Archive for ‘Leadership’

15 April 2014

“In 20 years’ time, this will be the part of your MBA that you will still be talking about”

– Professor Kevyn Yong, Saint-Cyr Leadership Seminar

If you asked any of our soon-to-be graduating class of 2014 for their 3 most cherished MBA memories, you can almost guarantee that they would mention the leadership seminar at St Cyr. Every year, our entire MBA cohort (that is to say, the September, January and Part-time intakes) eagerly pile onto buses towards the elite Saint-Cyr Military Academy in Brittany, ready for 2 days of field-based team exercises to test their leadership abilities.

But while the word “seminar” may usually bring classrooms, clipboards and complicated theories to mind, it’s safe to say that this isn’t your standard lesson in leadership. Epitomizing the “learning by doing” philosophy that is at the very heart of the MBA program at HEC Paris, Saint-Cyr is a great opportunity for our students to work with and adapt their leadership style to their peers, receiving constructive feedback on their leadership from both fellow students and military leaders alike. Students are divided into ‘teams,’ supervised by a military mentor and they are each required to lead at least one field exercise.

The exercises themselves are as varied as they are exhausting; the first day consists of team-based exercises towards a common goal – rafts were built (and consequently sunk), bridges were built and planks of wood were used as walkways over imaginary swamps, acid pools and shark-infested waters. Not only did these exercises work to test leadership, but also the skills of delegation, foresight and preparation in working towards a set goal. While maybe not as physical as the other activities, the crisis center at the end of the day proved to be a mentally exhausting and incredibly rewarding exercise, as students were put under pressure as they had to cope and adapt to a set of scenarios with strict deadlines and ever-complicating constraints.

The second day, at the beautiful Fort de Penthièvre, sought to test our students’ ability to push themselves and continue in demanding – and sometimes frightening – circumstances. With zip lines, tightropes and climbing ropes, this day was no less team-based than the previous as the groups had to work together to encourage and calm their teammates as they scaled walls and walked across walkways 20-feet above the sea. The strong bonds between participants became abundantly clear, with some displays of teamwork and courage even bringing the staff close to tears!

Feats of determination aside, perhaps the most notable thing about the seminar was the clear change in our students over the course of only two days. While at first there was perhaps a tendency for the leader to rush in and immediately begin to call the shots in an attempt to assert their authority, later exercises saw the students take a step back and contemplate what they had to get done before doing it, leading to a marked increase in efficiency and confidence.

So, do we have some newborn leaders among our ranks, the future titans of business? Oh, definitely; there are no two ways about it. Providing the perfect chance to learn by doing in picturesque surroundings with expert support and peer encouragement, Saint-Cyr is a once in a lifetime experience. Not surprising it comes top of many of our students’ lists, then.

“It’s the confidence. If I can do all this when I am frightened, I feel like I can do anything. It’s like, what was I so afraid of?”

– Srinivas Kishore, Class of 2015

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25 February 2014

Cultural Weeks are undoubtedly a highlight of the MBA calendar at HEC Paris. Providing the perfect opportunity to energize, socialize and above all organize, the cultural weeks are student-led and always prove a hit amongst students and MBA staff alike. They hold a lot of academic credit too; not only are they a lot of fun, but they also constitute a key leadership experience for our students as they lead and co-ordinate their teams to put on a week-long show for all to see.

With no less than 3 different cultural weeks taking place within the last month alone, it is safe to say that recently our schedule has been rather full. First up was a week celebrating all things Japanese, 23rd-24th January. Next was the Chinese Cultural Week – scheduled to coincide with Chinese New Year during the first week of February – followed by Latin American Week last week


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16 December 2013

They are a talented lot, our MBA students. Not only do they have some of the sharpest business minds out there, approaching and tackling complex business cases without breaking a sweat, but they also count accomplished singers, dancers, artists and musicians amongst themselves. Not bad.

Now, we would be lying if we said that we took these talents into consideration when judging an MBA application – not once has a candidate been asked to don a Sumo Suit and wrestle during an interview, nor have they ever had to perform a complex dance mat routine whilst the Admissions Jury looks on holding clipboards – but that is not to say that their talents and accomplishments go unnoticed. Indeed, the MBA Talent Show, held every year in December as a grand send-off for the graduating class, is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the MBA calendar, and this year was no exception.

