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.

Read next
19 January 2017

Meet some of our new HEC Paris MBA students in this awesome, student-produced video. In a tradition that started in 2014, the MBA program’s incoming participants collaborate to create a video prior to their arrival on campus that introduces them to their classmates, showcasing their unique personalities and their home countries. “It really is a collective effort,” says Orlando Guerra, MBA ’18, who compiled the individual video clips for the HEC Paris MBA January 2017 Intake. “Forty people—or almost half of the incoming class—participated. We started with a WhatsApp group and we voted on our paper-plane theme.”

Read next
16 December 2016
Tahira Taylor (bottom, right) spent 3 months as an exchange student at HEC Paris

Tahira Taylor (bottom, right) spent 3 months as an exchange student at HEC Paris


HEC Paris MBA participants in international exchanges with 40 business schools throughout the world. In Fall 2016, we welcomed Tahira Taylor, an exchange student from Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. We asked Tahira to share an insider’s view of her three months on campus, and the differences she found between European and American programs.


Course load

My experience so far has only been with the core 1 and 2 that are taken during the first year at Georgetown, and with the specialization at HEC. It has been an intense year and a half. Neither school presented itself as “easy” during either of these stages, and on most days I found myself either working on a group project, studying for a quiz or exam, finishing a paper, reading a case, preparing a model or, in general, just trying to stay ahead of all the work. In some cases, I found myself doing several of those things at the same time!


The courses from the marketing specialization at HEC were very specific, which I appreciated because Georgetown doesn’t offer specializations. The core classes at Georgetown were extremely helpful during my internship at Delta Air Lines, and the things I’ve learned in the HEC specialization have definitely been helpful as far as recruiting. Now I am able to speak about marketing at a very in-depth level. The courses and the cases go into such detail, I have come away feeling like an expert.


This fall's marketing specialization during their last day of presentations.

This fall’s marketing specialization during their last day of presentations.


I wanted a global curriculum. I have lived and worked in the US, Morocco and Lesotho, so I knew that wherever I did my MBA, I needed an international student body and a curriculum that understood how dynamic business in a global world can be. As far as the international student body, HEC wins hands down. In any one of my project-study groups, I worked with people from at least four countries (in groups of five people or less). The number of languages spoken among the student body and faculty is so impressive.

As for the curriculum, both schools do an excellent job of taking into account global affairs and business. I believe this is the direction that all business schools are going. Georgetown has the Global Business Experience, which is a semester-long consulting project that students must do for a company somewhere in the world. I will be consulting on a go-to-market strategy for a South African company. Both schools teach material that is relevant and timely to what is going on in the world. What is nice about HEC is that you learn about global cases and discuss them with people who can speak to the opinions of about 15 or so countries in one classroom.



The main event of an MBA is how it shapes your career. The United States has a mature MBA market, and so the recruiting process is very well choreographed. In the first year, you recruit during the fall for your summer internship. 100% of the students at Georgetown do an internship (though it isn’t mandatory, schools in the US kind of imply that it is). The US also has giant career fairs in the fall that are specifically for MBA recruiting. I got several internship offers by attending one of the fairs, and many of my classmates did as well.

Europe appears to be different. The MBA market in Europe is not as choreographed, so you will need to be grittier. In general, the companies that recruit heavily in Europe are large American companies like Microsoft, Google and Amazon. That said, I received my job offer a few days ago from a company headquartered in Europe. I found the position though HEC’s Career Management Center. It’s my dream job and I’m going to love the work. It pays as much as an MBA job would in the States, and presents me with the opportunity to live in Europe! Keep in mind that for many MBA jobs in Europe, full language proficiency is mandatory, and the pay is sometimes lower than MBA jobs in the US.


Final word

Whether you chose to do your MBA in the United States or in Europe is a very personal decision. I chose to do the exchange in Europe because I wanted some exposure to the European MBA experience, and I wanted to do HEC’s specialization. One might choose to do exactly what I did, but the other way around. Exchanges are not so popular among schools in the US.

In any case, you will make amazing friends and gain a dynamic professional network. You will learn about key aspects of business and find out new things about yourself as well. I am so happy with my choices. Both schools can open doors for you that you never even knew were there. It is just a matter of taking the time to get to know your options and making a truly informed decision that works for your future.


