There is no bigger cheerleader for HEC Paris Executive MBA candidate Muthumari Duraisamy than her teenage daughter Joshitaa. Together they live in Sønderborg, Denmark, where they moved four years ago from India after Muthumari was offered an opportunity with her company Danfoss.
“Joshitaa is so happy that I found HEC Paris. She has been telling all of her friends that her mum is studying in the world’s top ranked Executive MBA program. I couldn’t have done it without her support,” said a smiling Muthumari.
With a desire to keep learning and act as a true leader for women in business, Muthumari found herself entertaining the idea of an Executive MBA. Living in a foreign country as a single mother with an already demanding workload, deciding to take on an Executive MBA (EMBA) was surprisingly not as difficult as Muthumari had anticipated, thanks to the encouragement from her daughter and friends. It was the right time for her to make the investment, and she wants other women to have the confidence that they can do it too.
“She has been telling all of her friends that her mum is studying in the world’s top ranked Executive MBA program,” – Muthumari Duraisamy, HEC Paris EMBA participant.
Despite her extensive corporate career and management role, Muthumari felt that formal leadership education, such as the HEC Paris EMBA, would give her the tools to go from being a manager to a true leader. The Leadership Module in the program specifically caters to people with this goal, and Muthumari said she can feel a difference since beginning the program, which has helped her to lead more effectively. Combining this with her chosen Digital Transformation Major has given Muthumari the confidence to display leadership in her field by bringing the latest industry knowledge to provide solutions to complex business challenges, especially within the manufacturing industry which is gradually transitioning to better service business through IoT technology.
Stepping Out of her Comfort Zone
Joining the HEC Paris EMBA forced Muthumari to step outside of her comfort zone, familiar territory for the Finance and Company Law Master’s graduate.
Muthumari was independent at a young age as her family allowed her to travel alone as a hockey player in India “which was unusual for parents in India during 1990s!” proclaimed Muthumari. This brave spirit has stuck with Muthumari throughout her adult life, which has given her the courage to frequently wade into unknown terrain.“
At my first corporate job in Valeo, I was the only female employee among 300-plus men in that factory,” she said.
Moving to another country with her daughter was always going to have its challenges, but Muthumari knew that in addition to gaining an international perspective to business, it would be a step of personal growth, as living abroad is something that she had wanted to experience. Whilst Muthumari had worked in multinational corporations her whole life, it was another thing to be completely thrust into a new cultural and working environment, but Muthumari is settling into European life more and more each day.
“When I joined my first corporate job in Valeo, I was the only female employee among 300-plus men in that factory.”
Stationed at their Danish headquarters, Muthumari is passionate about working for Danfoss, a company engineering solutions for a more sustainable world, and loves her global role which every day requires her to liaise with people from all over the world. This responsibility for international stakeholder management was what steered her towards HEC Paris for her EMBA, where over 50 different nationalities are represented in the program. Thriving in international environments, Muthumari finds it enriching to mix with people from culturally diverse backgrounds.
Advocating for Girls’ Education
Muthumari is an ardent advocate for girls’ education and knows the importance of setting young females on this path from a young age, especially in her home country. In India, there is asignificant decline in the number of girls attending school between the ages of 13-18. Between the ages 11 to 14, 4.1 percent of girls are not in school, and a 2018 report by the National Commission for Protection of Child’s Rights found that this figure dramatically increases to 40 percent for girls aged between 15-18.
“My lifetime goal is to open a school for children in need, which encourages them to learn and grow beyond the traditional system by empowering them through innovation and entrepreneurial skills.”
Before moving to Denmark, Muthumari was a tutor for Smile Welfare, an NGO helping to uplift disadvantaged children through education and it is one of her ambitions to open a school for underprivileged children.
“My lifetime goal is to open a school for children in need, which encourages them to learn and grow beyond the traditional system by empowering them through innovation and entrepreneurial skills,” said Muthumari.
This vision is one of the driving forces behind Muthumari’s motivation to attain strong leadership and business skills through the HEC Paris EMBA. When Muthumari was oscillating on whether she should move to Denmark or stay in India, her mentor and manager at the time, Ole Albertsen, gave her a piece of pragmatic advice which has been a driving force in her life: “these children may get 100 tutors like you, but more than anything they need sponsors to access education, so increase your income and you will have even more power to help them. Seeing you become a successful businesswoman will inspire them.”
Encouraging More Female Leadership
Knowing what a positive change it has made in her career, Muthumari hopes to see more women considering an EMBA, when looking at how to grow or transform their careers. She doesn’t pretend it won’t be without hard work, but she believes the skillset and confidence that women can gain will be worth the investment.
“Without hard work, nothing is possible. At some point in life, you really need to struggle, because you cannot be comfortable all the time if you have high aspirations,” said Muthumari.
On a day off, Muthumari likes to spend as much time as possible with Joshitaa. But the self-confessed workaholic says that she likes to get up at 6am every day to spend a couple of hours doing readings before she makes breakfast for herself and Joshitaa.
“Without hard work, nothing is possible. At some point in life, you really need to struggle, because you cannot be comfortable all the time if you have high aspirations.”
“Since I’ve joined the EMBA, I’ve seen a change in my daughter. She has as much drive as me, maybe more!” Muthumari says with a laugh. “She wants to be an architect and I told her that she could come to HEC Paris to do her MBA after her studies. She has visited and she loves this green campus with highly motivated students,” said Muthumari.
Muthumari can see the benefits of having more women in leadership positions, and hopes that her journey will encourage other women to be bold and share their talents with the world.
“One of the things we learn in the Executive EMBA at HEC is how to become an inspirational leader. The only way to inspire others with your behavior. My hope is to inspire other women, especially Asian mothers, to explore the world with courage and self-confidence.”