Community in the time of Covid-19

From increased CSR efforts to peer support to delivering biscuits to Paris hospitals, we asked the HEC Paris Executive MBA community how they and their workplaces are responding to the Covid-19 crisis.

The current crisis has forced us to reconsider the concept of ‘normal.’

Having a sense of community during Covid-19, whether through work, friends or your sense of being connected to the world, is essential for paving the way forward.

The HEC Paris Executive MBA community is a strong one, so we reached out to some of our participants to find out the different ways in which they and their workplaces are handling the crisis, and their efforts to strengthen the community response to Covid-19.


Reflecting on course material to analyze and plan for a positive future

Ruba Saadeh is a Sales Director at Schneider Electric and started her HEC Paris Executive MBA journey at the end of last year. She has been reflecting on the ‘Business Environment’ course from HEC Paris Professor Jeremy Ghez and feels as though this class was “an amazing preparation for the current economic crisis the world is passing through.”

“I still remember Prof. Jeremy Ghez starting his lecture with this opening phrase: “A tsunami is coming and the world around us is changing.” Of course, at the time, no one would have imagined that this tsunami would have the name of COVID-19 and it would leave huge economic and social damage,” said the Executive MBA student.

“The course equipped us to think differently and have a new mindset on how to read and respond to the market changes, and always be ready to react with a willingness to change.” – Executive MBA participant Ruba Saadeh.

“The crisis that we are passing through today is requiring that we go into a new phase of re-invention, prioritizing things into real perspectives, which probably weren’t prioritized before,” added Ruba.

“I am very convinced that the economic damage we are suffering today, will reform the future of our innovations and realign priorities. Human safety and well-being will be the first priorities. Perhaps this time will be our last chance to start doing things right!”


Friendship and community in the Executive MBA

Ruba Saadeh HEC Paris Executive MBA candidate and Schneider Electronic employee

Ruba Saadeh said her friendships from her Executive MBA group are helping her to navigate this difficult time as an expat in Paris.

Ruba Saadeh also shared how as a Lebanese expat working in France away from her family, the Executive MBA community has been helping her cope with everyday life in Paris.

“The last few weeks have been overwhelming in a country I am still getting to know.  The mass hysteria, stock piling, and social media rumors; these things have not made it easy. Despite all of this chaos, my EMBA cohort has proven to be the back bone of my sanity and peace in the last few days.

“The compassion, support and constant reassurance I have received from my colleagues and peers, near or far, has been uplifting via regular calls and messages on Zoom, Whats App, FaceTime…

“The Executive MBA at HEC Paris is not just a University Degree; it is group of friends and colleagues that with time take a new label in our professional and personal lives which I like to call ‘FRAmily’ = friends who become family.” 


Creating and maintaining a sense of workplace community

zoom coffee

Managing Director Amine Lazrak ensures his team still enjoy their morning coffee together, except now online, to “kick off the day on a positive note.”

Amine Lazrak is the Managing Director of Northern and Francophone Africa at Mercer. He shared how his workplace team have ensured to keep some sense of ‘normalcy’ and a connection between colleagues.

“We were accustomed to gathering around a cup of coffee in a physical kitchen during the ‘old days’ … so we’ve taken this online.

“It is a way to keep people motivated and kick off the day on a positive note of productivity. Becoming idle is an inherent risk that increases with employee detachment.” – Amine Lazrak, EMBA participant and Managing Director of Northern and Francophone Africa at Mercer. 

During these meetings, we don’t talk about work but merely about our daily lives and the evolution of what’s happening in the world with the COVID-19 situation. We hear incredible stories like running a marathon on one’s balcony or working on one’s golf swing in the backyard.”

Luxury brands realign and increase their CSR efforts

Burberry employee and HEC Paris Executive MBA participant Margherita Kochi

Executive MBA participant Margherita Kochi has been working with her team at Burberry to ensure the respect of safety measures to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Margherita Kochi is the Retail Deputy Director and Business Developer at the British luxury fashion brand Burberry, and she is working as part of a large team to help support the UK’s fight against COVID-19.

The luxury goods company has retooled its iconic trench coat factory in Castleford, UK, to make much-needed PPE for the NHS, including surgical masks and gowns.

Like many other luxury fashion houses (LVMH creating hand sanitizer, Prada producing medical overalls and masks), the company has adapted to keep business moving in challenging times to create shared value.

“I am proud to be part of an inspirational company who is supporting the UK National Health Service (NHS).” Margherita Kochi, EMBA Participant and Retail Deputy Director at Burberry.

“The Burberry Distribution teams are delivering more than 100,000 surgical masks to the UK NHS for protecting the medical staff on the front line, once complete. The Internal Manufacturing and Product Development have worked with agility to make this happen. Many details to work through, from the types of materials needed to the methods of production, however their determination has been key to succeed.”

“Before joining the Executive MBA program, I was hesitant to follow my business intuitions due to a rationality which preferred experience and best practices over innovation and out-of-the-box solutions. My newly acquired new mindset is particularly useful for strategic decision making due to the unprecedented times we are living,” said Margherita.


Small businesses delivering a touch of sweetness

Le French Biscuit

Le French Biscuit have been delivering custom-made biscuits with positive messages to Paris hospital workers.

Marketing Director Eric Werner has been busy assisting his wife and her associate deliver biscuits to the staff working on the frontline at Hospital Mignot in Versailles.

“In total 260 boxes have been donated to two hospitals (André Mignot in Versailles and Foch in Suresnes) and we will also deliver to other private hospitals,” said Eric.

Le French Biscuit is a small business from Paris, selling boxes of customizable biscuits (normally purchased for birthdays, anniversaries or as a romantic gift). Due to COVID-19, Le French Biscuit halted regular orders and instead focused their efforts on delivering biscuits carrying messages of hope and encouragement to the hospital workers.

“People who bought the boxes have also added messages of encouragement and community spirit to spread some community spirit to the teams facing the illness directly.” – Eric Werner, Marketing Director and Executive MBA participant.