Some might consider ‘HEC Paris’ to be false advertising. After all, the school is situated in a forest to the south of Versailles. That means you won’t find MBAs carousing luxury boutiques along Champs-Élysées or sipping expressos at cafes dotting Saint-Germain des Prés after class. In reality, it takes a 50 minute train ride to get from Jouy-en-Josas to Paris. Turns out, that’s one of HEC Paris’ biggest advantages according to students.
The 340 acre campus sits on the outskirts of Paris, 33 kilometers from Île de la Cité. Anna Pozniakoff, a 2022 grad, describes the campus as “rich [in] fauna and flora” — where students can indulge in activities like horseback riding between classes. That beauty is a perfect backdrop for 16 months of reflecting and exploring, adds Arvind Rajan, one of Pozniakoff’s classmates.
BEST OF TWO WORLDS
“HEC Paris is also a home to some magnificent creatures – one gets to see quite a few stags and rabbits freely roaming near the woods and it is also common to see swans and ducks paddling in the lake! I take my runs around the lake and the 110-hectare park near HEC’s very own chateau. Some of the sights I get treated to are magical! I vividly remember this one instance when, after an exhilarating 10K run. I let out a happy howl and heard a similar-sounding howl in less than a couple of seconds. I have to admit I was freaked out for a moment but when I saw this giant puppy run in the opposite direction with her human friend, I was quite relieved!”
Yes, HEC Paris allows for a wider space and a slower pace, the kind where you live in the moment and purposely build long-lasting relationships. Just ask Lan Phuong Nguyen, a member of the Class of 2023. Thus far, she has relished “countryside life”, a place where she “can find harmonization and connection with nature.” However, the HEC Paris experience isn’t simply meditating in the meadow or taking dawn nature walks. In the end, HEC Paris leverages its proximity to Paris like no other.
“A too-isolated location would be a minus point for networking,” Phuong Nguyen admits. “Yet, HEC Paris students enjoy the best of two worlds: an easy commute to Paris via public transportation to enjoy vibrant city life and a quiet campus inside a forest. After all, the MBA journey includes experiences about the world outside of business too. The City of Light is a cultural and tourist hub. In one hour, I can be in Brussels, London or Milan or many other European hot spots by plane — which will make travel plans with my partners more accessible and memorable.”
GETTING DOWN TO BUSINESS
And what a world it is! The Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, and Eiffel Tower. Wine, pastries, and oysters. Romance, culture, fashion, and luxury. 144 museums, 7,000 cafes, and 45,000 restaurants. Strolling along the Seine and sitting on a terrace The Parisian life: Lights and gardens galore. And that’s just the marquee! The Paris region also boasts 630,000 college students and 100,000 researchers. Best of all, Paris is young: 60% of its population is under 40. In business, When it comes to business, Paris is home to the largest concentration of Fortune 500 companies in Europe, while ranking 2nd to London in creating startups and attracting venture capital in 2020.
Not surprisingly, the city also includes the world’s largest startup campus in Station F. Here, you’ll find 90 HEC incubees. And they’re not just taking up space. Last November, when Station F honored its Future 40 startups, the list included 8 HEC Paris startups with 18 HEC Paris MBAs.
Bottom line: Paris is packed with possibilities in role, industry, group, or interest imaginable. Here, MBAs can connect to anywhere and anyone. And its renown and resources only make MBAs more well-rounded and in-demand.
“Isolation is not what I am looking for,” explains Federico Andres Obelar Camperchioli, a first-year from Paraguay. “Being steps away from Paris will allow me to have the best of both worlds. Paris will add to my life with the culture it breathes, including its fantastic and unique culinary experience, history, and diversity. Immersing myself in this new lifestyle will add so much to my life.”
A DIVERSE COHORT
That new lifestyle involves being part of the larger HEC Grande Ecole ecosystem, which enables the MBA program to attract top speakers and companies to campus, not to mention support a wider range of faculty experience. Overall, the school boasts a 60,000 member alumni network one of the largest in Europe. By the same token, HEC Paris is hardly a French-centric program. Historically, it fields classes where 90% or more students hail from outside France. That provides a deeply international perspective that amplifies the wide range of job roles, companies, and industries represented by the Class of 2023.
“I chose HEC Paris for its promise of career transformation,” explains recent grad Arvind Rajan. ”As someone who had worked in a specialized function in a niche industry for a long time, I wanted to embark on a journey that would help me explore a new career path. A lot of MBA participants from previous cohorts were able to successfully make double and triple jumps (changing geography, function, and industry) and this enhanced its appeal in my eyes.”
Before looking at where the Class of 2023 is going, it helps to understand where they’ve been. And that is pretty much everywhere. Take Lan Phuong Nguyen, who has moved through Vietnam, Malaysia, and Singapore during her career. Most recently, she worked as a Senior e-Marketing Manager at L’Oréal, where she oversaw the entire line of skincare, make-up, haircare, and hair color products.
