Along with his English Modular 2022 colleagues, Jeremy Sirour is only just settling into the drumbeat of life at the EMBA. Still, his 16-month journey barely underway, he marvels at what he has experienced thus far.
“The first module was great,” he says over the phone shortly after the January intake. “It was so refreshing to sit and listen and participate in conversations that you’d normally never have. Beginning the course with the Leadership module was such an eye-opener.”
Making the difference
Jeremy is a Consulting Director, EMEA at Pegasystems, an American enterprise software firm, where leads a multi-national, 35-person team. His role focuses heavily on ensuring each person’s individual development and high customer satisfaction. It’s apt, then, that the contours of his own personal development through the EMBA accommodate himself, his team, and his firm.
“I chose the January intake because its format was important. Being able to devote entire two-week blocks to school as opposed to going to class on the weekends, when I could be distracted by what happened at work, was important. I also wanted to have as much exposure as possible to an international crowd (this January’s English Modular includes 38 different nationalities) since my company is also very international.”
The road to HEC
Jeremy’s road to the January track began even before the germ of the EMBA was planted in his mind. Trained as an engineer, he quickly mastered the hands-on technical roles that marked his early career. He broke into the managerial ranks of Pegasystems’ technical consulting teams five years ago. Shortly thereafter, he was recognized internally as one of the company’s most promising talents.
Still, he felt as if his managerial style lacked the polish demanded by his ambitions.
“I wanted to develop my abilities in finance and in corporate and business strategies,” he explains. “I also knew that an EMBA would help me in my current role in enhancing the quality of my executive presence while coaching my team.”
“… my biggest priority was that the company grant me the time to do the EMBA.”
His career trajectory—at that point, with less emphasis on technical skill and a heavier focus on managerial and business acumen—helped him make up his mind about pursuing his EMBA.
“Pega has a strong culture of personal development and a CEO who advocates lifelong learning. In my case,already being recognized in the company meant my supervisors were naturally open to the idea of helping me develop further,” he says. “But” he adds pointedly, “I still had to articulate clear benefits and returns for them.”
That “sale” began with putting his ideas into an email and sending them to management in the form of a concise 5-6 slide pitch deck. “These were the key facts,” he explains. “Things like benefits for both parties, the budget details, and the time I’d need to complete it.” He says that putting his proposal into slides was driven by that “once your manager is on board with the idea, you want to ensure she can easily pitch it internally to obtain final approvals.” It was, as he puts it, “a packaged development framework.”
Setting the stage
In laying the groundwork with his company, he made a point in clearly articulating what was– and more importantly, what was not– negotiable for him.
“I made it known that my biggest priority was that the company grant me the time to do the EMBA. Reaching a financial agreement came as a second priority, but the company was so convinced that it decided to also financially support this journey.”
That Jeremy was able to make his case to his managers in the first place belies a company culture receptive to the idea of professional development. “I was lucky because my managers were so supportive of the idea,” he says. “The company itself also strongly supports external trainings as well as internal ones.”
Ultimately, the success of his EMBA sales pitch to his managers boiled down to timing and execution.
“I told them ‘I’m going to proceed with an Executive MBA, and I’d like to have your support in some form. Deep down I was so convinced that even if it meant taking a sabbatical year, I knew it was the right thing to do now in my career.’ When I approached them, I had done my research, so I really knew what I was talking about,” he says. Having been so meticulous about his homework in presenting his findings—and his preferences—“I was able to get buy-in from decision makers fairly quickly.”
The extent to which his company was on board with his desire to progress is reflected in the positive exchanges he had with internal decision makers on the road to the EMBA. Still, he says, he never would’ve gotten to where he is today without the confidence and the motivation to take a chance on himself.
“If you don’t dare, you’re not going to get yourself anywhere,”
“If you don’t dare, you’re not going to get yourself anywhere,” he says. “Early in my career, I would get caught up in being the ‘little Frenchie’ in a big US-based company. Not anymore. Sometimes you have to assert yourself in order to get what you want. People are always interested in talking if you have something to bring to the table—so go set up an appointment in their calendar!”
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.
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