–Text and photos by Tahira Taylor

Read next
09 December 2016
AT Kearney global prize winners: Nadège Zambon, Elias Fares, Alexandre Legeay and Mathieu Mondan.

And the winners are (from left): Nadège Zambon, Elias Fares, Mathieu Mondan and Alexandre Legeay.


When the four HEC Paris MBA students first stepped onstage at the AT Kearney Global Prize Strategy Case Competition, they had already logged 120 hours writing their proposal. Add in another 10 rehearsals for their verbal presentation, and it’s easy to see why team “Istisharat Key” won the prestigious, multi-week contest.

Now in its 20th year, the Global Prize offers participants an intense, real-time window into the consulting world. Competitors must develop an innovative and strategic solution to an actual case brought to AT Kearney. The four HEC Paris MBA students—Nadège Zambon, Elias Fares, Alexandre Legeay and Mathieu Mondan—faced off against nearly 100 teams from 10 schools, including LBS, Insead, Kellogg, SDA Bocconi, Booth and Columbia, to claim the prize. Their proposition brought the client’s annual growth to 15 percent, and overcame many of its operational problems.

This tweet from Nov. 18 says it all

Along with crunching data, interviewing, strategizing and making presentations, the long hours spent hammering out their proposal taught Istisharat Key many important lessons about teamwork.

Here are five takeaways:

1. Start with a well-balanced team
From the beginning, the students sought team members with complementary skills. “We had someone who is good at crunching numbers, we had someone who is good a drafting PowerPoints, and one of our team members is highly innovative and capable of seeing the big picture,” Elias explains. “Putting them all together was one of our main strengths.” As a result, the students easily capitalized on each other’s talents without having to choose a project leader.
2. Take it step-by-step
The team discussed many topics in the days before the competition, including the book, The Monk who sold his Ferrari. They embraced its advice to focus completely on the task at hand. “It says that if you have one eye on what you are doing now, and the other eye on your future goal, you will not be able to achieve your target,” Elias says.  “We tried not be distracted by the idea of winning the entire competition. Even before our initial presentation at HEC, we felt like we had already learned from each other.”
3. Evenly distribute the workload
With a whopping 120 hours spent just on their written presentation, the four students made sure to evenly divide the work. “From the very beginning we said, ‘if we are doing this, we are really working for it’,” Mathieu explains.  “We had to find the time to work together in the evening, on the weekend, in-between classes.” In the end, no one missed a work session, and the team benefitted from a solid, trust-filled relationship.
4. Focus on a common goal
Once committed to the project, the students clearly articulated a team mission. Instead of working for personal gain—landing a much sought-after job interview at AT Kearney, for example—they decided to promote the HEC Paris MBA. “We set one goal, which made the team very solid,” Elias says. “We said ‘if we do this well, it will benefit future intakes’. We wanted to pass the message, ‘This is HEC. We exist, we’re good, and we can compete against any university in the world’.”
5. Embrace creativity
In addressing the five years of stagnant growth experienced by their client, a mid-sized pharmaceutical company, Team Istisharat Key could have just focused on operational issues. Instead, their presentation had a story line and used a pyramid as a metaphor.  “Like a pyramid, the base of our solution was strong,” Mathieu says. “You can see far from the top of a pyramid. That’s why our work included a vision for the future, three to five years out.” Applauded for the clarity and innovation of their proposal, the students scored the win.

For more about this year’s competition, visit: www.hec.edu/News-Room/

Read next
06 November 2016

Photo by Carlos Sadovnik


Sailors can become MBA students or vice versa. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the largest MBA regatta held on the globe–the Rolex MBA Regatta and Conference–hosted in Santa Margherita Ligure, Italy, by the SDA Bocconi Sailing Club. From 29 September to 2 October, 23 HEC students and alumni competed in two divisions for the opportunity to represent their school on the podium.

Salty dogs and firstregatta1S-time sailors alike from 18 global MBA programs competed, with HEC Paris coming in a best-ever 5th place overall. With a jam-packed schedule of sailing, networking cocktails, and a black-tie keynote conference and gala, the weekend was something to be remembered for all the participants. It is already eagerly anticipated for next September.

For more information about the HEC MBA Sailing club and the 2017 MBA regatta schedule, visit our Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/hecmbasailingclub/.

