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
21 July 2016
Blue skies over the California campus in summertime

Blue skies over the California campus in summertime

Thomas Vermeulen, MBA Part-Time class of 2017, describes how he chose and what he learned from doing an exchange program with UCLA as part of his HEC Paris MBA studies.

It is a Sunday evening in late June when I cross the UCLA campus. The cinematographic “magic hour” has just started, making the Anderson School of Management appear golden against a dark-blue backdrop. I am on my way to the welcome drink that kicks off my exchange week at the U.S. business institution, remembering how the idea for my participation had occurred to me 18 months before.


Part-time MBA students Kai Qian, Philippe de Mijolla and Thomas Vermeulen during the UCLA exchange.

Part-time MBA students Kai Qian, Philippe de Mijolla and Thomas Vermeulen during the UCLA exchange.

At that time, I was new to the HEC Paris MBA and still felt a bit overwhelmed by all the new information, in and out of the classroom. The Academics Team presented us with the different options for the customized phase of our programs, which ranged from fieldwork projects to elective courses to several international exchange programs. The UCLA option immediately caught my attention: It offered the chance to experience a different teaching style and business mentality within the very convenient framework – one week per month – of the part-time modules. There and then I decided to make the UCLA experience the cherry on my “MBA cake,” even though the summer of 2016 still seemed so far away. Now, those one and a half years had passed and I was ready to see if the experience would match my expectations.


My first impression of UCLA does not let me down. I had always dreamt of visiting a U.S. college, and the park-like campus that comprises the different faculties and departments completely meets my expectations. Next to the business school, a large stadium houses daily American football training sessions, and the entire area has a sportive vibe. Even before entering a classroom, I am emerged in a different context.


Classes too vary from the approach and content at HEC Paris. I signed up for two courses that were a nice addition to the curriculum at my home university, expanding my knowledge of emerging markets as well as of branding. Classes take place every day from 2 to 10 p.m. and each one requires preparing several assignments as well as reading one or more cases and articles. As such, the exchange is also a useful exercise in efficiency and time management. As could be expected with such extensive preparations, class discussions of the cases play a central role in the teaching experience and take up most of the time. For me, this is a clear difference from the HEC Paris MBA, which focuses on a more equal combination of class interaction and classic teaching. At the same time, the discussions at the Anderson School of Management are more steered by the professor, leading to less animated debates among classmates and more anticipated outcomes.


My final motivation for doing the UCLA exchange was to expand my network with professionals from all parts of the world. I am thus very happy to see that UCLA also has a strong diversity of nationalities and professions, and I am able to connect with many interesting people during the five class days. A further plus is the participation of UCLA’s EMBA students. Their managerial experience leads to interesting discussions and creates a nice addition to what I am learning at the HEC MBA.


Stepping out of your comfort zone and encountering new challenges is useful for any kind of learning experience, not the least for an international MBA. Spending the week at the Anderson School of Management confirmed my initial motivations for the exchange: Getting to know a different teaching style and making new contacts with other international professionals. At the same time, the format allowed me to maintain my normal working rhythm at my company, showing the many possibilities available in the part-time program at HEC Paris.

– Text by Thomas Vermeulen


To learn more about the HEC Paris MBA Part-Time option, visit: www.mba.hec.edu/Learning-Experience/Part-time


Read next
27 June 2016
Sharon Chan at the castle's doorway

Sharon Chan at the castle’s doorway

When Sharon Chan first applied to the HEC Paris MBA, she didn’t know the experience would include living in a stylish castle in the French countryside. The “Château of Montebello” as it’s known today, once belonged to the Countess of Vassart. The property was later purchased by Maurice Delaire, who gave it to his daughter as a wedding gift when she married the Count of Montebello. The Montebello family owned the castle until the 1940s, when the building and much of the surrounding forest in Jouy-en-Josas was converted into private homes and apartments.

Sharon shares a few insights into castle life:

How to Rent a Castle

“Back in October, when I knew that I wouldn’t be living on campus, I started looking for a place. The apartment was listed on www.PAP.fr. The MBA program has Facebook group for admitted students, and I asked if anyone would like to share a duplex in a castle. I found another girl, and she found our two other housemates.

