says. “What would prevent someone who knows how to cook, who likes to cook, from taking the step of selling their dishes online: Is it prep, is it delivery, or are there other logistical issues like grocery shopping? That’s what we’ve set out to discover.”

No matter the final outcome, the startup has already found its success in the stomachs of hungry students. Nearly 600 meals have been sold through the meal-sharing platform since the beginning of the year.

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10 May 2017

It’s one thing to visit Paris as a tourist, as nearly 15 million people do every year. But the real magic happens when you have the time to simply inhabit the city, to meander its side streets and find the places normally reserved for in-the-know Parisians. To help fuel your wanderlust for the 2,000-year-old French capital, we’ve asked a few HEC Paris MBA students to share their favorite outposts, discovered during their 16-month-long studies in France:


Bibliotheque Mazarine

Bibliotheque Mazarine, photo by Ysabella Poblete

Best place to study: Bibliothèque Mazarine, 23 Quai de Conti, 6th Arrondisement

History: Originating from the private collection of Cardinal Mazarin, France’s oldest public library is known for saving many of the books confiscated during the French Revolution. The grand reading room dates from the 17th-century, when it was designed by King Louis XIV’s preferred architect, Louis Le Vau.

When: Weekdays before or during exam weeks

Recommended by Ysabella Poblete, MBA ’18: “The library is well lit from its gilded lamps, massive windows, and imposing chandeliers. The classic wooden chairs and tables are so comfortable you won’t notice that you’ve been sitting there for hours. Not to mention the WIFI is ultrafast and reliable. The library is located near Rue de Seine, which houses charming cafés and art galleries giving you the perfect place to wander aimlessly if you need a break from studying.”


Favorite Garden: Jardin du Luxembourg, Rue de Médicis, 6th Arrondisement

History: These well-manicured, 25 hectares of land, commissioned by Queen Marie de Medici in 1612, feature classically styled English and French gardens, a geometric forest, and an orchard with nearly forgotten varieties of apples.

Jardin du Luxembourg

Jardin du Luxembourg

When: Year-round

Recommended by Intan Elfarani, MBA ’18: “I love the setting, because in Jakarta, there aren’t any big and beautiful spaces like this. The first time I sat in one of the benches in front of Luxembourg Palace was in the winter, and parts of the park were still green. It was so good for my eyes. Now with the sunny weather, the park is really beautiful. My French is super-basic, but occasionally I’ll speak with the older ladies walking their dogs. They are always really nice. Paris is great, because there are so many different cultures of people.”




5 Pailles

Ege and Emre from 5 Pailles, photo by Melinda Aulie

Coffee shop: 5 Pailles, 79 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis, 10th Arrondisement

History: Though it opened at the beginning of 2017, Vogue has already named this coffeehouse one of the “New Paris Spots to Check Out.” The magazine heralded its “curated interior design, fresh fragrant beans and perfect latte art.”

When:  Late-afternoon gouter

Recommended by Melinda Aulie, MBA ’18: “It’s more than the delicious lattés or the rosemary-orange tea cake. Owners Ege and Emre have created a home away from home for me in Paris. The shop’s pastry selection is incredible—they are always introducing new ones—but I prefer the chocolate chip cookies, which are as good as the ones you can get in the United States.”



Wine Bar: L’Arrière Cour, 9 Rue Biot, 17th Arrondisement

History: In the three months since its opening, L’Arrière Cour has earned a reputation for its yummy cocktails and wide selection of wines. To accompany drinks such as the Pop Colada (rum infused with popcorn, vanilla liqueur, crème of coco and pineapple juice), chef Raphael Garnier has created a menu which features mini plates such as sea-bream ceviche and squid stuffed with mushrooms and pine nuts.

 L’Arrière Cour

L’Arrière Cour

When: You need a break from the hustle and bustle of Paris

Recommended by Martin Dion, MBA ’17: “Secreted away at the end of a courtyard on rue Biot, L’Arriére Cour is one of the 17th arrondissement’s best finds. Its entrance is hidden—to enter, you must go through a porte cochère (carriage entrance). A candle-lit path leads to this charming, quiet space which features a fountain, a winter garden and plenty of creative cocktails and appetizers. If you go, ask for François or Félicien, and tell them Martin sent you.”