–Text by Ryan Bates
–Photos courtesy of Arturs Smilkstins, Carlos Sadovnik and the SDA Bocconi Sailing Club


Read next
11 October 2016
"Engineering" a roller coaster out of paper.

“Engineering” a roller coaster out of paper.

After a smooth check-in on campus, expect to deep-dive directly into the transformation you dreamed about while drafting your candidate profile for the MBA program. “Act your Success” is a three-day seminar where you interact for the first time with your fellow MBA students through a series of writing and improvisational workshops.

The end goal is to provide MBA students with the communication skills needed to succeed in the program and the professional world.

The seminar begins with the outstanding consultants guiding you (and sometimes pushing you!) in the basic elements of a business presentation. You have to introduce yourself to a group of 12-15 students without using a microphone.

The focus is on you:

  • -Being understood by people of diverse backgrounds
  • -Using the appropriate structure, attitude and content to make your presentation memorable
  • -Making eye contact
  • -Using simple and easy-to-understand gestures
  • -Speaking loud enough to be heard and using a slow rate of speech

Remember, only 10 percent of the message you’re conveying is in the content itself! The rest is in your body language and other non-verbal means of communication.


Roller coaster success!

Next, jump into the first workshop and discover what it takes to work with a diverse group of people while following rigid guidelines. Choose your role: Are you going to be an engineer or a public relations specialist? You are in charge of a roller coaster, and it’s up to your team to build it, prepare the press release and market it at a new product launch. That’s pure team work, a lot of fun and the perfect occasion to become closer to your peers!

Eventually, you start intensive trainings in improvisation and acting. Forget about intellect for a while and observe other people’s emotions and reactions. When you first get on stage with your group to act out your story, you are acutely aware that there’s more than 100 people in the audience watching you. That feeling fades away once you start acting, and eventually you forget that they are even there.

Quickly forget that everyone is watching your performance

Quickly forget that everyone is watching your performance.

My advice to the next group of “Act Your Success” participants? Get connected, be creative, just let go. But be aware, because you could find yourself, like I did, playing the part of a desperate monkey in front of every member of your class!

Overall, “Act Your Success” was an outstanding experience.

Text by Noel Marciniak, Class of 2018

Read next
30 September 2016

On September 22, the HEC Romanian community organized this year’s first networking event with all three MBA intakes. In partnership with the Romanian Embassy, the cultural evening was held in the Hôtel de Béhague, one of Paris’ finest hôtel particuliers, and a property owned by the embassy. Built in the second half of XIXth century, the hôtel particulier is a work by Gabriel Destailleur, the architect famous for his recuperation of sculpted wooden elements put on the market by Haussman’s important transformation of Paris.

Romanian team

The night’s Romanian team included (from left to right):
Alina and Ioanid Rosu (professor of finance), professor Roxana Barbulescu and event organizers Amalia Bejinaru and Pierre Bortnowski

Combining the complex agendas of HEC Paris and the embassy meant that planning had to start four months in advance of the event! But the result was a success. Students tasted many Romanian culinary delights, watered with fine Feteasca cépage. The beautiful architecture of the building and Romania’s famous Tuica plum brandy were the final touch to this happy gathering.

foodtable It is always a pleasure when you can share with your colleagues a little bit of what makes your country so special. We really hope to have inspired some of them to come and visit us back home and, who knows, we might have set a benchmark in cultural-day organization for the next batch!

Many thanks to the French Connection Club for their help during the event; it’s another example of the friendship that has existed for many centuries between the two countries.

Text by Pierre Bortnowski and Amalia Bejinaru


Read next
22 September 2016

Two weeks after setting foot on HEC’s campus for the first time, the MBA September ’16 intake (Class of 2018) embarked on “Integration Weekend,” which consisted of a glamping trip to Dune du Pilat and Bordeaux.

bus with Christine


Starting from Montparnasse, spirits were high the entire train ride, with lots of food, drink, and an impromptu salsa party. After an additional hour by bus, we reached the camp site around midnight, and immediately got cosy in our cabins (another interesting French cultural experience – how many people are supposed to fit into a tiny cabin?!) – some in their beds, some on the porch to continue socializing.

The next day started with a brunch, followed by a game of Capture the Flag. As it turned out, playing CTF with a bunch of MBA students wasn’t an easy feat – strategy AND team-work strength meant that both sides successfully defended their flag for a very long time.

beachleap at dune de Pilat

The afternoon meant free time, so most of us decided to climb the dune to lie on the beach and go for a swim. Fortunately, the weather played along against all forecasts, so the sun was shining and the water wasn’t too cold. Others preferred the seaside bar with its selection of Bordeaux wines and splash-effects from actual ocean waves.


