Q&A with a Member of the HEC MBA Class of 2011


May, 25, 2011


Categories: Q&A with Students, Alumni, Faculty and Admissions Officers | European Business Schools | MBA | MBA留学 | Key Posts

HEC2011, my former client, is originally from India and worked in the technology and telecom sectors in the USA as a senior software engineer prior to joining the HEC MBA. HEC2011’s Post-MBA aspiration is to work in strategy consulting in emerging markets.

Adam: How would you describe the culture of the business school?

HEC2011
Culture of the school
There are 2 distinct cultures within the HEC School of Management. The “Grande Ecole” which consists of Masters in Management and other Master’s program, has a French orientation. Most students in Grande Ecole are from France, primary language of instruction is French.

The HEC MBA on the other hand is very international. The French constitute less than 20% of the intake. The MBA intake is divided into 4 batches, 3 English and one bilingual. Most French opt for the bilingual section.

The program is collaborative in nature unlike the competitive nature of the US MBA programs. Most of the assignments are to be done in groups of 5. The groups are put together to have people from different nationalities, backgrounds and gender. Group work and collaboration constitutes a hug part of the MBA experience. For example, we just spent 2 days in a military boot camp at ST-Cyr, the French military office training school, where we had to accomplish tasks as a group, organizing the MBAT an annual MBA sports tournament of schools in Europe is also a team effort.

Adam:  Do you actually have any time for clubs? If so, which ones are you active in?

HEC2011: The HEC MBA program is divided into 4 semesters. Core1, Core 2, Personal phase 1, personal phase 2. Core 1 and Core 2 are intense and it is difficult to make time for the clubs. However, if you are looking for internship which happen in Personal phase 1, then joining the clubs and networking is the best way to get internships.

I was not keen on going on an internship, so my club involvement was limited. I joined the NETIMPACT club and organized a Social business conference on campus and joined case cracking sessions in the consulting club.

There are 2 intakes, one in September and one in January. All clubs have elections which happen starting October (for the September session) and May (for the January session).

Adam: Are there any common characteristics you find amongst your classmates?

HEC2011: Diversity of professional and life experience is the common characteristic of my classmates. Most have worked extensively outside of their home countries, speak 3+ languages are looking to work in a region where they have not worked before the MBA. In terms of international mobility, HEC MBA scores very high (FT rank 3 I think). Most of them live on campus in the same residence building. So one gets to know most of the MBA classmates. This characteristic makes the case discussions in class interesting.

Adam:  What is hot at your school right now?

HEC2011: HEC has traditionally placed most of it’s students in Industry (Around 44%).
The school is increasing it’s focus to place more people in the consulting and finance sectors. The school is increasingly focused on Asia-Pacific, India and Brazil due to the growing economies in the region (increased career treks, job posting from career services etc)

Adam:  Are there any changes coming to the school?

HEC2011: Recently there has been a change of leadership at HEC. Dr Bernard Garette took over from Dr Valerie Gauthier. First change is a movement in the direction of a more responsive administration. HEC traditionally has been a school run in a bureaucratic way by the Paris chamber of commerce (CCIP). Standards of customer service are far short of what one expects in the USA.  There is focus on improving the customer service.

There is a new MBA building with attached soccer fields and tennis courts taking place. It should be ready for the 2012 intakes. The facilities are going to be a huge leap than what the school offers now.

Adam:  What are you doing this summer?

HEC2011: I am taking electives until July and then heading to Sao Paulo for an exchange program with FGV, HEC’s partner institution and a leading b-school in Brazil. I will be taking classes to further improve my Portuguese skills, take Brazil specific electives and look for jobs post December.

Adam: Do you have any specific advice for those considering application to your school?


HEC2011:
First, understand the nature of the school and the program.
HEC MBA’s defining characteristic is the 16 month duration, diversity and the collaborative nature of the program. There is a distinct French influence on the school which is great if you speak French and love everything French or sometimes frustrating if you are not used to the French way of doing things. There is a difference in the nature of the program in the September and January intake.
Be clear about your post-MBA goals.
If you are looking to work in France or any industry where the French are strong, want to go on any of the great dual degree program HEC offers, want to experience and study in France, HEC is a great school.
The MBA program is a general management program and is not oriented to any one particular sector like Finance or consulting. Most students are career switchers. Understanding what you are looking for from the school and if you will fit into the program culture would determine whether your student experience would be rewarding or frustrating.
Importance of alumni networking.
HEC’s strength is it’s alumni network. If you come to study here, you will
probably have to rely on it to find a placement post MBA. So understand the importance of this network and do speak to alumni before you apply to the school.
Understand the application process and what the school is looking for.
HEC looks for people with strong work experience (average is 5-6 years). The median age of the intake is around 29-30, which is higher than the US MBA programs. HEC looks for maturity and diversity of life experience which will contribute to the class discussions. Applying early gives you a higher chance of admission. January intake has fewer seats than September. Do think of how you will finance your MBA. HEC does not have loan programs unlike other B schools and scholarships are limited are rarely over 15K Euros.
Importance of the French language.
If you are looking to work in France post MBA, it is imperative that you put in an effort to learn the language before joining the program. French is never a focus while you are in the program and it is difficult to pick up the language if you are living on campus in an English language environment of the MBA program.
Student living.
Be prepared for student living or if you cannot, try finding an apartment in Paris or Versailles well in advance. It takes time to find accommodation around here. The campus takes 1 hour to reach by train from Paris and a brisk 10 minute uphill walk to reach the campus.
The French influence (in both good and bad ways).
Be prepared to deal with the French way of doing things. The school still has not fully shed it’s bureaucratic nature of working and this can cause frustration. If you are a vegetarian, food on campus can be hard to take for 16 months. (This is not a trivial issue. 10 months with this food feels like eternity!)

Adam: Are there any specific websites or blogs that you would recommend that applicants look at to learn more about your school?

HEC2011: Pagalguy.com and gmatclub.com have informative threads about HEC MBA program.

Adam: Anything else you would like to tell us?
HEC2011: I like the HEC MBA program and the student experience it has provided me.
Living on the campus with the other students has given me the chance to get to know many interesting people. The collaborative nature of the program and the group interactions has deepened my friendships with many of them.

The program with it’s part case based curriculum and part lectures has given be a broad overview of different aspects of business and a new lens to see and think about problems facing businesses.

I want to thank HEC2011 for taking the time to answer my questions. I think he has given some really great advice for applicants.
-Adam Markus
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