L-R: Erwann Germain and les cruisers, Arthur Hennes

It opened with a classically understated dance number – think spandex, bright colors and novelty sunglasses –  and from there the energy only increased. Talents on display ranged from the traditional – Indian Bollywood-inspired dance routines, Spanish guitar solos and a beautiful vocal performance – to the completely off-the-wall-how-did-they-think-of-that routines, such as a dance mat performance that took me longer to watch than it took the student to do it, a staged wrestling match between a sumo and a lightweight, and a live art performance that had the crowd holding their breath for the final result.

L-R: Claudia Lazo Visbal, Promiti Prosun, Victor Garibay, Elena Plaksenkova, Michael Hizmi

And live performances were not all that were on offer; one of the highlights of the evening would have to be the newly-released trailer for the upcoming blockbuster release: “HEC MBA: The Final Term,” coming soon to a theater near you, starring our students and teachers in a joint-collaboration to rival even the greatest of Hollywood partnerships. It was high adrenaline, high octane stuff with bombs, gun battles and explosions left right and center. Without wanting to give too much away, let’s just say that Jouy-en-Josas looks set to rival Cannes as the film capital of France, and with Oscars season looming in the distance it would hardly be surprising if there are a few familiar faces on the red carpet next year.

The Talent Show as a whole served as testament to the strength of the friendships that are built through the MBA experience: each performance was met with whooping applause and the final act, a fitting karaoke rendition of We are the Champions, was a powerful – albeit slightly out-of-tune – tribute to the HEC Paris MBA community.

L-R: Impreet Natt, Quartet (Apeksha Deval, Nikita Khandelwal, Pritam Ghoshal, Srinivas Kishore), Apeksha Deval

The evening was rounded off with the presentation of the Leadership Awards, marking the outstanding contributions of the graduating class. The chosen winners, elected by their classmates, were presented with their awards by Bernard Garrette, the Associate Dean of HEC Paris, as they took to the stage to thank their classmates for a truly amazing and life-changing 16 months.

Of course, an event on this scale doesn’t just happen overnight. The evening – and indeed, this very blog post –  would have been nothing without the tireless work of the September 2013 intake, solely responsible for the organization and execution of such a grand-scale event; you truly provided a fitting send-off for such a brilliant class. Special thanks to Arthur Hennes, the mastermind and our compere for the evening, as well as all of the performers, hosts and backstage crew for their efforts!

Finally, we would like to take this opportunity to say another big thank you and congratulations to our graduating class; we hope that you have enjoyed your MBA experience as much as we have enjoyed sharing it with you. Good luck for your future and please stay in touch as you make the move from MBA students to part of our Alumni network: participation is mandatory.

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12 November 2013

“Do what you love in a job that makes you learn, and you’ll be doing the right job.”

When meeting Marc Onetto, ex-Vice President of Worldwide Operations and Customer Service at the Global giant that is Amazon, it’s hard not to feel just a little bit inspired. I admit I was nervous, facing  a man whose career has been nothing short of illustrious with only a crumpled sheet of handwritten questions to hand.

Prior to joining Amazon in 2006, Marc Onetto was Executive Vice President of Worldwide Operations for Solectron, a $12 billion leader in electronics manufacturing and integrated supply-chain service, where he has been credited with leading the company turnaround in 2003. He has also been awarded the « Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite », a French decoration given to mark his contribution to Franco-American business collaboration – it’s safe to say the man knows his business.

But within seconds of speaking to him, you forget all that. With an opening line of “So you’re English? My wife is English; that’s how I learnt that the customer is always right – she is too!” it’s pretty hard to feel intimidated.

Organized by Michel Safars, Associate Professor of Strategy & Business Policy at HEC Paris MBA, the title of Onetto’s talk – prepared as part of the launch of the newly redesigned Entrepreneurship track at HEC MBA (more on that soon!) – was “@ Amazon it is Still Day One,” a name Marc was only too happy to elaborate on:

“The idea of it still being Day One at Amazon signifies our desire to keep the “start-up” mind-set; we want to have the same spirit as a small company, despite being a larger company. When you’re a start-up, the only thing that matters is that you are providing a good product or service to your customers.”

… And that pretty sums up the content of Onetto’s presentation; Amazon still places the emphasis on customer satisfaction above all else – “This is not the chicken and the egg;  the customer always comes first” – and still holds the customer in the same esteem as it did the day Jeff Bezos first sold a book from his original garage headquarters. Onetto put this ‘customer-centricity’ down as a key factor in Amazon’s overwhelming success (“you don’t Google a product anymore, you Amazon it”) alongside Amazon’s dedication to the ‘3 Golden Rules of e-commerce’:

  1. Good price
  2. Good product selection
  3. Good delivery

Pretty simple, right? The third and final of these 3 rules was the one that Onetto was charged with during his 6 year stint at Amazon. As Vice President of Worldwide Operations, he was responsible for ensuring that people’s parcels arrived when they were meant to, in good condition and without hassle to the customer; or, in Onetto’s words, ensuring that Amazon could “walk the talk” by making sure that Amazon continued to deliver on its promises to customers. Obviously his job required a lot of logistics, a lot of metrics, as millions of parcels are sent across the world and delivered by Amazon every day, but Onetto insists that he always had the customer’s interests at heart, rather than opting for the easiest possible option to hand.