Inegration weekend, group on sand


Once the afternoon was over, and everyone had rid themselves of as much sand as possible (which was, by far, not enough – just how could there be so much sand?), we were off for dinner, followed by card games and – of course – a huge party, which featured, among other things, dancing in the pouring rain.


This of course made the next morning a less than pleasurable experience for most! Unfortunately, there was no time for lie-ins as we were off to the city of Bordeaux for some delicious food, canelés, sightseeing, and a multimedia scavenger hunt. As a result, the returning train ride was a far cry from the arriving one, with most of us sleeping soundly.



Our integration weekend was a wonderful way to get to know the co-students of our intake, and it was a welcome break after two weeks of intense introduction to the program. While most of us certainly struggled to get up in time for lectures on Monday morning, the weekend was definitely an experience not to be missed!

Text by Christine Weitbrecht, photos by Baskara Aditama



Read next
12 September 2016

Reading 150-page documents, designing PowerPoint presentations and interviewing with coaches prepares students for consulting season

Fernando Martinelli, CEO of Prep Lounge

Fernando Martinelli, CEO of Prep Lounge

Forty-five MBA students ended their summer vacations early this year to attend Peak Week, a six-day event jointly organized by the Career Center and the Consulting Club. An intensive preparation for the upcoming consulting-recruitment season, the week featured case-cracking sessions and workshops designed to hone students’ interview skills.

Events kicked off with Fernando Martinelli, CEO of Prep Lounge. As someone who has interviewed more than 500 consulting-management candidates, Martinelli emphasized that “it’s not about knowing the solution, it’s showing how you can break down the question into logical steps.” He illustrated the different types of business cases and how to best structure them.

The next workshop featured Sébastien Ritter, a career coach and HEC Paris alumni with more than 4 years of experience in strategy consulting. He presented the 8 key competencies management-consulting firms look for during a fit interview.

Sébastien Ritter has been a career coach since 2012.

Sébastien Ritter has been a career coach since 2012.

On September 2, AlixPartners, a global business advisory firm, came to campus with one of their clients, Albéa. Participants were divided into groups to solve a real-life business case. After 2 hours of flipping through 150-pages worth of data, crunching numbers, group discussions, and PowerPoint design, students presented their recommendations to Albéa.

Peak Week, held this year from August 29 to September 2, 2016, also involved cracking businesses cases, mock case and fit interviews, and networking with HEC alumni.


Still smiling on the first day of Consulting Peak Week

Still smiling on the first day of Consulting Peak Week


Participants said:

“Peak week is an intensive training session: for five days you do 3 case cracking and fit-interview sessions in a row, each lasting two hours. This tests both your skills and stamina. It is exhaustive. But it’s like going to the gym; after you finish you feel lighter and the next exercise round becomes much easier. At the end, the improvement in my performance was clear.”

—Edmundo GARDOLINSKI, September ’15 intake

“The project with AlixPartners was beneficial in several ways. First, it allowed us to work with real data and lots of ithow I’d imagine a real case would be. During this ‘competition’ we weren’t guided as we are when we crack cases, so we had to really filter and focus in on certain data. Second, we received mentorship from real consultants, to understand how they think. Finally, having the actual clients there allowed us to see if our recommendations were practical and showed us that AlixPartners truly does work closely with their clients.”

—Dustin YEE, September ’15 intake

“I found the one-on-one session with Fernando to be very fruitful. He detailed my weaknesses and my strengths. I walked out with very clear idea of what I need to work on in the next few weeks.”                                

—John SHIJA, January ’16 intake


Read next
27 July 2016
Zahid and Zaheerah with the MBAT Zebra

Zahid and Zaheerah with the MBAT Zebra


Embarking on a degree program is often a joint decision. Every year, between 15-20 percent of our students arrive with partners. Coming to HEC Paris as a couple involves more than pursuing an MBA: it means both people have to integrate into a new country and culture.

As a result, we asked Zaheerah Samrod to share her experience of joining the HEC Paris community. She and her husband Zahid Ahmed-Hassen moved from South Africa to France last winter, when Zahid became part of the school’s January 2016 intake.

