How to Maximize Your Time at the EMBA with Atalian Asia CEO Roland Salameh

At 27, Roland Salameh became a country CEO of a privately-owned conglomerate learning the ins and outs of what it takes to be an executive while on the job. Acknowledging the need for a more structure approach, he enrolled at an Executive MBA offered by HEC Paris, where he developed the business acumen needed to take on more complex roles.

Roland Salameh has been the Singapore-based ATALIAN Asia CEO for a year, after having spent most of his career in Europe, Africa and Middle East. Still new to Asia, he arrived during a pandemic with the challenges of navigating a diverse region under extraordinary circumstances.

“Singapore is a very progressive country and running a business here is very interesting with the access to talent. They have a forward thinking government who supports companies and the communities they serve.”

“I came to Asia at the beginning of the pandemic and had to make some fast decisions based on little information.  My focus was to bring stability and provide a clear purpose that would extend beyond Covid.”

Roland acknowledges that bringing change takes time, but this wasn’t a luxury for the CEO managing a regional player like ATALIAN.  When asked how he overcame these challenges, he says

“Humility. A lot of humility, integrity and perseverance.”

Starting strong

This philosophy can be traced back to when Roland was 27 years old, he walked into a meeting with the CEO of BMB Group and convinced him to trust him with the fortunes of that firm’s faltering Algerian operations. Six months later, he had turned it around using a blend of determination and deference. “He believed in me, which was a humbling experience given my relative inexperience, but this gave me the confidence to be bold with the strategy.”

“I was young, managing people who knew the business much better than I did,” Roland says. “I listened to them for their expertise, but I had to look beyond this and be alive to unconscious bias. I had to be tough, work very hard, and for a year, I didn’t really see my family.”

Next steps

HEC Paris Executive MBA alum Roland Salameh in concentration mode.

Roland, fully focused, in the EMBA classroom with his colleagues.

The ambition, self-belief, and respect for others’ opinions that carried him to that first managerial success would underpin subsequent triumphs at work. A few years later, he was at the helm of the same firm’s portfolio for a region; it was then that he chose to take a step back to equip himself with the business acumen he needed.

“I wanted to make sure I had the necessary background and self-confidence to be able to target much bigger roles. Given that I learned how to be a CEO on my own, I was unsure of my leadership skills.”

“I wanted the top schools,” he says of his decision-making process when selecting an EMBA program. “And I preferred HEC because of a larger alumni network with a good reputation around the world.”

An influx of possibilities

From the outset of his time at HEC, it quickly became clear to Roland that the EMBA program was an intensively self-reflective exercise.

“I don’t know if it’s intentional or not,” he says, “but the way the courses are presented and the way they present them, help you realize that you need to get out of your comfort zone and target much bigger challenges.”

“The program really pushes you to understand who you are, and what your strengths and weaknesses are. The way the program is structured is excellent. Before I did the program, I didn’t have the opportunity to reflect on what I was doing. But the two weeks you’re there really give you the time to network and dive deep into the concepts.  Moreover, the month in between [those two weeks] is enough time for revision and to apply the theories.”

“The most difficult part was to manage my time between my family, my studies and running multiple companies. It pushed me to apply rigor and discipline and to be quick.

“I don’t know if it’s intentional or not,” he says, “but the way the courses are presented and the way they present them, help you realize that you need to get out of your comfort zone and target much bigger challenges.”

On the road to CEO

Those were the questions he asked himself that put him on the road to Asia CEO at ATALIAN. Now one year into the role, he has been concentrating on applying both his work experience and what he learned at HEC.

Having spent most of his career working in North Africa and Europe, Roland now has Singapore as his base of operations.

“Today, I manage a large workforce business in ATALIAN, that has significant opportunity to make a difference in Asia”, he says of his new post at the head of a 23,000 employee operation spread across Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, India, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Myanmar.

“What you learn at the EMBA is the fundamental principles of how organizations work, regardless of size or sector. This gives you a strong grounding in being able to take a holistic 360-degree approach, which can be applied to any business.”

“What you learn at the EMBA is the fundamental principles of how organizations work, regardless of size or sector. This gives you a strong grounding in being able to take a holistic 360-degree approach, which can be applied to any business.  The EMBA helps you understand all the key functions with enough knowledge to run the head of all departments.  Being able to think laterally and navigate the unknown is especially relevant using these turbulent times.”


More CEOs of Fortune Global 500 companies have graduated from HEC Paris than any other university in Europe, and nearly 4,000 graduates are currently CEOs, CFOs, or have founded their own companies. According to the Financial Times, the HEC Paris Executive MBA is ranked #1 in Europe and #3 in the world; click here to learn more.

If you’re ready to take the next step in your EMBA journey, introduce yourself here