There is something in the whole “Day One” mind-set which seems amazingly simple; serve your customers well, and they will continue to give you their business in return. Sticking with the basic principles of start-up business certainly seems to have worked for Jeff Bezos, and no one can argue with the methodology of customer-centricity, but surely there must be something else, another secret to Amazon’s success?

“Don’t bow to the latest fad, take a long term view. Don’t do something just because everyone else is doing it; that’s how you become average.”


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22 April 2013

“You don’t lead by hitting people over the head-that’s assault, not leadership.” – General Dwight D. Eisenhower

Our MBA students take to the field at the foremost military academy in France to put some practical leadership skills to the test.

April 8th-12th saw our Full-time and Part-time MBA students embark on our annual off campus leadership seminar, at the St Cyr military training academy in Brittany.  The idea was to see how leadership and teamwork using military training exercises could connect skills and competences between military and business success.  The results we saw and experienced came through courage, trust, commitment, motivation, decisiveness, self-knowledge, team work and responsibility of the students, tomorrow’s business leaders.

Now in its 5th year, the seminar plays a vital role in our curriculum. Led by French military leaders, the seminar is aimed to instill sound leadership abilities, and to equip our MBA class with the experience necessary to cement pre-acquired knowledge and strategic thinking.

Upon arrival at the site for the seminar, Ecole Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr, students were kitted out and organized into small teams of ten, with whom they would live and work together to overcome challenges.  Teams were composed of a mixture of January 2013 and September 2012 MBA intakes; all from a multitude of nationalities, professional backgrounds, all mentored by one member of the French military.   What made the seminar more interesting was that some of the MBA students where actually coming from military professions in their respective countries. Our September 2012 intake welcomed four Full-time army officers this year, who played a vital role in the seminar, as mentors of four teams: Tugdual Barbarin, Charles-Emmanuel Daviet, Benoit Olié and Hervé Fernando. These four MBA participants, together, share around 50 years of military experience, and did an excellent job supporting their fellow classmates through atypical situations. (more…)

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10 April 2013

Students of HEC Paris MBA celebrated their 10th year organizing the Sustainable Business Conference (SBC) on March 22nd 2013; in conjunction with their fellow students from the MSc. in Sustainable Development.

The focus of this year’s conference was “From the Green Line to the Bottom Line: Creating Company Value through Sustainability”.

Prominent worldwide figures in corporate, food, environmental and business sustainability, gathered to present and debate topics relating to sustainable development, green culture and business models.

For the first time in a decade, the event was transported from its traditional home on the HEC Campus to the newly renovated Les Docks de Paris where the event was split into 3 locals.  This event showcased the level of professionalism and commitment of our students in showing dynamic leadership skills need to organize such a massive and influential event.

Speakers and panelists included Robert G. Eccles of Harvard Business School, Ioannis Ioannou of London Business School, John Elkington of SustainAbility, Bruno Bensasson of GDF Suez, Maximilien Rouer of BeCitizen,  Virginie Helias of P&G, Ariane Thomas of L’Oreal, Rodolphe Durand and Bernard Garrette of HEC Paris and Bernard Ramanantsoa, Dean of HEC Paris.

Many interesting key points were discussed during the conference – one challenging point in particular, that had the audience’s full attention, came from one of the closing keynotes given by London Business School Professor Ioannis Ioannou who stated that there is far more “green washing”; a lot of talk about sustainability, rather  than companies actually doing it in a strategic way thats not focused on creating another marketing lever to push products and services. Even though there is now new research that shows that “Sustainable organizations outperform in the long term!”

We were very pleased by the large crowd turnout  and media support and look forward to next year’s SBC to be bigger and better where perhaps more corporations will  have made some advances that don’t seem to focus on sustainability as a trend but as an important means to preserve the environment.

See you next year!

Here are some photos from the event:


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04 February 2013

The Industry Club of HEC Paris MBA had the pleasure of welcoming Mr. Etienne Henry, of NISSAN, to its first Speaker Series for 2013.