Favorite exhibit: 5th floor of the Musée d’Orsay, 1 Rue de la Lègion d’Honneur, 7th Arrondisement

Nina de Callias by Édouard Manet

Nina de Callias by Édouard Manet

History: When Impressionism emerged as an art movement in the late 19Th century, the French critics scoffed at it. “A wallpaper pattern is more highly finished than this seascape,” was one critique of Claude Monet’s early work Sunrise (1874).

When: With friends

Recommended by Allison Scott, MBA ’17: “I went to the Musée d’Orsay when I was 18, during my first visit to Paris. It’s still my favorite museum, partially because of the building’s beautiful architecture and natural light. Every time I have friends in town, I take them to the Fifth Floor to see the Impressionist paintings. At the end, we’ll always guess which ones are the other’s favorites. There is a painting that I love there, by Manet, of a pale lady with dark hair and dark eyes lounging on a sofa. Her face is amazing; I could look at it for hours.”

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06 April 2017
Alexander Eldred, Class of 2016

Alexander Eldred, Class of 2016

Alexander Eldred (MBA ’16) is no stranger to creating new opportunities. Upon earning his undergraduate degree, the American moved to China pursue a career in global food exports with a startup, learning to speak Chinese on the job. After completing his MBA at HEC Paris, he underwent a complete career transformation, changing job sector, function and location.

We asked Alexander how a German Literature and Biochemistry undergraduate was able to leverage an MBA degree to become the Head of After-Market Services at Amazon France.

What does your job at Amazon France entail?

I deal with all of the customers’ returns that come back in a damaged condition. My challenge is to continuously improve the customer experience, and at the same time maximize the value we get from these returned products.

Why an MBA?

Everything I had ever done professionally until the MBA I had learned on the job, so I was looking for a more academic understanding of these tasks. I wanted to know how to read a balance sheet; I wanted the basics of accounting, the basics of marketing. I thought that having these skills could really help me solidify my career, and they did.


You’ve mentioned only hard skills. What about the soft skills you learned during the MBA?

Amazon is a very data-driven environment. The core MBA classes such as finance, accounting—even marketing—are very data-driven, and they help me to operate effectively in that type of environment.

Even so, data interpretation is only worthwhile if you can communicate your findings to other people. I deal with the whole spectrum of the workforce at Amazon France, from folks in our warehouses to senior leaders. Every day, I apply the communication skills that I learned during my MBA.

The school also provides a safe environment to try out different leadership styles. You simply don’t have a whole lot of flexibility to experiment with leadership when you’re on the job, and HEC offers plenty of chances to test yourself.

Part of what the school builds is confidence—the confidence to navigate new places, in new languages, with new people.

We like to talk about our 92 percent international students. What did you learn from having such an international classroom?

In almost every class at the HEC Paris MBA you have to stand in front of other students and defend your interpretation of things. It’s a great way to learn public speaking. Moreover, there would usually be 6 other groups presenting and interpreting the same cases. Very quickly, you learn that there are multiple valid opinions on the same subject.

One case study I particularly remember asked if L’Occitaine en Provence, the French cosmetics company, should expand into the lifestyle segment by opening up cafés. My group, which was mainly made up of North Americans, concluded no. Yet a group of Europeans, and students from India and from China, came up with a completely opposite approach, one which was equally valid. For me, that really emphasized how important it is to learn alongside a diverse group of students.

Did the MBA help open the door to Amazon as well?

There is no way I would have had my job at Amazon without the MBA. Europe and France, like any other job markets in the world, aren’t necessarily open—you can’t just breeze in from another continent and easily get a job. Doing my MBA in France was part of an overall strategic goal to get a foot in the door in the country. It worked out great.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

One piece of advice I have for current students is to not be shy about asking for help. If you’re curious about what an alumnus is doing, look them up on LinkedIn. Spend a lot of time going to HEC Paris Alumni Association events. Introduce yourself. If you’re looking for a job, let us know if we can help.