There’s seven units in the château. The four of us occupy the top floor. It’s very different than what we expected; it’s actually very modern. We have a superintendent who takes care of the building and the landscaping. My bedroom looks out on the swimming pool.”

Meet the Neighbors

“I moved in the afternoon of December 27. The next day I went downstairs to get some groceries and check out the neighborhood. I remember that I was almost through the gate when a man passed by on a horse. He was dressed in a traditional French gentleman’s riding outfit, and he said ‘Bonjour’ with the most perfect accent. That felt like my first real day in France.”

Life with Housemates

The living room

The living room

“I have three housemates who are Americans: Jess, Alison and Heather. We’re all extroverts. Heather cooks a lot and Jess bakes a lot so we always have tacos, quesadillas, cupcakes and cookies lying around. My housemates are all in the same program, so we do our homework together. We’re always talking together. Last night I had decided to use the pool, then I ended up staying inside to talk with the girls. Because we don’t live on campus, we count on each other for support. We’re really a close-knit family.

There’s also a group called the ’Burbs (short for suburbs). It used to be us and about six other people who lived near the château. There were two girls and one guy who lived about three minutes down the street from us. They used to host barbecues. Some members have moved away, but there’s still a few of us around. Aaron rented out space in one of those big houses near the swimming pool. Gabor lives below us; he sublets a room from our neighbor.

We always say that we’ll get together to do homework, but I don’t think that’s ever actually happened. We usually get together either in the château or in someone’s apartment just to talk and share a bottle of wine.”

Telling People Where She Lives

“Everyone in the MBA program has to study a language. I’m learning French, and one of the first exercises in class is to say our name, where we’re from, and where we live. I felt silly saying, ‘Je m’appelle Sharon. J’habite dans un château à Jouy-en-Josas.’ One time we had to explain what we did the night before. My response, ‘J’ai nagé dans la piscine du château de Montebello’.

I’m sure that 10 years from now, I’ll look back and say, ‘I can’t believe that I lived in a castle in France.’ But for the moment, I’m trying to sublet my room. Before I leave France, I also want to have the Parisian experience as well.”

Sharon’s Housing Advice

The Château of Montebello

The Château of Montebello

Consider a shorter-term lease. “After the Core 2 classes, you might want to try living closer to campus or in Paris to get a Parisian experience,” she explains.

Look for a furnished apartment, especially if you don’t drive. “It took us four or five IKEA trips to furnish our apartment. All of our furniture, we bought and assembled ourselves.”

Bring your favorite foods. “I can’t live without ginger ale. But really, you can get everything here in France. It just might take you a while to find it.”

Read next
17 June 2016

Group photo class of 2016 So proud of the accomplishments of the Class of 2016!
Despite hosting a commencement celebration that included champagne and cocktails, an elegant garden party, and speeches by several of France’s top CEOs, those of us at the HEC Paris MBA program wanted yet another way to honor this year’s graduates. The Class of 2016 was that impressive.

Take, for example, Cécile Villette. The entrepreneurial track student decided to forego significant job offers in order to follow her dream and launch her own business (stay tuned to www.mba.hec.edu for more details). There’s also Ryan Howard, who transformed his internship with Amazon Prime into a prestigious managerial position. Those are just two of countless ways our graduating class are benefiting from their studies.

We’re certain to hear more of the accomplishments of the Class of 2016 in the months and years to come. In the meantime, we’d like to share a few memories from graduation day, held on June 10, 2016 at the HEC Paris campus. Highlights of the day’s events: a new scholarship created in memory of student Juan Gonzalez Garrido; Chris McEvoy’s widely quoted commencement speech; and the words of wisdom shared by Bruno Moineville, MBA ’88, and Emmanuel Faber, CEOs of Altice and Danone, respectively. It was also the first Commencement Ceremony for Andrea Masini as Associate Dean of the business school.

The images in the video were taken by Marcella Barbieri and by HEC Paris MBA staff.
We hope you enjoy them as we bid farewell to the Class of 2016.



Read next