Leading industry publication Poets & Quants highlighted 2023 graduates Emilie Affre and Birame Ndiaye in its annual list of exceptional EMBA graduates around the world, highlighting individuals for their “contributions to the class, academic performance, extracurricular involvement, personal intangibles and unique personal stories.”
They join 105 fellow 2023 EMBA graduates as members of P&Q’s Best & Brightest Executive MBAs from the Class of 2023. The list honors Executive MBA’s “whose academic excellence, extracurricular leadership, and professional achievement represent the best of business education.”
The students were chosen from the 56 highest-ranked programs in both the Poets&Quants and Financial Times Executive MBA rankings.
What follows are excerpts of the publication’s interviews of Emilie and Birame, both members of the HEC Paris EMBA Class of 2023. Their unabridged answers, as well as the full Best and Brightest Executive MBAs of 2023 feature from Poets & Quants, is available via the link below.
Fashioning her future
Emilie, EMBA ’23, a veteran executive-level leader in luxury merchandising for the likes of Christian Louboutin, Fendi, and Jimmy Choo, to name a few. She juggled the 18-month HEC Paris EMBA, an Executive’s agenda within a large luxury group (Jimmy Choo), the development of an Executive Project with another large fashion brand (Versace), sharing her experience with undergraduate students in Fashion Business (Istituto Marangoni), and the facilitation of yoga classes for refugees in situations of exclusion, who need a bubble of well-being.
Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program?
Choosing the HEC Executive MBA was a well-thought-out decision for me, and it definitely proved to be the right one. Of course, the quality of the program content was a major factor in my decision-making, but it wasn’t the only one. I was also aware of the value of a strong professional network and connections, and I knew that HEC’s program offered an excellent opportunity to build these relationships. Throughout the 18 months of the program, I was fortunate to meet and learn from a diverse and talented group of peers, all of whom brought their own experiences and perspectives to the table. The collaborative nature of the program encouraged us to work together, share knowledge and ideas, and challenge each other in a positive way. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I learned from my classmates, and how much their insights helped me grow both professionally and personally.
Overall, I can confidently say that the HEC Executive MBA not only gave me the knowledge and skills I needed to advance my career, but it also provided me with a valuable network of contacts and a sense of belonging to a community of like-minded professionals.
What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work?
When it came to navigating politics and negotiation, I had always told myself that it was not my strong suit. I had a preconceived idea that it was something I couldn’t handle, and it had been holding you back for a long time. It wasn’t long until I got on opportunity to practice the deciphering politics learnings and I started seeing results. I’ve found myself able to navigate difficult conversations with colleagues, and I even started to enjoy the process of negotiating. I now feel empowered and confident in my abilities to handle these types of situations.
Looking back, I realize that your preconceived notions about politics and negotiation were holding me back. By confronting my fears and taking the time to observe and process, I was able to overcome those limitations and become better at something I once thought was out of your reach. It’s a lesson that I carry with me and apply to other areas of my life, knowing that with the right tools and mindset, you can conquer anything.
A new challenge
Birame, EMBA ’23, a Boston-based R&D leader and former professional basketball player in France, said that one of the most valuable takeaways from his HEC Paris EMBA experience was consolidating his strategic thinking toolkit. “I have become more comfortable in taking on new challenges and contributing to the company in a more strategic way,” he says.
Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education?
During my Executive MBA journey, I was faced with the challenge of balancing my full-time job, raising my two-year-old twins, and managing coursework, and traveling to Paris for in-person classes. To overcome this challenge, I made some significant changes in my routine, such as giving up some of my hobbies like cinematography/photography and reducing my workout routine to three days a week. I also woke up earlier to work on assignments and reserved weekends for preparing for upcoming modules.
I created a Gantt chart with all the assignments and readings and committed to finishing them weeks before the deadline. After completing an in-person module in Paris, I immediately started working on the assignment or exam on the plane or at the airport. Furthermore, 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.
What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program?
My recommendation for individuals considering an EMBA is to prioritize time management. It’s critical to communicate with your partner or family about the time and commitment required. Additionally, it’s important to savor the experience as it passes by quickly. Finally, I highly recommend starting work on the Capstone Project early, as it’s a significant undertaking that requires ample time and effort to complete successfully.
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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