I’m always happy to help current students, because so many people did it for me when I was in the program. It’s why I like to come out to the campus, to say hello every once in a while.

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30 March 2017

Five MBA students just made it clear why Italy is known as il bel paese (the beautiful country). Determined to go beyond the pasta and pizza stereotypes typical to their homeland, the students—Federico Mussini, Alessio Scipione, Tancredi Fichera, Francesco Iannelli and Joonatan Portman—created two events for last week’s Italian Professional and Cultural Week that showcased the best of Italy.

The results were truly unforgettable.

The first evening focused on “Business Leadership in a Time of Disruption” using a TED Talk format. Five experts from Italian businesses came to the HEC Paris campus to share their experiences about everything from opening the first gelato franchise in France (Amorino co-founder Paolo Benassi) to taking advantage of the American automobile-industry crisis (Fiat Chrysler Group’s Jerome Monce).

“Coming from Singapore, I never had much exposure to Italian companies,” says Kuan-Hung Liu, MBA ’18. “Before hearing from these CEOs, I didn’t really have the impression that Italy was at the center stage of Europe in terms of business. It was quite an eye-opening event.”

The next evening provided students a chance to mingle with those same business leaders in the striking environment of the Italian Cultural Institute. Located in the 7th Arrondisement in Paris, the stately 18th century building once served as the Italian embassy, regularly hosting notables such as Napoléon Bonaparte and the legendary French writer Chateaubriand.

During Friday night’s event, our MBA students networked with more than 70 professionals from a variety of Italian businesses and institutions, including Giandomenico Magliano, the Italian Ambassador to France, and representatives from Italian Executives in Paris.

“It was a huge success,” says Melinda Aulie, MBA ’18. “Canapés and Campari aside, I had the chance to hang out with my classmates in an unusually elegant setting, practice a little Italian, and get the inside scoop about a company I was interested in from one of the Italian guests. Hats off to the ragazzi who made it happen!”

As part of Italian Culture Week, several of the country’s most prestigious business leaders came to campus to speak to our students about how to lead in a time of disruption.

Here’s what we learned:


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27 March 2017

Varad Deshpande wants to increase his business skills before expanding his restaurant chain

portrait Varad Desphande

Varad Deshpande, MBA ’18

Varad Deshpande likes to dreams big. The HEC Paris MBA student was only 19 years old when he co-founded his business, after realizing the potential in an egg seller’s cart parked across from his undergraduate business school.

“Even though they served only two or three different egg dishes, it was really popular,” Varad explains. “I went there with my best friend, and we waited over a 1/2-hour to be served. The customers were mostly men around 18-25 years old. For instance, my friend’s girlfriend wouldn’t go there – women didn’t feel it was the cleanest place to eat. That’s when I sensed a need. Why not create an egg specialty restaurant that caters to everyone?”

Two partners and seven years later, Varad’s restaurant Yolkshire has grown into a three-location franchise in India. Though someone else has taken over as CEO during his studies, Varad still reviews the weekly sales figures. From his dorm room on the HEC Paris MBA campus, he remains ultimately responsible for the breaking and cooking of an estimated 2,400 eggs every week.

“Everything that we prepare is exclusive; our recipes aren’t the type of egg dishes you would cook at home,” he said. “That’s the concept. Our menu features egg recipes from all over the world—Lebanon, Mexico, France.”

But even as Yolkshire’s popularity grows in India, Varad is thinking bigger. He envisions a multinational chain, on par with McDonalds. “Why not?” the 26-year-old says. “The food we serve is better. I think having one in every city would be a realistic dream.”

To reach that goal, Varad enrolled in the HEC Paris MBA last September.

“I can try something new in my company today, and if it doesn’t work, I can always go back to what we were doing before,” he says. “That’s very easy. But I want to expand – imagine that I’m running a thousand outlets. I can’t take risks in the same way I’ve been doing – I have to look at marketing; I have to look at strategy and all the other things that come with it. That is perspective which I will gain only by coming to a school like HEC Paris.”

