Going Beyond Borders: Why the HEC EMBA Was My Next Logical Step

The richness and diversity of student experience before entering the program is a hallmark of the Executive MBA program at HEC Paris. In his rich life and professional experiences, the well-travelled René Azeez, EMBA ’22, works at Toronto’s vaunted MaRS Discovery District, embodies that idea perfectly. He explains why the HEC EMBA is the right school for him.

“I grew up in Guyana, a small English-speaking nation in South America that culturally identifies with the Caribbean.

Although I am from very humble beginnings, I had the gift of determined parents that saw education as my best ticket to a more prosperous life. I left Guyana for the very first time in 2003, for the University of Toronto in Canada. There, I studied Developmental Biology, a broad life-science discipline that would give me the technical footing for a career in innovation.

“The HEC Paris EMBA goes above and beyond to create a safe environment that encourages experimentation.” 

My undergraduate degree was a rich experience. In addition to being an academic eye-opener, university was also my first real taste of a drastically unleveled playing field; I had no choice but to skip courses – outside of graded lessons and exams – in order to work to pay for school. Had I known then what I know now, the journey may have seemed far too daunting, but sometimes what we don’t know is as instrumental in our path and ultimate success as what we do know.

An international EMBA journey: from Toronto to Paris

That said, my appetite to cross borders in pursuit of knowledge could have beenforeshadowing a collision course with the HEC Paris EMBA, a program that rewards diverse perspectives and requires an open mind not encumbered by geographic limitations.

EMBA Coffee Break at HEC Paris

I graduated from the University of Toronto in 2010, but the growth I experienced from overcoming very real challenges has strengthened me in ways that will separate me from the crowd for the rest of my life. Further, I believe that my previous experience emboldened me to approach the HEC Paris EMBA with the requisite courage to benefit from its transformative power.

Broadening networks and innovating where it matters: HEC Paris EMBA

Even though I am one of the fortunate ones to break my way into a vital role in innovation in the world’s most diverse city, it’s clear that the uneven playing field I witnessed during my undergraduate years predictably extrapolates to the senior levels of industry. Only by continuing to challenge these barriers can we truly optimize economic, social, and environmental progress.

Representation matters. My own journey has given me a personal sense of responsibility.

I came to the conclusion that I had no choice but to strive to make the strongest argument for my inclusion at the leadership table in industry if I am to play a role in opening the door for others in the future.

Committing to continual improvement to meet the moment, I acknowledged the fact that I needed to bolster my business acumen, to further broaden my perspective, to expose myself to unfamiliar industries, and to expand my network.

Sharpening his leadership toolkit at the HEC Paris EMBA

 In this context, the HEC Paris EMBA emerged as the next logical step. It is of course true that HEC Paris’ global reputation would improve anyone’s credibility by association and sharpen their business acumen through the rigor of the curriculum, creating access to previously unfathomable opportunities.

However, more importantly, participation in the HEC Paris EMBA serves deeper needs.

First and foremost, the ability to learn from and develop kinship with a truly global cohort of exceptional and diverse business leaders is second to none.

HEC Paris EMBA graduate Rene Azeez

At HEC, a unique perspective is the norm, as opposed to the exception. As a globally top-ranked European business program for Executives, the unique participants attracted by HEC Paris have allowed me to build on my strong North American foundation, and develop meaningful connectivity to Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, and beyond, bolstering my own leadership skills along the way.

Only in rare circumstances would I have had an opportunity to come into direct contact and share such an experience with world-class business leaders of 38 nationalities and spanning such a variety of industries.

The ability to think beyond oneself is key to driving inclusive innovation in business and the HEC Paris EMBA pushes you to consider and appreciate alternative points of view.

HEC Paris: diverse backgrounds, rich perspectives

As a participant of the HEC Paris EMBA, the control over your experience through both your choice of an immersive major and the design of your capstone project allows you to be brave, to push the boundaries of your limitations, and to facilitate personalized and intentional transformation that accelerate progression towards your wildest dreams.

Testing new ideas might be uncomfortable, but the voyage is unavoidably enriching.

The HEC Paris EMBA goes above and beyond to create a safe environment that encourages experimentation. It is grounded in real world business fundamentals and supported by the strength of the distinguished HEC Paris alumni network, advisory teams, and resources.

“The HEC Paris EMBA allows me to be optimistic about the possibilities for both myself and the world around me.”

In this sense, every participant has their own unique version of the program and the scale of results on industries, economies, societies, and cultures is immeasurable. The potential exists for anyone to harness that energy towards both personal and societal objectives.

This isn’t merely another program.

Used correctly, I believe it can catalyze one’s most lofty aspirations, as long as that person is willing to put in the time and effort and embraces transformation. The sky is the limit.

Edit: two years later, see what René had to say looking back on his EMBA journey here, via Poets & Quants. 

René Azeez is a seasoned analyst, consultant, strategist, and innovation evangelist. He recently graduated from the HEC Paris Executive MBA  while working full-time in a pivotal role in determining the strategic roadmap for Toronto’s MaRS Discovery District. There, he leverages deep ecosystem knowledge and develops strategic relationships in order to solve complex problems and implementation issues critical to Venture Services, part of a broader effort to advance over 1300 Canadian technology start-ups. 

More CEOs of Fortune Global 500 companies have graduated from HEC Paris than any other university in Europe. Nearly 4,000 graduates are currently CEOs, CFOs, or have founded their own companies. The Executive MBA at HEC Paris perennially ranks among the best in the world; click here to learn more.

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