Mongolia. North Korea. Cameroon. New Zealand. Sudan. While those names could be straight from a travel blogger’s bucket list, they are all countries represented by the HEC Paris MBA’s student body.
The decision to create an incredibly diverse MBA program took place three decades ago, when the HEC Paris MBA launched a bilingual track (now fully in English) with 50 students from 20 different nationalities. Today’s cohorts are bigger – up to 300 participants – and more global than ever. But how does having up to 94 percent international students shape the HEC Paris MBA experience?
“Every Conversation is a Learning Experience”
Nefe Etomi, MBA ’20, shared one response. “There’s just so many different people that every conversation is a learning experience,” said the Nigerian alumna during a recent discussion with incoming students. “We talk a lot about the cultural diversity, but there’s also the different backgrounds that people have. In my class there were film makers. Rocket scientists. Honestly, I don’t know how the school manages to get such a fantastic group of people together.”
In non-COVID times, the program’s recruiters travel yearly to over 85 different cities throughout the world, meeting highly motivated and extremely talented MBA candidates. They welcome people with a wide range of professional backgrounds and personal experiences into the program. The goal is to create an energizing, collaborative community that mirrors the world in terms of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion and nationality.
“The quality and diversity of our student body is an essential ingredient to our success,” explained Andrea Masini, Associate Dean of the MBA Programs. “We create a supportive, diverse environment which enables participants to learn with each other and from each other.”
Working with International Peers
During each term, participants are organized into small working groups of five or six students. Karim Nseir, a Lebanese student in our January 2020 intake, explains that his first working group included a Brazilian, a Korean, an Indian, a Nigerian and a woman from France.
“It was a great learning experience,” he says. “You have people who are more pro-active than others, you have people with very different personalities and you learn how to interact with everyone.”
For the term that started three days ago, Karim was placed into a new working group that includes a good friend of his from South Africa. “Jason is from investment banking, and that’s a completely different culture,” he explains. “In banking, they simply do not have time to waste. We have a project due in a month, and he’s already sending emails with meetings and deadlines. Thanks to his scheduling, we’ll finish our first draft in a week. That gives us time to show it to the professor and get feedback before the due date.
“We’re five different people with five different objectives,” he continues. “Some people are going into luxury. Some people are going into startups. Others are going into government. But we’re all taking something away from Jason’s experience and productivity. He’s definitely making us all better people, and he’s learning from us as well.”
As an R&D engineer who wants to transfer into investment banking after the MBA, Karim says having several classmates’ firsthand insights into the industry has also positively influenced his job search. He’s adapted his cover letters based upon their advice.
Diversity adds Value to Future Employers
The international experience at the HEC Paris MBA is also a plus in the eyes of future employers, according to a GMAC survey. When hiring, top employers say that the ability to fit in the company’s culture is the most important trait they look for in a candidate. Next comes the ability to work in and build strong teams. Both skills come from studying at an MBA international program.