Despite his current passion for business, Varad didn’t always dream of making it big as a restaurateur. As a child, another idea consumed him: becoming a top-ranked tennis player. “I saw Sampras, Federer, Nadal; they inspired me,” he says. “As a nine-year-old, I started playing with the goal of being number one.”

The original Yolkshire is located in Pune, India.

The original Yolkshire is located in Pune, India.

Growing up, sports took priority over school for Varad. At his peak, he ranked 43rd in all of India, and was playing in international tournaments.

But at 17 years old, the realization struck that he, most likely, wasn’t good enough to be the next Federer. “I had to make a decision,” he says. “I don’t have the build of a typical tennis player, and I didn’t want to be a coach. So I stopped playing tennis and enrolled in the local business school in Pune.”

And the rest is business history. But now that he’s made the decision to do his MBA, is it possible that his dream might change once again?

Varad says that anything is possible. For the moment though, he remains dedicated to improving his restaurant acumen. He tries one new Parisian restaurant every week, and revels in having the time to reflect on what he’s already accomplished.

One of many exotic egg dishes

One of many exotic egg dishes

“All my professional life has been about getting up at 6 am and doing things,” he says. “It was not about taking things in, or learning something new that day. Running a business takes a lot of energy, but it doesn’t actually help you to grow as a person, to reflect on what you have achieved. That is something I am doing at the HEC Paris MBA. In one year here, I think you grow more than you otherwise would in three or four years. It’s about being here with the other students, and the discussions that you have with them.”

“Being a part a team, interacting and persuading each other – that is the most important part of what I am learning here at HEC. Leading people who have an opinion—maybe a different opinion that is as valid as yours—that is where I’m being challenged today.”

After graduation from the HEC Paris MBA, Varad would like to experience working in the restaurant industry in Europe before expanding his operation in India. After that, he says to watch for a Yolkshire restaurant coming to a town near you.

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20 March 2017

watercolor map of world

In front of a filled-to-capacity classroom, Othmane Khelil is describing the start of the Arab Spring. “After Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire, the people of Tunisia moved to a clear message: ‘We want freedom, we want dignity’,” he says, switching from a photo of the emblematic Tunisian vegetable seller to one of a massive street demonstration.

What is most interesting about this presentation isn’t the vivid images, or Othmane’s impassioned insights into the Arab Spring’s impact on Tunisia up until the present day. Instead, it’s the fact that as an MBA student from Tunisia, Othmane is speaking firsthand about events that rocked his homeland.

Using students as a powerful source of information about their own countries is the crux of a new speaker series organized by the HEC Paris MBA’s International Affairs Society (IAS). The brown-bag sessions, held Tuesdays at lunchtime, allow students to learn about geopolitical issues from their peers while sampling a traditional dish from whichever region or country is being discussed (in Othmane’s case, a spicy Shakshuka).

Two HEC Paris MBA students discuss India-Pakistan relations

Jawwad Ali Syed and Siddarth Gurnani discuss India-Pakistan relations.

Started in January, the weekly sessions are a big hit with our 92 percent international class. As an entirely student-led initiative, they are free (except for those who order a meal), and cover subjects suggested by MBA students themselves. Every Tuesday brings a hard-hitting new topic—recent ones included the French presidential election, the Venezuelan oil crisis and India-Pakistan relations.

“These talks perfectly complement the business side of the education that we receive at HEC Paris,” Othmane explains. “They analyze the geopolitical contexts that affect business and market dynamics.”

As a member of the IAS core team, Yee Theng Ng, MBA ’18, finds such interactions offer more value to MBA participants than bringing in outside speakers (though the IAS still does for formal evening events). The big advantage she sees is that students are more likely to dedicate a lunch hour to learning if they know the speaker. She also says that students ask questions more freely. “We know each other by nationality,” she explains, “but sometimes we feel like we don’t know enough about our respective countries.”

A HEC Paris MBA student discusses events in his native Tunisia.

Othmane Khelil, MBA ’17, talks about events in his native Tunisia.

