For Jenni Toft, EMBA ’23, the question of whether to pursue executive management training was always a matter of where, not if, she would go.
The Finnish-born-and-educated marketeer could always point to a track record of steady upward achievement. After learning about the marketing basics in her native Finland, she relocated to L’Oréal’s Nordic hub in Copenhagen, where she has held leadership roles of growing consequence for the better part of the past decade.
The road to HEC Paris
“The journey has been fantastic: one opportunity after another, there has never been a dull moment,” she says.
“At L’Oréal, I have been super lucky to be able to take on different roles from trade marketing to brand management in both consumer products and L’Oréal Luxe divisions. This is also where I became a people manager for the first time and got the chance to develop my leadership. In my latest role, I was responsible for the brand Lancôme in the Nordic region.”
Comfortably in her element, she shot up the ranks at the French giant’s Nordic hub. As she did, her exposure to projects, leadership, and possibilities broadened. At that stage, she came to the conclusion that the time was ripe to broaden her horizons.
“..I decided to apply to HEC Paris because I felt that the program would give me maximal input, coupled with a manageable number of days away from home..”
It was then that the idea of pursing an MBA for executives came to mind.
“I was in a right spot on my career and personal life where pursuing this program made sense,” she explains. “For me, it was important to find a school that would not only offer a great program, top professors, and a world-class network, but also flexibility and support.”
Finding the right program
She set the bar high in her search for the right EMBA program.
“I did a thorough comparison between programs. I decided to apply to HEC Paris because I felt that the program would give me maximal input, coupled with a manageable number of days away from home,” she explains.
As simple as the philosophy of receiving superior value for money is, she is in no rush to sugarcoat the reality of what taking the EMBA plunge means for her and for her family.
“The time commitment combination of being a parent, having a career, and adding an EMBA is a barrier for entry, for sure. What made it possible for me was that there was no period of several consecutive weeks away from home,” she says. “Otherwise, it would not have been possible.”
From the outset, she explains, “it takes a great amount of planning and support from all your stakeholders, but it’s manageable. Another supporting fact is the program’s mobility option: I am, for example, taking two courses in Doha, which gives me more flexibility.”
That schedule flexibility, her family support, and buy-in from her employer as she arranged a 6-month leave period to focus on her studies— “L’Oréal totally embraced what I’m doing”— are essential parts to what made an Executive MBA at HEC Paris possible for Jenni.
The EMBA experience
“I came to this program to build myself from a marketing-heavy profile to move toward general management. That was my expectation. But it has really delivered much more than I expected.”
Never one for half-measures, Jenni inaugurated her EMBA journey with a healthy dose of what has driven her throughout: full family support.
“I traveled with my whole family, including my children’s grandmother, to my first in-person module in Jouy-en-Josas. This gave me the chance to get a softer landing to the EMBA journey, with the support of my family nearby.”
From day one, the program exceeded expectations.
“I came to this program to build myself from a marketing-heavy profile to move toward general management. That was my expectation. But it has really delivered much more than I expected,” she says.
“Not only am I getting all the skills and new knowledge, but I’m finding that it’s the people that give me the most. It’s the friendships that you form, the exchanges that you have; I would never have been able to get a network like this anywhere else.”
Added value: Specializations, Broad Networks, Leadership Skills
She invokes former Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly, H. ’81, whose EMBA-moderated HEC Talks instalment at the Blondeau Auditorium in January 2022 was a highlight of her first in-person module.
“…in this program, people want to learn from each other. Each is ambitious and driven and skilled, but they really have a desire to do something good in the world. Everyone has a different way— but I feel like this is what’s really inspiring.”
“It really is about releasing the human magic: one of the biggest takeaways from me from this program that I how much diversity can bring excellence.”
Case in point was a group task in which she participated during the Luxury Specialization she attended in Paris. Like the greater EMBA itself, each Specialization is composed of participants from an array of personal and professional backgrounds.
“Our job was to develop a complex new product for a luxury company, and throughout the process, I was amazed at the solutions my classmates— none of whom had marketing backgrounds— proposed. I would have never come up with those solutions had I been alone.”
In other words, she notes, “you get so much further, with much more innovation and much better results, when you embrace the richness of backgrounds and experiences.”
“I feel like in this program, people want to learn from each other. Each is ambitious and driven and skilled, but they really have a desire to do something good in the world. Everyone has a different way— but I feel like this is what’s really inspiring.”
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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