For globetrotting Whitney Gore, EMBA ’22, work and school go hand-in-hand.
She set the tone for herself early. In high school, she worked during the summers on a horse ranch in Montana and on construction sites around Edmonton, Alberta as part of a survey crew.
The Canadian transplant then spent tireless undergraduate years living, studying, and working in Western Massachusetts, China, and in Paris. Later, while working towards her law degree, she switched from daytime to evening courses so she could work full time for a talent agency in Beverly Hills.
For the past five years she has been a key member of Netflix’s legal team. Today, she is director of legal and business affairs for original series focusing on scripted shows developed or produced in the United Kingdom. On top of that, she’s an HEC Paris EMBA March track participant.
At each of those far-flung places—she’s lived in 9 cities across 5 countries— and everywhere in between, she has seized the initiative to progress wherever she could find it.
“I was part of a founding team of six, and the first lawyer, hired to help start an independent TV studio in LA,” she explains. “As a result, I had the opportunity to set legal custom and practice using the collective learnings of the team from our experiences at other companies. At Netflix, I was the first lawyer dedicated to the studio’s development and production of original content in the UK before the company was hiring content executives local to London. The environment meant I was able to do a lot of innovative things with our business and legal affairs approach as a result.”
That unmistakably intrapreneurial streak, a deeply considered feature, has tinged the soaring trajectory of her career.
“I’m proud of the risks I’ve taken professionally and the impact I’ve been able to make as a result of being involved in early initiatives,” she says. “I think I’ve been very brave in my professional experiences, to an extent.”
She recalls her first job after law school at Legendary Entertainment, where she began as a coordinator. In the industry, a coordinator is, as she puts it, “a glorified assistant.” Her classmates at Loyola Law School, meanwhile, were embarking upon lucrative careers in more traditional legal functions.
“My boss [vaunted former Warner Bros. Television President and Television Academy CEO Bruce Rosenblum] asked why I wanted the job of a coordinator. I said, ‘I don’t want this job, I want the next job.’”
Optimism and opportunism
A relentless work ethic and an opportunistic eye on the proverbial prize has colored her career. That didn’t change when COVID hit.
With many of her extra-professional interests on pause, she found herself reflecting on a conversation with a “really successful female friend,” who had been lavishing praise about the benefits of an Executive MBA. Interest piqued, Whitney investigated.
The more she did, the more pursing an EMBA made sense to her.
“Above all, I wanted the education– the knowledge and the skills that I was missing from my practical experience. My hope was that the EMBA education would equip me for a more strategic and operations-focused role eventually, as well as increase my impact value as a board member (both non-profit and for-profit), which I’d love more opportunity for.”
She got to work comparing EMBA programs.
Why HEC Paris?
“I wouldn’t be able to pursue an EMBA while working if I couldn’t do it on Fridays and Saturdays.”
“In terms of rankings, cultural experience, program length and affordability, HEC Paris was my top choice. I wanted to diversify my higher education experience and my professional network, which to date was largely American.”
Another key element of Whitney’s EMBA calculus—schedule flexibility—kept resurfacing.
“I can’t be out from work for two weeks at a time,” she says. “It’s just not feasible. I felt like it wouldn’t have been fair to my colleagues; I’d rather give up a day of my weekend than to be the reason they have to work more.”
Enter the EMBA’s March track. Conveniently for her, its end-of-week format means it doesn’t require the two-week chunks of in-person time that modular programs do.
“In terms of the defining piece of added value on offer at HEC Paris, for me it comes down to program schedule. I wouldn’t be able to pursue an EMBA while working if I couldn’t do it on Fridays and Saturdays,” she says.
“So, [my choice of EMBA’s] boiled down to HEC being ranked number 1, having the flexibility of a weekend program, and being able to start in March rather than having to wait until September.”
She applied in January of 2021 and began her EMBA that March.
How to Make the Most of the March Track
Though she and her cohort began in confining circumstances, she was quickly able to settle into a rhythm. That rhythm helps her manage her considerable workload (she averages 12 hours of work a day during the working week) and her course work, to say nothing of the regular cross-channel commute.
“I’m in the week ending program, so I usually have class every two weekends— on Friday and Saturday,” she explains of her Chunnel routine. “I commute to Paris on the train, leaving on the earliest or latest train on Thursday for minimal work disruption, and return to London on Sunday. I use the commute to do work or schoolwork; I’ll work remotely from Paris on Thursday if I go early.”
To the latter point, she says that her company’s work culture goes a long way in facilitating her working-while-studying lifestyle.
“Because Netflix has a freedom and responsibility culture and flexible vacation, I’m able to be creative about when and how I get my professional work done. I schedule my homework time in my calendar whether on weekends or weekdays in advance of due dates. If I have it scheduled on a weekday it’s either early in the morning before the gym (I’m up at 5am) or late at night.”
Netflix’s workplace culture affords her the schedule flexibility to immerse herself in the EMBA experience.
“I like to think that I’ve always thought this way. But I’m sure that now I’m more able to articulate myself better.”
At the same time, Whitney’s HEC Paris education has already started to pay dividends at work. To wit, during a recent strategy meeting, she found lessons and concepts from Business Environment with Professor Jeremy Ghez seeping into her discourse.
“I found myself insisting that we needed to remain competitive by planning for ‘what we know we don’t know’ and ‘what we don’t know we don’t know.’”
Her colleague asked if she’d always thought this way or if it was a product of the Executive MBA.
“Well,” she told them, “I like to think that I’ve always thought this way. But I’m sure that now I’m more able to articulate myself better.”
As time creeps by along her 15-month HEC Paris journey, the extent to which the EMBA is a continuation of her lifelong habit of working while studying becomes more and more obvious. It is also an opportunity for her to reflect on the lessons she has learned—in the field and in the classroom—even as she keeps her eyes trained firmly on the future.
“I’m going to just steal a quote from Shonda Rimes, with whose team I worked with on “Bridgerton,” she finishes.
“Dreams do not come true just because you dream them; it’s hard work that makes things happen. It’s hard work that creates change.”
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. According to the Financial Times, the HEC Paris offers the best EMBA program in the world; click here to learn more.
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