Others appreciate the opportunity to share—and correct misconceptions—about their homelands. Othmane volunteered to talk about the Arab Spring because “not many of my classmates knew that it started in Tunisia. I wanted to clarify incorrect ideas about the country’s safety and terrorism problems—problems that exist in many European countries, too—and to promote tourism in my country,” he explains. “My dad has his business in tourism, and the industry was massively affected after several attacks.”

The IAS began in 2014 as a student-led initiative within the HEC Paris MBA. Events are planned by a team of 10 to 15 MBA participants. The group’s faculty advisor, Affiliate Professor Jeremy Ghez, says, “It’s a great initiative that explores the intersections between business and geopolitics. When they interact with each other, with professionals and with diplomats, the MBA participants are better able to understand the overall business environment. In their professional careers, they will never make a decision in a political or geopolitical vacuum. Therefore, it’s crucial that they understand those dynamics.”

Along with the brown-bag series, the Society has two upcoming events on this year’s calendar. The group will invite speakers from outside the HEC community to discuss the Iranian Presidential Election in April, and One Year after Brexit in June. To learn more, follow the AIS Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/International-Affairs-Society-HEC-Paris-MBA-381184955592382/.


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16 March 2017

An estimated 700 people came together last Sunday to celebrate the first ever Holi Festival hosted by HEC Paris students and the town of Jouy-en-Josas. Dating back as early as the 4th Century, Holi is a Hindu festival typical to India and Nepal. Otherwise known as the “festival of colors” or the “festival of love”, it signifies the arrival of spring and the victory of good over evil. The festival has its origins in a Vishnu legend which honors the eponymous Hindu god and his follower Prahlada.

Along with sampling traditional Indian food, music and performances, participants also splashed each other with brightly colored, biodegradable powders, which signify spring and all the new hues it brings to nature. Photographer and HEC Paris MBA student Baskara Aditama was on hand to capture the spirit of the event:


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01 March 2017
HEC Paris representatives Aidan O'Connor and Sara Vanos meet with potential students during a Bogota MBA Fair.

HEC Paris representatives Aidan O’Connor and Sara Vanos meet with potential students during a Bogota MBA fair.


Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Aidan O’Connor, I am relatively new to HEC Paris and relatively new to France in general. Like 90% of the HEC Paris MBA candidates, I am outside of my native borders (Canada, in my case) and adjusting to life in a new country. Fortunately, discovering other parts of the world is a passion of mine as I’ve been lucky to travel to almost 50 countries, so having the opportunity to represent the HEC Paris MBA Program as a Marketing and Recruitment Manager in Latin America and the Middle East is a perfect fit for me. And in February I did just that, by visiting five countries and six cities in two weeks.

Here’s what I learned.

Heeding the advice from current MBA candidates, like Jean Pierre and Claudia from Peru, Domingo from Chile, and Raphael, Rodolfo, and Anderson from Brazil, I was prepared to take on each country for the first time. What I wasn’t prepared for, but happily surprised by, was the overwhelming amount of interest from prospective candidates in each location. Just as we had hoped, the HEC Paris brand is becoming more and more recognized worldwide. My days and nights were jam-packed with 1-to-1 meetings, MBA fairs and our own hosted events. With every interaction, I encountered fantastic profiles, genuine kindness and undeniable passion; all of which will surely contribute to the steady growth of HEC Paris MBA candidates from Latin America.

It was great meeting Alumni currently living in Mexico City, including Guillermo Ferrari (MBA ’13), Ruben Yahir Ahumade Esteban, Cesar Vergara Sanroman, and Daniel Elizondo (MBA ’16)

It was great meeting alumni currently living in Mexico City, including Ruben Yahir Ahumade (MBA ’13), Guillermo Ferrari (MBA ’13), Cesar Vergara Sanroman (MBA ’16) and Daniel Elizondo (MBA ’16).

I also learned, unsurprisingly, that most prospective candidates are interested in changing their geography, industry or function, and I’m very thankful to the alumni on-hand who shared their unique perspectives on changing at least one of the three. For instance, Thiago Castello (Brazilian, MBA ’16) and Luiz Sollero (Brazilian, MBA ’16), who joined me in Rio de Janeiro, changed all three. Both just started working for Amazon; Thiago in Luxembourg and Luiz in Paris.

