Successfully Balancing Work, Life, and Study in the HEC Paris EMBA Program

With multiple study formats as well as intakes starting throughout the year, the HEC Paris EMBA is designed with built-in flexibility.

Still, if you’re considering the Executive MBA program at HEC Paris, you may be wondering how you will manage your work, life, and study commitments during the 18-month program.

With the right strategies, you can successfully balance all parts of your life during this experience. And who better to relate these strategies than those who have been there, done that?

Alumni and current students have shared some tips on how they successfully balanced it all. Here’s how many of them have approached the necessary adjustment of balancing work, life, and study during an EMBA.

Plan Ahead

London-based Dr Karolina Zapadka, EMBA ‘23, who took part in the September intake’s modular format, stresses that it’s crucial to plan ahead. For the benefit of yourself, of course, but also to keep things transparent with decision-makers at work.


During the program, she says, “days are busy. I was working full-time, so my EMBA was done during my holiday( I planned it in that way.) I had had a chat with my boss that every six weeks I’d have to be in Paris.”

“I live in Central London, 25 minutes’ walk to the Eurostar,” she said. “With other classmates, we used to all meet up in Paris and then go to campus.”

Another key to EMBA success, Dr Zapadka found, involved planning for sufficient review and prep time before and after modules. Remember to account for any holidays or obligations when creating a manageable schedule.

“There was a lot of pre- and post-module preparation work. In my cohort, people have different ways of learning and doing homework: some dedicated 1-2 hours every day. I’m not like that. If I’m doing the course, I like to do everything at once, so I’d take a Friday off and spend the whole day on the EMBA. You have to know your way of studying and doing homework, and play to that.”

Know Your Learning Style

Everyone has their way of learning and doing homework. Some students like to study a little every day, while others prefer to dedicate a full day or weekend to studying.

New Yorker Toby Tiktinsky, EMBA ‘22, had to spend two modules of the program (two weeks in January and two in March) on Zoom. He had plenty of adjustments to make, even beyond the six-hour time difference between Paris and New York.

“I moved into a separate part of my house, went to sleep at 6 pm, woke up at 1 AM, joined Zoom class from 2 AM to 12 noon, then I pivoted and worked my day job until about 5PM,” he explained to Poets & Quants.

“I had an hour to say hello to my family before going to sleep. It was exhausting, but my family supported me, my job allowed me to take the time to attend classes, and my classmates cheered me on.”

Count on colleagues and classmates

During the Executive MBA, you’ll be part of a community of students who are going through the same challenges. The support of both classmates and your colleagues can make all the difference. Emilie Affre, EMBA ‘23, a VP at Jimmy Choo, testifies to her peers’ encouragement and support allowing her to manage the workload and complete assignments on time, especially during the Luxury Specialization week in Milan.

HEC Paris EMBA Emilie Affre

Emilie Affre, middle, during the EMBA course.

“Leaving the office for five days during a critical period could have put a strain on my work responsibilities and added pressure on my schedule.

The support of my peers during that challenging week made all the difference. Not only did they help with the workload, but they also provided a much-needed emotional boost during a difficult time. Having that network of support is an essential part of any executive management training education program.

The shared experiences, mutual support, and collaboration with fellow students can often be the difference between success and failure.”

Lean on support from family and friends

Like his peers, Birame Ndiaye, EMBA ‘23 also faced the challenge of balancing a full-time job, caring for twins, coursework, and traveling from Boston to Paris for in-person classes. The critical factor in making it work, he found, was an all-hands-on-deck approach from family at home.

“I received tremendous support from my wife, who took care of childcare, household tasks, and provided emotional support. She fully understood the importance of my education and was willing to make sacrifices to help me succeed.”

HEC Paris EMBA alumna Bommy Lee

Journalist-turned-VC exec Bommy Lee, EMBA ‘18, echoes Birame about how critical family buy-in can be in the success of an EMBA.

“My husband helped me so much. I talked about my boss giving me the mental space, but my husband gave me everything else. He was operating at 200%, making sure the kids were fine, that the hosuehold were running, that all the practical needs were met. I was 24/7 focused on getting this degree done and getting the most out of it and ensuring that I was doing my job,” she says.

Her kids got in on the act, too:

“My kids would see me doing homework and they would do their homework with me.”

Consider intake timing and plan accordingly

With both weeklong and weekend study formats available, the EMBA’s flexibility is often a deciding factor for leaders and decision-makers, wherever they are based geographically. Knowing the quirks of each often helps professionals optimize their plans in advance.

Johannesburg-based serial entrepreneur Malose Kekana, EMBA ‘23, chose the September intake for its weeklong format, the fact it begins after the fiscal year, and because it keeps him in the same time zone as South Africa.

“The synchronous digital and online aspect also allows you to prepare for the on-campus lectures at your own pace,” he says.

“That way, you can take advantage of the face-to-face on-campus lectures which occur every 6 weeks or so, for a period of 5 to 9 days.”

It’s important to be aware of this timing because, among other reasons, Malose says, “the EMBA is an aggregation of marginal gains. You need to have the discipline of doing little bits every day or you can fall behind.”

HEC Paris EMBA participant Malose Kekana

While the September and January tracks are a good fit for leaders able to devote chunks of time every 90 days or so, for London-based lawyer Whitney Gore, EMBA ‘22, the March intake’s weekend format was a superior fit for her unique schedule constraints.

“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.

“In the weekend 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.”

They did it. So can you.

The layout of the HEC Paris EMBA program is designed with flexibility in mind. Still, it requires careful planning, understanding of your learning style, support from peers and family, and consideration of your schedule needs.

If you’d like more information, introduce yourself to our recruitment team. That way, you can get a better understanding of how the HEC Paris EMBA program might work best to fit your busy schedule.

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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