What were you doing professionally before you arrived at HEC Paris?

I’m a financial accountant by profession. Prior to coming to France, I had been working for three years at a diamond mining company in Johannesburg. It was a role where I needed to interact directly with the team, so I resigned from my job to move to France.

Some people are shocked that I followed Zahid, and they say to me, “But you left everything?” Honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. My previous job had asked me to stay on, and I had really amazing remuneration offers from them. It’s not even something that I’d consider, not coming here and being with Zahid.


Just another day in the capital of French culture

Just another day in the capital of French culture

Did you try to find a job once you arrived in France?

I did a bit of job searching, but in order for a South African to work in France, you need a company to sponsor your work visa. It’s not very easy because that’s a big commitment for a company to make. You can’t commit to being in France post-MBA, because you never know what role your partner is going to take when they finish their studies.

I wanted to use my time in France productively, and add a skill set to my CV. Eventually, I decided to study French full time. I enrolled at the Sorbonne, which is basically French lectures, grammar and phonetics from 9 to 5 every day.


Are you active in the Partners’ Club?

I was nominated president of the Partners’ Club, and I took on the role in January. But once I started at the Sorbonne, I found that I just didn’t have time to arrange get-togethers, so I resigned as president. But I’m still in the Facebook group, and I do attend a lot of the evening activities.


Besides living in France, how has the MBA program changed your life?

Since Zahid started the MBA, I’ve found that we’ve actually become closer as a couple. When he and I were both working, life was so intense in terms of our jobs. We didn’t get to see each other as much as we do now. We’ve never had two months of holiday, so we said, “We’re just going to travel as much as we can, and do as much as we can together over the next two months.” So far this summer we’ve traveled to Germany and Budapest. Next, we’re going to Belgium. In August, it’ll be Nice, then 10 days in Italy, Croatia and Amsterdam.


Ready for France vs. Portugal during the Euro 2016

Ready for France vs. Portugal during the Euro 2016

What advice would you give someone who is the partner of an MBA student?

Try to learn French before you arrive, and continue learning French once you’re here. It just adds so much to your experience. As a partner, you interact on a daily basis with French people whether it’s at the train station, or over the phone to sort out administrative things. If you understand just a little bit—the basics—it makes your life easier.

Make sure that you, as a partner, have a project to keep yourself busy. It could be studying, or joining a gym, or getting involved in the Partners’ Club. You may not be the one earning the MBA qualification, but you certainly have the opportunity to come out of the experience a better individual.

Socialize with the classmates—there’s a big group to socialize with, between classmates and their partners. When Zahid is invited somewhere, be it for an official event, the MBAT for example, or even if it’s something informal, just a few of his classmates meeting up, he’ll always ask me if I want to join. I’ve also started trying to meet with the partner of another MBA student at least once a week, to visit a museum or have a coffee.


Has your “French experience” met your expectations?

My experience has definitely met my expectations. It’s actually better than I expected it to be; I thought I would miss home more. I do miss my friends back in South Africa, and I do miss family, but with technology it’s so easy to keep in touch.

That said, I absolutely love Paris. I love living abroad. I’m a big foodie, so I love the food here. It’s like heaven, all the pastries. And Zahid and I have experienced so much together. With the Euro 2016, we watched three matches live, including the semi-final in Marseilles, and the final at the Stade de France. We also watched the Women’s Final of the French Open.

I feel like I’m growing so much. I am putting my career on hold, but despite that, I think this is the best thing that I’ve ever done.

Resources for Partners

Clubs and Events

The Partners’ Club supports all HEC Paris MBA partners in their transition to university life. Regularly scheduled outings and on-campus activities enable participants to make connections and make the most out of life in France. Visit:


Watch a webinar featuring Neha Tripathi, the club’s 2016 president:



The CEO Speakers’ Series, the MBAT, and other events sponsored by student clubs are open to partners. Partners may also contact the president of a club to see if they are eligible for membership. To learn more, visit:




French Classes

Partners are invited to attend on-campus French classes. More details, as well as a list of other classes available in the area, are provided by HEC Paris upon arrival to campus.


Non-degree Programs

The Social Business/Enterprise and Poverty Certificate is an intensive, 7-week course held on campus. Participation is based on application, and partners are welcome to apply. Visit:



Read next