“I lead a multi-function team to operationalize 360° online ecosystem and business marketing across digital, print, and e-commerce media. My team and I strategize a branding plan, product launch initiative, and portfolio positioning to maximize the brand’s exposure. We design guide-frame and the scorecard for onsite and offsite tracking to maximize sales and return on investment.”
As you can imagine, the job came with a few perks too. “I own more than 300 lipsticks as a part of my previous job as product marketing manager for make-up brands, even though I rarely use them,” she tells P&Q. Most of the time, you will see me in the bare face to let my baby skin breathe. I proudly say that after years of product testing, my eyes were well-trained to distinguish 50 shades of the red lipstick spectrum!”
NEXT JOB: BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Before HEC Paris, American-born Yann Collins served as an associate in the United Kingdom’s Department For International Trade, where he covered the food and beverage sector. Before that, he worked in brand management, taking several Nestea products from “from conception all the way to the supermarket shelf.” And there’s one more thing that you should know about him…
“I have a song written about me by New York band Real People Not Actors on Spotify,” he jokes.
Like Collins, Jessy Shajan grew up in New York City. Before joining the Class of 2022, she served as a Finance Manager with the New York Times. Luca Marini studied Civil Engineering in Italy, pulling perfect grades in the process. Those came in handy when he managed the design and construction of a 300 meter bridge — one that only took 30 days to build. Federico Andres Obelar Camperchioli has been given a longer ramp to get results. You see, he is the youngest member of the executive team at CIE, the largest metalworking company in his native Paraguay. After earning his MBA, he will return to CIE as a member of the board of directors. Obelar Camperchioli’s claim to fame? He acted as the liaison in CIE establishing the “most significant private investment” in Paraguay’s history.
“I believe this is my biggest accomplishment, not only because of the revenues the company will receive, but because of the impact this industry will have on our country once it starts operating. The social, environmental, and economic impact will be extraordinary, such that the area where it will be located will go through a period of great transformation from being a forgotten city with little to no education to a pole of industrialization and job recruitment. Today, expectations are so high, specifically in health and education. Consequently, this will open new job opportunities in various fields and will bring great improvements in so many areas at different levels.”
A CLASS PROFILE
That same impulse drove South Africa’s Thandiwe Mkhetshane to start her own fashion and photography business. “I create fashionable garments that empower women, in particular black women navigating the corporate world in the modern African context. I love looking good and I enjoy telling a story through the way I dress. I do not have a qualification in fashion design. However, I acquired sewing skills from my late mother, who used to sew her clothes by hand. I then taught myself to sew by watching YouTube videos and practicing on my sewing machine.”
It takes an abundance of courage to start a business. Ironically, entrepreneurship may not have been the most courageous action that Mkhetshane has taken.
“I did a bungee jump at a border crossing point between 2 countries,” she tells P&Q.
During the 2020-2021 admissions cycle, HEC Paris received 2,652 applications, ultimately accepting 22.4% of candidates. Overall, this year’s class features 348 students, up 53 students from the Class of 2022. The class also brought a 690 average GMAT to Jouy-en-Josas last fall.
True to the program’s global character, 95% of the class comes from outside France, with 67 nationalities represented. The largest segment of the class — 26% — hails from Asia and Oceania. Latin America (17%), Europe (13%), North America (13%), Central Asia (12%), Middle East (7%), and Africa (5%) also make up sizable shares of the class. Women account for 33% of the class as well.
Academically, 31% of the class majored in Engineering as undergraduates. However business-related majors are heavily represented in the Class of 2023, led by Economics (14%), Business and Commerce (13%), Management (7%). and Accounting (6%). In terms of work experience, this class averages 30 years in age and 6 years of work experience. Financial Services and Technology professionals hold 24% and 18% of the class seats respectively. Consumer Products and Consulting Services enjoy respective 11% and 10% shares.
HEC Paris has long been known for being elite in luxury and leadership development. For the latter, some consider the school to be Europe’s cradle of leadership. Just look at its roster of MBA Alumni CEOs: Jean-Yves Fillion (BNP Paribas), Olivier Herold (The Oxford Group), Michel Vounatsos (Biogen), and Pascal Cagni (C4 Ventures). In recent years, the program has also devoted greater resources to entrepreneurship, digital transformation, and social responsibility. Now, the school is continuing to follow through on its “Tomorrow is our business” mission by adopting new initiatives. says Dean Eloïc Peyrache in a 2021 interview with P&Q.
“We are doing more and more on climate,” says Peyrache. “We launched a promising center on AI and data. Entrepreneurship is everywhere. The number of students setting up companies while they are still students on campus has grown a lot. And I want to make sure the school has an impact. Are we part of the solution or are we part of the problem? Lately the debate is polarized a lot. There are many topics we need to talk about including well-being, mental health, all those issues. And we need to walk the talk as members of the leadership team.”
Page 2: Interview with Andrew Masini, Assistant Dean.
Page 3: Profiles of HEC Paris first-years.