“Doing the EMBA helped me understand that I had the capabilities that I needed and helped me find solutions to my problems.”
Entrepreneur Patrick Aisenberg, EMBA ’2016, has had an eventful year.
In May, Linkbynet, the SaaS (Software as a Service) firm he and his brother founded 25 years ago, was acquired by Accenture as part of the latter’s 3-year, $3 billion Accenture Cloud First investment campaign.
“Linkbynet will further enhance the global capabilities of Accenture Cloud First,” the multinational consulting and professional services company announced in a statement on their acquisition of Patrick’s 900-employee company.
“Accenture understood that Linkbynet is a real diamond for them,” Patrick says. “We have real involved engagement into our customers and employees.”
The cherry on top
This latest success is the product of Patrick’s driving vision, which has always been informed by an unconventional approach to tackling complex issues. Indeed, even in the already-broad scope of EMBA participants, who cut a wide swathe of professional backgrounds, Patrick is unconventional. After all, the serial entrepreneur’s EMBA from HEC Paris was his first foray into formal academics after high school.
“I was not used to going to school,” reflects. “And school had always been a pain in the ass.”
Instead, Patrick’s entry into the working world came via trial-by-fire, which by his own admission came served with a healthy dose of turbulence.
“Learning by experience was exhausting and invigorating, but too slow. I needed to have a concrete base of knowledge.”
“I failed many times in school to the point that I got kicked out and had to go to a vocational college for low-level accounting,” he explains. “It was then things started to make sense to me, but of course shortly afterward I had to join the French Army as part of my national service obligation.”
After his service, he and his brother launched several businesses to varying levels of success. Then, they landed on and launched the idea for what would become Linkbynet in the year 2000. “We were not aware of it at the time, but at the beginning, there were no competitors at all,” he says. “A real blue ocean!” The Michelin Group took a chance on the nascent cloud firm for what was supposed to be a two-week contract demonstrating proper operation of two servers.“Twenty-one years later, we have hundreds of servers managed for Michelin.”
Sharpening the edge
The bulk of Patrick’s success is undoubtedly the skill, determination and vision that has led he and his brother to such great heights. “I like impossible tasks,” he says about his approach to problem solving, where learning experientially had always been his preferred method of skill acquisition. In 2014, however, with the emergence of increasingly complex business challenges at Linkbynet, Patrick took a different approach. “Learning by experience was exhausting and invigorating, but too slow. I needed to have a concrete base of knowledge,” he says.
We sat down with Patrick to discuss the motivations that led him, already having achieved so many entrepreneurial successes, to pursue an Executive MBA at HEC Paris.
Why did you decide to pursue your EMBA?
Patrick Aisenberg: I don’t come from a background with a lot of educational achievement, so at the beginning of my search, I didn’t even know the necessary keywords to search.
Very generally, I was looking for business courses or lessons regarding the business challenges I was facing. Someone told me to look for an MBA, and the more I looked into it, the more HEC Paris seemed like the best choice. My first call with HEC that turned out really great: very positive, very warm and welcoming. I was apprehensive, though, because I had no academic training aside from my high school diploma. I told them that I’m not as formally educated, and I was concerned that my lack of university degrees might not make me a great fit, and I was concerned that at 49 I may not be able to learn more. After the recruitment call, we had a discussion regarding my experience: the kind of business I was driving and what I was looking for. HEC staff felt that I was a fit for the program and focused more on my willingness to learn than my past education.
From my first contact with HEC Paris to my first day at HEC, everything was great.
What is the most valuable thing you took away from your EMBA experience?
PA: Learning to dare. Once you have confidence, it’s easier to achieve the things you need to. I used to be unsure of myself. Doing the EMBA helped me understand that I had the capabilities that I needed and helped me find solutions to my problems.
I did not know anything about marketing for example. This was the toughest thing for me : we had six days to absorb what seemed like thousands of hours of learning — slides, videos, books to read. How can we learn all those things in such a compact time? The courses were huge BUT amazing and interesting.
One thing I really valued was that I connected with many of my professors, asking for personal professional advice that had nothing to do with EMBA coursework. They were all responsive, and they all were willing to take the time to answer my questions.
What is the biggest myth about going to school at this stage?
PA: That sitting in school as a professional is uninteresting or that there’s nothing to learn. This is wrong. You learn many things. In my professional life, I was able to think two or three steps ahead; in class, I was not able to do anything but listen to the professors. You’d think that at 49 you might not be a sponge again meaning you can’t learn again, or not as well, but that’s wrong. The brain is a muscle, and you have to exercise it. I can say that from first-hand experience now.
How did the HEC Paris EMBA help your long-term goals?
PA: There are a couple of key examples.
Firstly, part of the management module includes the famous MBTI test, which helps bring concrete understanding to the idea that people are not all the same and think differently about approaching problems. I took this course, and it opened my eyes to how fundamentally different people’s thought- and decision-making processes andcommunication styles are.
Secondly, when I arrived I was full of doubt regarding the organization of my core business; in particular, how to deliver faster automated services. I was sure that we would not succeed if we stayed on the same path, unsure of what path to take but the EMBA gave me a deep understanding of our company’s issues. So, I transformed the business – and not everyone agreed. The EMBA gave me the tools to make that transformation. Now I understand that the only constant is change, and that change is the only thing that will drive the company.
The EMBA was also incredibly valuable for the HEC network– my friends, classmates, and fellow alumni, who helped me understand how important the problem was.
More CEOs of Fortune Global 500 companies have graduated from HEC Paris than any other university in Europe, and nearly 4,000 graduates are currently CEOs, CFOs, or have founded their own companies. According to the Financial Times, the HEC Paris has the best EMBA program in Europe and #3 in the world; click here to learn more.
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