From the endless sand of Copacabana Beach, to the colorful, unique houses of Bogota, I found a different kind of beauty around every corner. It was frankly very inspiring to meet so many motivated individuals. As a result, I gained an acute understanding into the candidate-and-application process that I didn’t have before.

I cannot wait to do it all over again in September.

Latin America notables from a first-timer:

  •  Peruvian food is incredible, especially Aji de Gallina.
  •  When it’s 30+ degrees Celsius, nothing beats a pisco sour.
  •  Flying over the Andean Mountains (Andes) is absolutely amazing.

Interested in the HEC Paris MBA Program? Fill out a Candidate Profile today to receive a preliminary evaluation of your candidacy or contact me directly at oconnor@hec.fr.

Written by Aidan O’Connor, Marketing and Recruitment Manager for Latin America and the Middle East

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27 February 2017

We sheepishly admit it: It is satisfying to be the best. We are referring to the Times Higher Education Alma Mater Index, the prestigious annual ranking that reveals the academic backgrounds of the world’s top chief executives. The January 2017 edition names HEC Paris as the top business school in Europe for educating the CEOs of Fortune Global 500 companies.

Here’s the breakdown of the world’s 10 leading educational institutions, showing the number of degrees they awarded to chief executives and their companies’ combined revenues:

Graph courtesy of the Times Higher Education Alma Mater Index

Graph courtesy of the Times Higher Education Alma Mater Index

To celebrate the ongoing power of the HEC Paris MBA to forge leaders, we decided to expand on the results of the Alma Mater Index and create our own list. The following highlights just a few HEC Paris MBA graduates who are currently working worldwide as chief executives. With nearly 4,000 HEC Paris alumni who are CEOs, CFOs or have founded their own companies, this list is far from complete. Think of it as a small sampling of the impact HEC Paris MBA graduates are having on the future of business worldwide.

To learn more about these and other alumni, visit the careers section of our website.

Banking and Finance

Pascal Cagni was the guest speaker at an Afterwork Drinks reception in Paris; Photo courtesy Matthieu Marquenet (MBA '13)

Pascal Cagni was recently the guest speaker at an Afterwork Drinks reception organized by alumni in Paris. Photo courtesy of Matthieu Marquenet (MBA ’13)

Pascal Cagni, MBA ’86
CEO, C4 Ventures

Pascal Cagni’s career trajectory is the stuff of business legend. An encounter with Steve Jobs on the Big Island of Hawaii (where the Apple cofounder was celebrating his 45th birthday) ended with Pascal accepting the position of General Manager and Vice President of Apple Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). Under his 12-year tenure, Apple’s EMEA revenue increased from $1.3 billion in 2000 to nearly $40 billion in 2012. In 2014, Pascal founded C4 Ventures, a venture capital fund which invests in European startups and companies wanting to enter European markets.

Olivier Combastet, MBA ’86
Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Pergam Finance

Sixteen years after it was founded, Pergam Finance manages assets valued at an estimated € 800 million. Under Olivier Combastet’s guidance, the company has earned a reputation for finding atypical investments for its customers. From railroad wagons to arable land in Uruguay to undeveloped real estate in the US, it’s been said that the former triathlete has a knack for finding investments not yet on the radars of other asset management companies.

Jean-Yves Fillion, MBA ’92
CEO, BNP Paribas USA and Head of CIB Americas

Jean-Yves Fillion started his career at BNP Paribas in 1984 as an account officer. He worked in several different departments before deciding to earn his MBA at HEC Paris in 1990. After his studies, he returned to BNP Paribas and became Vice-President of North America’s Corporate Banking Department. He was appointed CEO of BNP Paribas USA in 2012.


Emilie Flanagan, MBA ’14
Managing Director and Founder, Obi Partners Pte. Ltd.

