Archive for ‘Class of 2018’

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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13 February 2017

Chinese students from the HEC Paris MBA and HEC Paris recently hosted a series of events designed to introduce the entire campus community to different aspects of their culture. To kick off Chinese Cultural Week, the students celebrated the Year of the Rooster with a Temple Fair which offered activities ranging from tea-drinking and fortune telling to trying on traditional clothes and learning traditional games. The next evening at the Lantern Festival, participants shared an authentic Chinese dinner, followed by a show both organized and performed by members of the student body. From traditional and modern dances to a fashion show and music recitals, they displayed their artistic talents and united the HEC community in a fantastic celebration of culture.

The following videos offer a sampling of the week’s events. The first one features MBA students Dengke Li, Vincy Zhang and Leslie Zhu, who were among Chinese Cultural Week’s main organizers. The second includes excerpts of some of the evening performances.

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30 January 2017
Stopping by Condé Nast's Parisian office

Stopping by Condé Nast’s Parisian office

In a uniquely Parisian office with sweeping views of the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, Xavier Romatet (MBA ’86) described his rise to CEO of Condé Nast France. Twenty-three HEC Paris MBA students from the MBA Luxury Club listened to him speak about his personal experiences as part of the club’s trek to the French capital last November. “It was very inspirational to hear how Xavier drove his career to head such an iconic publishing company,” Caroline Spegiorin, then-president of the MBA Luxury Club, explained. “While meeting with us, his attitude was, ‘I’m here for you. Ask me whatever you want’.”

Student-led treks are designed to expose MBAs to different sectors within an industry and the particular issues they face, yielding thought-provoking results. During the Luxury Club’s trek, participants benefitted from an insider’s view into the acclaimed fashion and perfume house Givenchy, and visited Skintifique, a newcomer to the high-end world.

Orestes experiences the skincare industry first-hand.

Orestes experiences the skincare industry first-hand.

At Givenchy, Patricia Huyghues Despointes (H ’98) asked participants to analyze whether the upmarket icon should open a new store in Asia. “In luxury, branding and image mean as much as net revenue,” Caroline explained, “and as Chief Financial Officer, Patricia shared with us her own measures of how to strategically select a new location as an investment.”

The group also met with Marie Andrade (M ’05), Director of Digital and Marketing at Skintifique, as well as Dr. Jacques Delort, the company’s CEO. Skintifique was founded in 2012 and is known for its 100 percent pure, non-allergenic and innovative skincare products. The conversation included the company’s plans to expand their portfolio in this niche market.

“It was great to add something tangible to the strategies and concepts that we have been learning in the classroom,” said trek participant Orestes Peristeris (MBA ’18). “By visiting these companies’ offices and meeting their staff, we were able to understand first-hand their ways of doing business.”

For Caroline, the event’s main coordinator, the treks can aid participants in defining their future. “This kind of event is about more than networking,” she said. “Treks are a way for students to immerse themselves in the know-how of a specific industry. They help students gather a broader knowledge not only about the sector, but also about themselves. Many HEC MBAs are career switchers, and these events help them to understand how they can fit into a particular industry and bring their expertise to it.”

That’s why Romatet’s own career trajectory—he went from the HEC Paris MBA to his own advertising agency, then Condé Nast asked him to head their French office—particularly resonated with the group. Along with discussing how the publishing powerhouse changed its business model to overcome digital disruption—partially by opening a Vogue Café in Russia and a Vogue Bar in Bangkok–he gave his personal dos and don’ts on how to break into luxury.

Other Luxury Club-sponsored treks in 2016 included visits to the champagne estates of Taittinger, Veuve Clicquot and Moet & Chandon. The club also has springtime plans to travel to Milan for the MBA Retail and Luxury Forum.

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