Mr. Etienne Henry is Nissan’s, VP Product Strategy & Planning for Europe, Russia, Middle East, Africa and India. He joined Nissan in Europe in 2002 as European Product Manager for Nissan “Qashqai” and has since climbed the professional ladder to Global Program Director for the Infiniti in 2011 before his promotion.

Etienne Henry HEC Paris MBA

With this wealth of knowledge and global experience he was able to speak about his career path, his current function and responsibilities as well as his view for the future of the automotive industry in Europe and globally.

Nissan 100% Electric cars on HEC Paris MBA Campus

Also on hand the evening of the event were 100% electric cars, 2 New Nissan LEAF, awarded “Car of the Year 2011″ and the Nissan Skyline GTR for test drives.

Nissan - HEC Paris MBA Speaker Series

The Industry Club at HEC Paris MBA is one of our many professional clubs where students are provided with opportunities to meet and exchange with top-level industry leaders and potential recruiters.

See more on their homepage


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20 December 2012

David ZHU Profile Photo HEC Mba Paris Student


Name: David Hsu

Age: 27

Nationality: American and Taiwanese

Intake: September 2012 Full-Time

Club Involvement: President of Luxury Club, VP Corporate Relations for Wines & Spirits Club, VP Communications for MBAT, PR & Digital Marketing Officer for MBA Council

Prior to starting my MBA at HEC Paris I was a Publicist and Social Media Consultant in New York City. I had lived in the “Concrete Jungle” for a little over four years before the big move to Paris. Having done PR and social media for hospitality and luxury brands I wanted to make the switch to business development and strategy for the same type of brands.

I was attracted to HEC Paris because of its strength in luxury and its proximity to Paris. The opportunity to study with Jean-Noël Kapferer and Vincent Bastien, authors of “The Luxury Strategy,” was too good an opportunity to turn down. The added bonus of being able to pursue the Luxury Strategies Certificate, where I would learn from practitioners in the field of luxury and gain hands-on experience working on a project for PPR Luxury Group, further reassured me that I was making the right decision when I ultimately chose HEC Paris over other U.S. based MBA programs.

Boarding my one-way ticket to Paris was nerve wrecking to say the least; but my experiences since I’ve been at HEC Paris have confirmed that this was the best decision I’ve ever made. Even before arriving on campus my HEC Paris experience began; during the application process I realized how helpful the current students and more importantly the alumni are. One alumnus in particular advised me throughout my application process, gave me tips once I got admitted and has since welcomed me with open arms and introduced me to the “City of Light.” The alumni and classmates from the earlier intakes, with their enthusiasm and generosity have made the transition easier than I had expected.

HEC Paris MBA Student and Alumni 2013

Party with Alumni

Besides the alumni, the professors here are first class in their fields of expertise. For someone that is essentially allergic to Quant and had no interest in Finance before setting foot on campus, my Financial Markets professor, Ioanid Rosu, was able to not only teach me the subject but also pique my interest. This one class actually has me considering the Finance Track during my Personalized Phase of the program, those that know me understands how shocking this is.

Luxury Club Buddy Program Holiday Dinner

Luxury Club Holiday Dinner

Saving the best for last, my favorite aspect of a day at HEC Paris is when classes are finished and club activities and the social life commences. There is basically a club for every professional interest, but if there’s something that interests you but no club exists, the MBA Council is very welcoming in helping you create one. For instance, one of my classmates founded the Wines & Spirits club, and every month we have a tasting and a speaker that teaches us about wine and the industry. Clubs play a huge part in my life here and even before arriving on campus the president two terms ago was incredibly helpful in introducing me to the Luxury club. As a result, I was able to hit the ground running and immerse myself in the Luxury club immediately.

My Study group from the end of core termWhich brings me to the most surprising and beneficial aspect of the program in my opinion. The admissions committee has gathered an extraordinary and truly diverse student body. Over the summer, the number one thing on my mind was what would my future classmates be like? I now have friends from all corners of the world whom I can turn to when I need advice, help or simply to share a drink and unwind after a long day of classes and club activities. Whether it’s during study groups or at a party in the Piano Bar, I’ve learned more from my classmates and they’ve taught me more about myself than I thought was possible.

On-Campus Raclette Dinner in Expansiel

On- Campus Raclette Dinner in Expansiel

Although I’ve only been here for one term, the past four months have been spectacular and as corny as it sounds have truly changed me. Who I am now would not have been possible just eight short months ago, before I replied to that acceptance letter with a Yes.


If you would like to learn more about my MBA experiences at HEC Paris you can get a first hand view from my twitter: @Hsud. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions.

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You can follow HEC Paris MBA on Twitter

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