After earning her MBA degree, Emilie Flanagan joined KPMG Singapore as a strategy consultant specialized in the Southeast Asian energy market. She left KMPG in 2015 to start her own company, Obi Partners, with the goal of decreasing the environmental impact of the palm oil industry and creating value from palm-oil waste streams. Obi now sources and structures $10-20 million transactions to develop and deploy small-scale renewable-energy infrastructure projects, such as hybrid solar and biogas power plants.


Ankit Gupta greets customers at the Dialogues Café in Bangalore.

Ankit Gupta greets customers at the Dialogues Café in Bangalore.

Ankit Gupta and Saurabh Priya, MBA ’16
Co-founders, Dialogues Café

After living and working in countries throughout the world, both Ankit Gupta and Saurabh Priya wanted to return to their native India to create their start-up. At Dialogues Café, patrons are charged for the time spent in the welcoming co-working space, and are provided with unlimited food and drinks–or they can choose to bring their own. Corporate level wifi, meeting spaces and a boardroom are provided, as are a wide range of books and board games. “We wanted to focus on building collaboration, and create a space where customers could meet, dream, discuss, share and execute ideas,” Saurabh explains.


Eric Olsen, MBA ’93
CEO, LafargeHolcim

Eric Olsen joined Lafarge North America in 1999, and subsequently worked in high-level positions in its finance, human resources and operations departments. When the company merged with Holcim in 2015, Eric became the CEO of the newly combined companies. At the time, the Financial Times reported that it was Eric’s international experience that caused the Board of Directors to tap him to head the group, which is the worldwide leader in the building industry.

Investment Services

Ole Rollag, MBA ’02
Managing Principal, Murano Connect

Ole Rollag started his career working as bond runner for Dean Witter. Upon graduating from the MBA, he joined Société Générale as a fund manager. In 2009, after working for big banks for nearly his entire career, Ole decided to create his own asset management consulting firm, Perfecta Partners. Murano Connect spun out of that business as an “investment dating service” connecting compatible funds with investors.

Luxury and Media

Xavier Romatet, MBA ’86
Vice President, Condé Nast International

Xavier Romatet (center) welcomes students during the Luxury Club's Trek to Paris.

Xavier Romatet (center) welcomes students during the Luxury Club’s Trek to Paris.

After completing his MBA, Xavier Romatet and fellow HEC Paris graduate Christophe Chenut (MBA ’86), created their own marketing company. In 1993, the company became part the DDB group, where Xavier served in several leadership positions, including president of Rapp Collins and the head of their French subsidiary. He stayed with DDB until 2006, when he was recruited to take the helm of Condé Nast France. His tenure as CEO included the launch of French-language versions of GQ and Vanity Fair. In January 2017, he was promoted to vice president of Condé Nast International.


Michel Vounatsos, MBA ’90
CEO, Biogen, Inc.

He speaks six languages, runs marathons and has over 20 years of experience working for drug manufacturers in half a dozen different countries. In January 2017, Michel Vounatsos took on an even bigger challenge: leading Biogen, a Massachusetts-based biotech firm. Michel takes the helm at a critical time, when the company is delving into a new treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, and considering entering markets outside of North America and Europe.


Marc Hanisch, MBA ’09
CEO, Dos Caballos

Despite its Spanish name, Dos Caballos is a German company established by MBA alumnus and world-class mountain biker Marc Hanisch. Using his own experience of powering through rough terrain on two horse power—the amount of force that most cyclists wish for while riding a racing or mountain bike—Marc is constantly testing, improving and advancing new products and trends in bike, sports and casual wear. Known for blending fashion with technical functionality, Marc compares his company’s high-end offerings to retailers like Ralph Lauren and La Martina.


Bhavna Suresh, MBA ’16
CEO of Lamudi Philippines and MyProperty.ph

Lamudi is a leading global property portal focusing exclusively on emerging markets. It offers sellers, buyers, landlords and renters a secure and easy-to-use platform to find or list properties online. Lamudi was established in 2013 in Berlin, and is currently available in Latin America, Asia and the Middle East. Within less than three years, the company has established its presence as a key online real estate marketplace in the countries where it is operating.  

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